Posted November 26, 2013

Colin Kaepernick returns to form, Robert Griffin III struggles as 49ers drop Redskins

NFC East, NFC West, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins
Colin Kaepernick threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns as the 49ers moved to 7-4.

Colin Kaepernick threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns as the 49ers moved to 7-4. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Last season, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III seemed to redefine the QB position with a mix of speed and precision rarely seen before. Griffin led the Redskins to an NFC East title on the strength of gaudy passing and rushing numbers, while Kaepernick marched the 49ers to the Super Bowl by blindsiding teams with his legs and arm alike.

Repeating that success in 2013 proved difficult for both, however. After a season-opening romp over the Packers in which he threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns, Kaepernick struggled, surpassing the 200-yard passing mark just once over the next nine games. He also proved less devastating on the ground, finishing seven of 10 games with 25 rushing yards or less after he topped that mark eight times in the regular season in 2012. Things weren’t much better for Griffin, who entered Week 12 with 10 interceptions (he had five total in 2012) and zero rushing touchdowns (he had seven last season).

The 49ers’ 27-6 win over the Redskins Monday showed that at least one of those QBs is back on track this season. Kaepernick went 15-of-24 for 235 yards with three touchdowns as San Francisco moved to 7-4. He used his legs to move the chains here and there, but most impressively, he stayed calm in the pocket, delivering deep strikes downfield against a vulnerable Redskins secondary. The primary recipient of those strikes was Anquan Boldin, who finished with 94 yards and two touchdowns, his best game since he dropped 208 yards on 13 catches in the Week 1 win over the Packers. Kaepernick posted a 9.8 yards-per-attempt average after marks of 4.14 and 4.10 in his previous two games.

But on the other side, Griffin’s struggles continued. RGIII finished 17-of-27 with 127 yards, no touchdowns and one interception and suffered hit after hit (including one to the nether regions) against a ferocious Niners front seven that sacked him four times. It was the first time in Griffin’s career, pro or college, that his team failed to score a touchdown. The loss, their third in a row, dropped the Redskins to 3-8.

“We haven’t got dominated like that since I’ve been here,” coach Mike Shanahan said after the game.  “When you get embarrassed like we did tonight, it’s tough.”

The uninspiring performance followed a contentious week for Griffin in D.C. After the Redskins’ 24-16 loss to the Eagles in Week 11, Santana Moss called out RGIII, demanding that the second-year QB take more accountability for Washington’s woes. Days later, a report emerged that Griffin asked coaches to not put his bad plays up on the boards in meeting rooms. (Shanahan later denied that report.) There were plenty of plays in this game that Griffin will not want to see again. He finished the first quarter 1-of-6 passing with minus-one yard and an interception, a careless toss on 1st-and-10 right into the arms of Donte Whitner. It would prove to be the 49ers’ only takeaway of the game, but bad decision-making overall doomed the Redskins, who finished 4-of-17 on third and fourth down.

Griffin defended himself — and his teammates — after the game. “I think we’re all frustrated. Everybody’s tired of losing. But one thing that we’re not, we’re not quitters.”

But when pressed about the performance, Griffin turned defiant. “What am I supposed to do? Come up here and talk about how bad we are? That’s not my job.”

The win was much-needed for the Niners, who had lost two straight and were in danger of falling out of the playoff picture with the 7-4 Cardinals on the rise. It could get even better for the 49ers offense next week, when the team is expected to welcome back wideout Michael Crabtree, who suffered a torn Achilles in May. Crabtree led the Niners in yards, catches and touchdown receptions last season, and his absence seemed to hurt Kaepernick early this season.

On defense, San Francisco got strong performances from Ahmad Brooks (seven tackles, two sacks) and Aldon Smith (two sacks), with Smith notching his first sack since returning from indefinite leave. On offense, Vernon Davis bookended Boldin, catching four passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, while Frank Gore was an afterthought, finishing with 13 carries for 31 yards. The 49ers host the Rams Sunday before welcoming the NFC West-leading Seahawks (10-1) to Candlestick Park in Week 14.

The development of a QB often takes years, a fact lost amid the flurry of star performances from young signal callers in 2013. Both Griffin and Kaepernick still have a long way to go, but after Week 12 it’s clear: Kaepernick is currently further along in his development than Griffin.

22 comments
MrArlington
MrArlington

Having  a good game verse the worst defense in the league shouldn't be considered "returning to form".

playemball
playemball

Neither of these teams are going anywhere this yr..wait for next yr fans..

norings
norings

What about the kick to the groin of RGIII.  If that was Suh that video would be played 10 times every minute on the news.  Isn't it about time everyone is called out for shots like this.  If this player does not get a big fine at the least, Suh should be visiting the league office and asking why.

NoQNoSuperBowl
NoQNoSuperBowl

It's time to bench Griffin. He's at best a shadow of what he was last year, does not seem to be fully recovered, and appears to spend more time on Twitter than trying to improve his game.  

davidhd
davidhd

Shanahan is an idiot for playing RG3 from week 1 this season, just like he was an idiot for keeping him in the Seahawks game last year after the first quarter. I'm a Seahawks fan, so I was happy with the outcome, but not with how it happened. It's very sad to see a player with the talent and potential that Griffin has being misused and abused because the coaches and medical professionals are more concerned with short term success than the players long term ability to play and be healthy. RG3 still looks hobbled, and he's at much greater risk, in his current state, of taking that final hit that will end his career. That's always a risk anyway, I realize, but they Skins and Griffin would have been better off taking the time to let him heal completely, thus giving him the mobility to escape pressure and play his position effectively, along with the strength to withstand the hits when they come. It's really hard to watch that team play right now.

davidhd
davidhd

This is funny. Every time San Fran plays a team with a horrible defense, like the Redskins, writers can't stop praising Kaepernick and talk about him and the Niners being "back" in super bowl form. Then, every time San Fran plays a team with a good defense, like the Seahawks, Colts, or Panthers, Kaepernick looks terrible and everyone starts talking about how "limited" he is, and how he and the team are being exposed without Crabtree and now that teams have figured out the read option.

The truth is that Kaepernick is still a great athlete and a very accurate passer, and he can still thrive against all but the best defenses. Eventually, he has the potential to start making plays even against the very best teams. The 49ers are still a good team, but not great. They aren't as good as people are saying they are today, and they aren't as bad as they were made out to be last week. 

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

Wasn't rg's fault.....he's the best ever, just ask him.  It was coach Mike's fault and the O line and the defense for letting Niners score.   RG will come out with that in a tweet and then apologize and throw mike under the bus again.   When will the  deadskins learn....he is NOT a pro QB but a flash in the pan (1 year)

DavidThompson
DavidThompson

"his best game since he dropped 208 yards on 13 catches"

Really? Most of the english speaking public has quit using the ridiculous and never worth-while term  "dropped," as in he "dropped" a CD, or they "dropped" their latest hit. Please try using words like, "delivered," "gained," "made," or "connected on."

"Dropped" is what you do when you fail, as in, "You dropped the ball in this story."

JimParker
JimParker

What an arm that Kaepernick's got. Slinging frozen ropes 40 yards down field, right on the money. The one he fired across his body as he ran right, to a guy going just as fast the other way in the end zone, and his guy didn't even have to move his hands, the ball was right there...incredible throw. Like a taller, stronger Aaron Rogers.

AlexKadarauch
AlexKadarauch

@playemball … NOT! The 49ers will out physical the seahawks in SF :)   THe saints will beat Seaderall as well next Mon night - Oh Yeahhhhhhhh

johnvas49
johnvas49

@norings Aldon Smith's leg came up as a result of the hit he took from Trent Williams and the other Redkins lineman.  He was not even looking in the direction of Griffin when it happened.

Suh intentionally stuck his leg out to try and hit Shaub last year and ended up hitting him in the groin (unclear whether there was clear intent, but there was a conscious effort to hit Shaub with his foot/leg to at least trip him if nothing else).

AlexKadarauch
AlexKadarauch

Griffin will be fine, just needs to hang in there and not melt down for the vampire media. Freakin' parasites lol

AlexKadarauch
AlexKadarauch

@davidhd If we recover fumbles vs CAR and NO we'd be talking about how he was DEFINITELY back lol

schmitty42
schmitty42

@davidhd I hope you've been ripping Wilson when he's played against real defenses as well. Wilson has been terrible multiple times this year, but Seattle has managed to win those games in spite of his play. A luxury Kap has not had. The only good defense he's played well against was Carolina, and they weren't nearly the defense that they are now.

johnvas49
johnvas49

@davidhd Yep.  If Kaep had to play against the 49ers defense last night instead of the Redskins defense, I have a feeling that he wouldn't have had such a good night...

davidhd
davidhd

@WHO*IS*ESPN I agree with your whole comment, except that RG3 could have been a pro QB if he had played for a team that actually managed his health. As it stands, the Redskins seem to be fine with wearing him out as quickly as possible, despite the huge trade they made to get him. Also, the Redskins played the worst pass defense I've seen in years last night. They made Kaepernick look like he did against Green Bay, which takes some serious blown coverage to do.