49ers 27, Redskins 6: Ten Observations

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
3:50
AM ET
1. I can't believe how wrong I was about this season, picking the Redskins to go 10-6 and then to get hot in the playoffs and reach the NFC Championship Game. Yes, I bought in to what I saw in the summer and to what I heard. I bought into them having the right sort of locker room (still think that) and how players coming back from injuries would help and how Robert Griffin III might not be himself but would be good enough and that the defense would be better. I hate being wrong; I was very wrong. It's easy to see what you missed when you look back.

2. I do remember at one point this summer wondering if they really weren't a 7-9 team. Could Griffin really come back and play at a certain level? But I dismissed that notion because I did not foresee Griffin, even coming off the knee, struggling this much. I did not account enough for how defenses would defend him and the offense. But I thought they had enough playmakers on offense -- Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Fred Davis and even Jordan Reed -- to offset his return from knee surgery. Wrong. What we've seen from Griffin at least is that he has a ways to go to become a consistent quality passer.

3. Do not blame all of this on Griffin. I don't. But he is the most important player and the one who lifted the entire franchise a year ago. You can't dismiss what he accomplished in 2012. You can't ignore what he has to learn from 2013. But the defense hasn't helped and the special teams have yet to make a big play, let alone change a game around. The protection isn't always there and the receivers are rather ordinary aside from Garcon. Add it up: 3-8. Griffin's play covered up flaws last season; apparently it's exposing flaws this season.

4. Afterward, coach Mike Shanahan said, “It was one of the poorest performances since I've been here.” Yes it was. That's what is disturbing. They had a lot to prove after two losses and a week of controversy. A win was needed, but really they just needed to play well. They did not. Shanahan is an accomplished NFL coach and a smart man, but he should be coaching for his job over the next five weeks. One player said what bothered him is that they're letting the coaches down. Many privately feel strongly about having the right person in charge. Great. Then win. Otherwise, changes will be made -- and no one can say owner Dan Snyder acted irrationally.

5. Everything that goes on with Griffin will be dissected and rehashed more than most players in the NFL. It was like that when things went well for him last year; it was like that in the offseason when he rehabbed and it's like that when he's playing the way he is this season -- and the team is playing just as poorly. So: When his father enters the locker room shortly after the media and is in there for a while, chatting with his son at his locker, it's noteworthy. I haven't seen other parents ever do that (sometimes you see players' kids, like DeAngelo Hall's. But not parents). There are signs about no visitors in the locker room. I don't know if it's a big deal or not. I do know it's different. I do know it was not a good week for it to happen from appearance sake. But it's already out there on various websites, so now it's here, too. Make of it what you will.

6. Griffin took his turn at shooting down the NFL.com report that stated he went to the coaches and asked them not to show his bad plays on film. “It's false. There's no need to respond to untrue things. I just echo what coach said [Sunday] and it's completely false. People are trying to character assassinate me and it's unfortunate.”

7. There isn't a whole lot to say about the game. The Redskins were in it and had a chance to make some noise trailing 10-6 when the defense recovered a Vernon Davis fumble at the San Francisco 49-yard line early in the third quarter. The offense gained 8 yards and were stopped on a fourth-and-2 run by Roy Helu. Why Helu? Because the Niners would be expecting a pass (they had three receivers in the game as well). But their front is good; they won that battle and that was that. The Niners drove down and scored and the Redskins responded with three drives that combined for minus-12 yards.This was the best defense Washington faced, by far, and an offense that had been moving against mediocre units could not generate much of anything (190 total yards).

8. I have no idea why tight end Fred Davis wasn't a bigger part of the game. There were too many big-picture topics being discussed after the game so this will be one that's revisited Monday. That's all I'll say on this one for now.

9. San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks had a terrific game. His speed and strength gave the Redskins' right side fits; he and Aldon Smith owned the edges and even if they didn't make the play they made it tough for the Redskins to run outside. Tight end Logan Paulsen knew it would be tough to face them and he was right. Smith's long arms made it difficult for smaller guys like Niles Paul to block him and he gave left tackle Trent Williams problems, too. And their inside linebackers were excellent at anticipating plays and being aggressive going to the ball. They did not fear this offense.

10. Brooks said to reporters about Griffin: “He's obviously a man and he makes his own decisions, but I personally don't feel he should be playing right now. ... I don't think he should be playing," he said again. "You can see it. Everybody can see it, everybody can see it." Exactly how long was Griffin supposed to sit out? Had he sat out this long and not played, he'd have been ripped. The only reason he shouldn't be playing is if the coaches feel he does not give them the best chance to win. Otherwise, he's still the future and must stay in and keep learning.

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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