As we continue our 2011 season recap at Niners Nation, we move onto Week 9 when the San Francisco 49ers visited the Washington Redskins. I was at this game, having traveled from Connecticut to Landover, Maryland by car for the game which was played on my birthday, November 6th. Entering this match up the 49ers were 3-0 on the road, all in the Eastern Time zone.
Before the opening kickoff, it appeared as if the Tony Montana squad was starting to find its identity. John Beck and Roy Helu checked in as the starting quarterback and running back for the Redskins against San Francisco.
On the very first offensive play, Helu found a hole on the right side of the line and took his first carry for 16-yards and a first down. Ricky Jean-Francois was starting in place of an inactive Ray McDonald once again. On the first and second down, Helu ran into Isaac Sopoaga and then a combination of Justin Smith and Donte Whitner. On 3rd and 6, an incomplete pass by Beck forced a 4th down because of the pressure from Justin and Aldon Smith.
On the 49ers opening drive, Delanie Walker and Mike Iupati made key blocks and Gore found his way through a small crack for 12-yards and a first down on his first carry. Kendall Hunter checked in and gained 6-yards on his first carry.
With the assist of a block by Gore, Crabtree was able to make a short catch from Smith and dance his way for a gain of 6 and a first down. Smith then completed to Vernon Davis for their first hook up of the day; a gain of 6 as San Francisco chipped away at the Redskins defense.
After a delay of game penalty, the 49ers were backed up on third down; Smith was flushed out of the pocket and took a big hit by Rocky McIntosh for the sack.
With the ball on offense, the Redskins continued to go with their run-heavy offensive approach with a continued dose of Helu. A third-down pass from Beck to Helu went past the first down marker but was disrupted when NaVorro Bowman put a hit on Helu who couldn't hang on to the ball.
49ers quarterback Alex Smith stepped up into pressure and delivered a pass to Crabtree on the right sideline for a first down. Another incompletion to Braylon Edwards was really starting to show the beginning signs of this not working out - everything to him was pretty ineffective.
On 3rd and 14, Smith evaded the blitz and put a ball in Gore's hands with a chance to move the chains but Gore looked up field before he had possession and didn't secure the catch. Having to punt again, Andy Lee got the Redskins offense pinned at their own 3-yard line.
Beck in the end zone, fires it but it's batted down by an emerging Justin Smith, who should have picked it and had a touchdown. On the following play, Justin Smith got called for a holding penalty which gave Washington a fresh set of downs and some breathing room
Rookie Leonard Hankerson then made a catch for the Redskins first down. On a sweep to the left side, cornerback Tarell Brown cut down Helu for a loss of 1 on the play.
Shortly after, Beck was in the pocket with time and threw downfield to his tight end Fred Davis - but an aggressive move by Dashon Goldson to cut the route and make a play on the ball gave San Francisco's offense the ball back. It was the 49ers 17th takeaway of the season (3rd in NFL).
With good field position, the 49ers started their drive with a 9-yard gain by Gore.
Another gain by Gore on a 2nd down carry gave another fresh set of downs to the Niners. Smith then dumped it off to Gore for a gain of 7. One of the noticeable nuances from the offense was Walker being used in motion as a blocker, which became frequent in run game. Smith's decision making also looked better, but the 49ers had to settle for a field goal; a 52-yard attempt by Akers was good making it 3-0 SF.
On offense, Helu found another lane on the right side for a gain of 10-yards and another first down. Beck then hit Jabar Gaffney for 13-yards and a first down, with Culliver pushing him out of bounds. On a quick pass, Beck fired to Fred Davis but the tight end couldn't hold on with Bowman all over him.
After an unnecessary roughness penalty by Washington tackle Trent Williams, the Skins were backed up and couldn't convert a 3rd and 23.
On 1st down, the 49ers got themselves a fresh set of downs after Smith hit Crabtree on a slant for a gain of 13-yards. That 13-yard gain was followed by another 13-yard gain; a run to the right side by Gore and another first down for San Francisco at midfield.
However, the drive stalled and the 49ers were forced to punt again.
Ricky Jean-Francois got his name called, coming up from behind a scrambling Beck and taking him down for only a gain of 2. On third down, rookie Aldon Smith stunted up the middle which forced Beck to get rid of it, going downfield and incomplete.
Smith went through his progressions, saw nothing open and tucked the ball and ran for a near first down. Gore then put a great move on safety Reed Doughty at line of scrimmage, taking the football inside the Redskins 20-yard line. A good block downfield by Crabtree got Frank another 10 yards on the 27-yard gain.
A toss to Kendall Hunter picked up 8-yards as the rookie running back went out at the Washington 12-yard line. The Redskins played good red zone defense and the Niners decided to go for it on 4th down. After an offside penalty on backup tight end Justin Peele, Akers booted a FG through to make it 6-0 SF.
After a catch-and-run, Helu fumbled the football away after it was punched out by Patrick Willis and recovered by Donte Whitner. The 49ers started with it at Redskins 30 and on the first play, Bruce Miller came out of the backfield beating linebacker Rocky McIntosh on a wheel route; Smith went over the top and hit the full back for a 30-yard touchdown and San Francisco took a 13-0 lead.
At that point, the 49ers had scored 10 points in 47 seconds.
Before halftime, kicker Graham Gano came out to attempt a 59-yard kick and it was good as time ran out. The 59-yarder was a Redskins franchise record and put Washington on the board, making it a 13-3 game going into the half.
Kyle Williams went in motion taking a reception at the line of scrimmage for 12-yard gain, getting a first down off the quick screen. Gore then took a handoff up the gut and after a good block by Snyder, gained 13-yards and another first down on back to back plays. There was also a great block at the line of scrimmage made by Kyle Williams that freed up time for Smith to deliver a quick pass to Crabtree for a gain of 4.
Smith then threw to Delanie Walker who powered through defenders for a first down. Vernon Davis was one on one with Laron Landry, and with the pocket collapsing around Smith, the Niners QB delivered a money pass to Davis but the Pro Bowl tight end can't hang on.
Walker went in motion and took a sweep on third and medium for a short loss, forcing the 49ers to punt.
With the Redskins back on offense, Ahmad Brooks closed on Beck for the sack and a loss of three. The Redskins wound up going three-and-out on that drive and had to punt to the Niners yet again.
The good decision making continued from Alex Smith by taking what the defense gave him. On the run, Smith fired and hit Ted Ginn Jr. for a gain of 14-yards and a first down. Braylon Edwards even made a 7-yard reception for another Niners first down.
However, on 3rd and 4, Smith was sacked by Brian Orakpo who was coming against Joe Staley. The 49ers elected to kick a field goal and David Akers was now 3 for 3, extending the 49ers lead to 16-3.
A pass batted by Ricky Jean-Francois at the line of scrimmage went up the air and was caught up Helu who took it for a gain and a Redskins first down - a freak play. Another thing that was clear by this point of the game was that Bowman was just swarming all day; against the run and the short to intermediate throws.
Instead of going for a 50-yard field goal, the Redskins chose to go for it on 4th down. Beck had an incomplete pass to his tight end Davis and Washington turned the ball over on downs.
Smith completed an outside route to Vernon Davis. After that, Smith went to Davis again, this time for 21-yards in the middle of the field and in Redskins territory. On third down, a slant was caught by Braylon Edwards who produced 24-yards on the catch-and-run, converting the first down.
For the 5th consecutive game Frank Gore broke 100-yards rushing; a 1st in 49ers franchise history. But the drive stalled yards away and forced a fourth David Akers field goal to make it a 19-3 game.
Beck threw to wide receiver Terrence Austin on a crossing route and Patrick Willis forced his second fumble of the day, recovered by Bowman this time. The 49ers defense had 3 takeaways, 1 sack and 0 touchdowns allowed at this point. Though on the following drive, Vernon Davis made a short catch and it was stripped and recovered by the Redskins defense
Bowman continued to keep the plays in front of him, consistently making tackles for short gains. On a quick pass by Beck, Culliver jumped the inside route and with great athleticism, got the deflection.
An incompletion from Beck to Austin on 4th and 4 forced a Redskins turnover on downs. With 4 minutes left, the 49ers just kept the ball on the ground with consecutive runs by Gore and Hunter, which eventually led to another Andy Lee punt.
San Francisco's defense then softened up with a prevent and three-man rush. The Redskins moved the ball. First it was Beck to Fred Davis who made a 16-yard catch to move the chains for Washington. Beck went back to Davis for another 7-yards after that. Beck then hit Austin on an out-route for the first down as the receiver stepped out of bounds to stop the clock.
Beck then hit Helu for another Redskins first down near the left sideline. Beck connected with Davis for another first down following that. The Washington QB was now 6 for 7 and 53-yards passing on the drive.
After the play broke down, Beck slid and the 2-minute warning stopped the clock. On back to back plays in the 49ers red zone, Beck went to Helu and was dropped by Whitner short of the first down.
But then Beck hit a wide open Jabar Gaffney in the end zone for the first Washington Redskins touchdown of the day. The Redskins went for two, converting on a pass from Beck to the rookie Hankerson, displaying soft hands on an outside hook route - making the game 19-11.
Washington had a failed onside kick that was recovered by Vernon Davis. The 49ers then ran the clock out and improved to 7-1 on the season, with their 6th consecutive victory - also improving to 4-0 on the road.
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