Gameday Preview: San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins
By: Les Barnhart 
Posted: 2005-10-22
Category: Washington Redskins News
San Francisco 49ers (1-4) at Washington Redskins (3-2)
October 23, 2005
FedEx Field, 1pm, FOX Sports


The Washington Redskins will roll out the red carpet for their week seven opponents, the San Francisco 49ers. The Redskins, coming off of two tough losses in games they not only had the chance to win, they should have done so and will look to restore some confidence as well as perhaps getting back atop the NFC East standings. The 49ers on the other hand will again be looking to their rookie franchise quarterback to slay a dragon with a seemingly little more than a pocket full of rocks.

The 49ers, under the guidance of first year head coach Mike Nolan, have struggled to find something to build on this season. They drafted their franchise quarterback, Alex Smith, but did little to provide a supporting cast around him. The team has been besieged with injuries to key players, which have also hampered the success that the team has had. Despite coming off the bye week, the 49ers will limp into FedEx Field after being drubbed by the Colts in week 5, 28-3. Two of their impact players, WR Arnez Battle and tackle Jonas Jennings are both expected to miss this week’s game and on defense, OLB Julian Peterson is questionable with a troublesome hamstring. The 49er defense has been the most affected by the injuries and they lost another linebacker from an already depleted group when Saleem Rasheed had surgery on his left knee on October 18th and will be on the shelf for at least five weeks. Rasheed was slated to start for the injured Jeff Ulbrich (bicep) who has been lost for the season. The Niners will slide Brandon Moore into the starting lineup to replace Rasheed.

The San Francisco defense, which is allowing a league worst 451.8 YPG and has allowed 160 points in 5 games, will need to find something to slow down the Redskins offense. The Redskins offense has answered their biggest question coming into the season and that being could they move the ball. While it is clear that they can move the ball (373.2 YPG, 6th), they now need to work on protecting it and getting more points on the board. On paper, the match up between the Redskins offense and the 49ers defense is somewhat lopsided. The 49ers are currently last in the league in defending the pass (allowing 343.6 YPG) while Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell seems to have rounded into Pro Bowl form as the passing offense is averaging 246.2 YPG (8th in NFL). Brunell has passed for 1,240 yards with 9 touchdowns against 2 interceptions (third lowest in NFL). He has completed an impressive 58% of his pass attempts (103-178) and has been especially sharp on third down. The passing game has allowed the running game to flourish (127.0 YPG) as well with Clinton Portis amassing 443 yards on 104 carries. Surprisingly, Portis has yet to find the end zone. Santana Moss has emerged as a legitimate big play threat (33 catches for 631 yards with 4 touchdowns) on any play but it has been the clutch catches on third down that may be his most valuable contribution thus far (well, that and the catches against the Cowboys). Moss has hauled in 15 balls on third down for 211 yards and is tied for the lead in that category. His ability to get deep and Brunell to get him the ball (4 times over 40 yards) has stretched the defenses, which in turn opens up the underneath routes as well as the running game. The Redskins should again find success through the air against a depleted 49ers defensive unit that could be dangerous because they have the “nothing to lose” mentality.

Washington’s defense, while still among the elite units in the league, has failed to force a turnover in four games this season. Despite the offense doing a decent job of protecting the ball, the Redskins as a team are ranked 31st in the NFL with a -8 turnover differential. The defense has only forced 2 turnovers all season. They have also been unable to pressure the quarterback. The Gregg Williams orchestrated defense that thrives on blitzing and pressuring the quarterback has only garnered a league worst 5 sacks all season. In addition to the turnovers and lack of pressure, the unit has recently had its problems against the run. Even though they have allowed only one back to gain over 100 yards against them in the last nine games, they have seen their average rushing yards allowed increase to 102.2 (14th in the league). The defense checks in at 5th overall (280.4 YPG) despite all the shortcomings. The unit may get a boost to both their ability to get pressure as well as creating turnovers, as it seems Lavar Arrington may once again see playing time. Many have speculated upon the reason for Arrington’s extended absence but what cannot be is that this unit could use his pass rush and turnover forcing play. How much playing time Arrington gets remains to be seen but his return can’t be a welcome sight for 49ers rookie quarterback, Alex Smith, who comes out of the game against the Colts having thrown four interceptions and losing a fumble as well. Smith was sacked five times and was beat around physically by the Colts defense. The 49ers cemented the fact that Smith will be “taking one for the team” when they jettisoned Tim Rattay to Tampa Bay for undisclosed draft pick(s). The Niners have some weapons on the offensive side of the ball with running backs, Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore and third year wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. In his past 16 games, Lloyd has caught 8 touchdowns and in his past two games, he has 11 grabs for 244 yards while scoring 2 touchdowns.

Statistically speaking, the 49ers will not scare many defenses as they are averaging only 218.8 YPG (31st in the NFL) and have scored 79 points this season. Between Smith and Rattay, the passing game has struggled (802 yards passing with 5 TD and 10 INT) without tight end Eric Johnson and teams putting their number one cover man on Lloyd. The offensive line hasn’t offered up an NFL caliber effort either as they have allowed their quarterback to be taken down 17 times this season. Being unable to establish the running game (80.0 YPG) has also put a great deal of pressure on the quarterback position and with Smith now running the show, those struggles may get worse before they get better. With the possibility of not having tackle Jonas Jennings for at least this game, Smith may need to keep moving in the pocket or even the Redskins punchless pass rush could find him.

If both teams play their usual game, the Redskins should have an opportunity to get healthy and send the FedEx crowd home happy. With the rest of the NFC East tied up with tough opponents (the Eagles are home with the Chargers, the Giants host the Broncos and the Cowboys are in Seattle) the Redskins have a chance to sit alone atop the division on Sunday night. This game could serve as an opportunity to iron out some kinks before traveling to The Meadowlands next weekend to play the Giants in what could be for the division lead. The 49ers however could put together enough offense to make this game closer than Redskin fans would like.


Coach’s Clipboard

The Niners have completed only 30% (17 of 57) third down attempts. That is the worst in the NFC.

17 (16.6) – 16 (15.8) Redskins. That would be the final score based on their averages in 2005.

The Redskins have won 2 of the 3 against the 49ers.

Last played in 2004 in San Francisco. The Redskins won 26-16, behind Portis’ 110 rushing yards.

The 49ers have won 3 straight in Washington. Last game in Washington; 49ers 45 Redskins 10. Steve Young threw for 303 yds and 3 TDs.

Mike Nolan served as Defensive Coordinator for the Redskins from 1997-1999.

Coach Joe Gibbs’ next victory will be his 150th. He would be the 14th coach to reach that milestone.

49ers linebacker Derek Smith played his first four seasons (1997-2000) with the Redskins and had more than 100 tackles and played in every game.

Coach Joe Gibbs holds a losing record against the 49ers at 3-7.

The 49ers hold the advantage in series at 13-8-1.

-- Wingman

Here are our key player match-ups:

DE Bryant Young vs. RT Jon Jansen
By Bernie Marshall

After 12 years in the league, and at 6'3' and 291 pounds, Bryant Young can still get into the backfield in a hurry. Young is tied for second in the NFL with six sacks while playing in Nolan’s 3-4 defense

Jon Jansen is "the Rock" of the offensive line unit, at 6'6"and 330 lbs he is always thinking and also plays with a nasty streak. Jansen now has the use of at least one thumb.

Jon Jansen is both stronger and younger than the faster, quicker Bryant Young, but Jansen will still rely on some help from RG Randy Thomas who can also be rather nasty when he wants to be.

Advantage: Jansen


CB Bruce Thornton / Shawntae Spencer vs. Santana Moss
By Bernie Marshall

Bruce Thornton replaced Ahmed Plummer on the left side of the field after starting the season on the Niner’s practice squad. Manning the right side will be second year corner Shawntae Spencer. Spencer started 12 games last year and Thornton will be making is second of his career. Spencer will have to try and use his size to gain an advantage at the line with a chuck because he does not have the speed to stay with Moss down the field.

Moss has been turning heads since week 3 and leads the team in most if not all receiving categories. Not only has he become a fan favorite, he’s become a favorite target for Mark Brunell

Even with the help that they will get from the safeties Thornton and Spencer won’t be able to handle Moss’s speed and experience. Look for another big day from the NFL's leading receiver.

Advantage: Moss


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