2012 Record: 11-4-1. Lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl SLVII.
Despite the disappointment of suffering a loss in the Super Bowl, the 49ers had a breakout season and discovered they have what many believe will be a superstar at the quarterback position for years to come. The team was already cruising along with a 6-2-1 record when Alex Smith got knocked out of the week 11 match-up with the Chicago Bears. Colin Kaepernick came in, led them to their 7th win and never relinquished his role as the starter. Credit Jim Harbaugh with having the fortitude to make the move and stick with it. Up to that point, all Alex Smith was doing was ranking first in the NFL in completion percentage and showing real leadership for the first time in his overall underwhelming career. However, bringing in Colin Kaepernick introduced a new and devastating element to San Francisco's offense, which is an element Redskins fans know well. The second year QB ran the read-option to perfection, finishing with 1,814 yards passing, 415 yards rushing, and 15 total TD’s. The bulk of these stats came in just the last eight games of the season. While Kaepernick was coming into his own, San Francisco’s defense was stellar. They finished first in the conference in yards allowed and second in points given up. Aldon Smith led the NFC in sacks with 19.5.
The last team to lose the Super Bowl and go back to the big game the following year was the 1993 Buffalo Bills. Even with that being the case, the 49ers are favored to be strong playoff contenders in 2013. As the saying goes, the only thing constant in the NFL from year to year is change. It did not take long for the team to ship Alex Smith out to Kansas City for a 2nd round pick in the upcoming draft and a conditional pick in 2014. They filled the backup quarterback opening by trading for Colt McCoy. That has to be viewed as a downgrade and a possible weakness should Kaepernick get hurt. They upgraded at the wide receiver position, pushing Randy Moss out to pasture and trading for Anquan Boldin. Tackle Anthony Thomas was resigned but key reserve tight end Delanie Walker and returner Ted Ginn Jr. left via free agency. One aging kicker was traded in for another with Phil Dawson replacing David Akers. On the defensive side, they took a chance on aging cornerback Nnamdi Asomgha, but lost all pro safety Dashon Goldson. Every other key member of the defense will return. In the draft, look for the team to fill the void left at safety early on, as well as address the need for depth at the defensive line and tight end positions.
How the Redskins match up:
“Not too good” to quote the great Steve Spurrier. On a Monday night on November 25 in Week 12, the Redskins will welcome the 49ers to Fed Ex Field. As it stands now, this looks like a tough game that should have playoff implications. However, as both teams employ what some would call a high risk, high reward offense to work their magic, we could be staring at a battle of the backups. Kirk Cousins going up against Colt McCoy doesn’t have the same sex appeal that an RGIII vs. Kaepernick mega throw-down does. Since we’re doing this so far in advance, let’s pretend both starters will be healthy and both teams will be in contention. A plus for the Redskins will be their defense is used to seeing the read-option on a day-to-day basis and that should help in preparation. On the downside, Washington's defense was fairly porous last season and did not fare so well when they faced the similar style offense that Seattle ran in their lone playoff game. The bottom line is, both defenses will most likely have their hands full. It will be up to the team who’s defense can create the most turnovers and stop the big play. With their stout defense returning and their upgrades on the offense, you would have to lean towards the 49ers that night, and a lot of angry, sleepy Redskins fans the next day.