The San Francisco 49ers used the same formula on Sunday that’s got them to their best start in over a decade – running the football, playing great defense, and minimizing all mistakes – resulting in a 19-11 win over the Redskins this Sunday.
49ers running back Frank Gore had 107 yards on 19 carries, and quarterback Alex Smith went 17 of 24 for 200 yards passing, with one touchdown and no interceptions, giving him a 109.7 quarterback rating for the day.
The Redskins shutout streak had reached into its’ sixth quarter, with the team still not being able to get on the scoreboard as halftime approached, until Graham Gano hit franchise-record 59-yard field goal on the last play of the first half.
That cut the score to 13-3 heading into halftime, as the 49ers had scored their first touchdown on the prior drive, courtest of a 30 yard pass from Smith to fullback Bruce Miller. That touchdown drive took only one play, and was set up by a screen pass from Redskins quarterback John Beck to running back Roy Helu; Helu fumbled the ball after gaining nine yards, and 49ers safety Donte Whitner recovered it at the Washington 33 yard line and advanced it to the 30.
The Redskins almost made things interesting in the end, but it was too little, too late. Down 19-3 in the fourth quarter, Beck led the Redskins on a 11 play, 73 yard scoring drive that was capped off by a nine yard touchdown pass to receiver Jabar Gaffney. Beck subsequently hit receiver Leonard Hankerson for the two point conversion, cutting the lead to 19-11 with just 1:10 remaining in the game. But Gano’s onside kick attempt was recovered by 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (a Washington DC) native, and they were able to kneel down and end the game.
Beck finished the game with a somewhat passable stat line of 30 of 47 passes for 254 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but nearly half of his passing yards came in the fourth quarter, when the Redskins were already down by double-digit points. Since his rookie season, Beck is now 0-7 as an NFL starter.
The Redskins tried to shake things up a bit on offense as well, starting three rookies on Sunday: Helu, Hankerson, and offensive lineman Maurice Hurt (one of the team’s 7th round draft selections from the 2011 draft). Helu had 10 carries for 41 yards on Sunday – easily the Redskins leading rusher – and also caught a franchise recore 14 passes for 105 yards, as Beck spent most of his day targeting Helu on quick screens or check-down passes. Beck targeted Helu on 18 pass attempts on Sunday; no other running back has been targeted more than 14 times over the past four seasons in the entire NFL.
Hankerson finished with four receptions for 34 yards, and caught Beck’s two point conversion attempt.
The Redskins travel to Miami next Sunday, where they’ll take on the Dolphins (Kickoff is set for 1:00pm). The Dolphins will be coming off their first win of the season, after they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday by a score of 31-3.