3 and Out: Keys to beating 49ers
Is there any hope for the Redskins? Well … maybe. But they’ll have to win each of their remaining six games just to have a chance. And, of course, that improbable run must begin Monday night against the 49ers.
Here are our three keys to the game:
1st down—Colin Kaepernick isn’t putting up the staggering stats he posted a season ago. But he’s still the 49ers’ biggest threat and the one player the Redskins must shut down if they expect to have a shot. The question is which Kaepernick are they going to get? The one who skewered Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 1? Or the one who struggled to complete half of his pass attempts in losses the Panthers and Saints the past two weeks? “He’ll adjust because he’s got a lot of talent,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “He’s got speed. It looks like he’s a hell of a competitor …but there’s a learning curve and sometimes it takes time.”
[RELATED: Wide receiver Hankerson out for the season]
2nd down—Nick Williams dropped the ball—literally—in his debut as the Redskins punt returner in Philly and put his team in a tough spot late in the game because of questionable decision. Will he get a second chance against the 49ers? Or will Shanahan turn to a sure-handed veteran like Santana Moss or Josh Morgan? Whatever Shanahan decides, the Redskins must get more from the position. Currently, they rank 31st in average yards per return, which is just ahead of one-win Jacksonville.
3rd down—For weeks, one thing the Redskins haven’t had to worry about is injuries. But now they do. No. 1 tight end Jordan Reed has a concussion and his status remains unclear, while No. 2 wide receiver Leonard Hankerson is out for the season with a knee injury. The Redskins’ offense struggled to put up 16 points last week in Philly. Without two of their top three pass catchers, their task figures to be even tougher against a 49ers’ defense that’s yielding just 17.8 points per game. That’s the fourth best mark in the league.
Extra point: San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis is averaging 16.3 yards per reception. That’s the highest average for a tight end in the league.