The San Francisco 49ers had yet another heartbreaking loss in overtime on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers are doing their absolute best at attempting to set the season record of most games in a season that go to overtime, and they’re accomplishing it with the same gamescript that has worked well for them before: A passing offense that is limited by its quarterback. A run game that can’t quite seem to get anything going, A defense that bends but doesn’t break, until overtime.
Having said all that, The 49ers continue to search for a win this week as they travel to Washington D.C. Washington has had a relatively up and down year. With a record of 2-2 and QB Kirk Cousins Looking shaky at the beginning of the season, the team looks much more put together than The Cardinals or The Colts. So what would the 49ers need to do to pull off a win? Let’s look at some of the keys to the game.
I’ve mentioned it before, but if the Niners ever want to sniff a win, they will need to play perfectly. I don’t mean that in terms of sheer execution, but they need to be dialed in and mentally focused for the entire game. The team can’t afford to see little mental mistakes or breakdowns in coverage. They can’t afford to have a gun-shy quarterback who is too afraid to get hit to throw the ball.
The team that rallied for 39 points against The Rams? That team can beat Washington. The team that produced multiple turnovers and had multiple touchdowns? That team can beat Washington. If the 49ers want to beat Washington, that’s how they need to play.
LB Reuben Foster and S Eric Reid are making big steps towards returning to the field by returning to practice this week. That being said, it’s highly unlikely either of them will play this week. In order to cover for these absences of elite talent on the defense, the team will need to continue to see LB Ray Ray Armstrong and S Jaquiski Tartt improve on their already impressive performances thus far. Both have graded out very well by Pro Football Focus, and their play thus far will give DC Robert Saleh some interesting choices and options once Foster and Reid do come back.
On the offensive side of the ball, we will likely see more from WR Trent Taylor and RB Matt Breida. Breida accidentally caused some controversy this week, as he out-snapped RB Carlos Hyde. HC Kyle Shanahan attributed this to Breida's “hot hand”. It bodes well for the experience the team will get that Shanahan has no problem putting the ball in the hands of whoever’s performing best. As for Taylor, WR Pierre Garcon has been the only WR to really shine thus far. Taylor has had some flashes, but some consistency will help make Garcon's job easier and will make it harder to game plan against he Niners' offense.
Smart Calls, Smart Execution
Don’t be fooled by Washington’s record thus far. They are better than their record suggests. HC Kyle Shanahan should be fairly familiar with the players and schemes that Washington runs, having been OC under his father. This should give him a keen insight into gameplanning for the 49ers. Washington’s front seven is pretty good against the run, so being able to call up short passes to their speedier players like Breida or WR Victor Bolden may be key to keeping the defense honest. On the defensive side of the ball, Saleh will likely come up with some more creative blitzes similar to the one’s he has shown in recent weeks. Washington’s offensive line isn’t bad, but it’s not stellar either. I’d expect at least a few sacks and controlling Cousins will be paramount in establishing The Niners' first win.
What keys to the game do you expect? Let us know on twitter and stay tuned for more great content here on 49ersHUB!