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The 5 O’Clock Club: Can the Redskins score against the 49ers defense?

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.


ProFootballTalk ran an article this week, titled, Kyle Shanahan: I think our defense is just getting started:

The 49ers won four games all of last season, but Sunday’s 20-7 victory over the Rams means they’ve already surpassed that total this season.

At 5-0, the 49ers are one of only two undefeated teams in the league and the biggest driver in the last two victories has been the defense. They’ve allowed 10 points and 345 yards while beating the Browns and Rams and head coach Kyle Shanahan thinks things can get even better on that side of the ball.

“I’m very happy with how we played,” Shanahan said in his postgame press conference. “We’re 5-0, which is a great thing, but we’re not playing our best ball. We can do a lot of things better than that. It seemed like our defense played at an extremely high level, obviously minus the first drive. We can continue to get better on offense. We can continue to get better on special teams. I also think our defense is just getting started, too.”

The Rams opened the game by running seven straight times on a 56-yard touchdown drive, but the 49ers defense dominated the rest of the way and it’s not hard to share Shanahan’s feeling that there will be a lot more highlight reel performances to come from the unit.

The Niners defense — described by Shanahan as “just getting started” — is ranked 2nd in the NFL in points allowed at 12.8 points per game. They are nestled between the Patriots (8 ppg) and the Bears (13.8 ppg). The Redskins have been victimized by both of those teams at FedEx Field this year, scoring 15 against the Bears and 7 against the Patriots.

Of course, the Niners’ undefeated status, and their strong offensive and defensive rankings come with a caveat. The five teams they have played have a combined record of 9-21, which is a .300 win percentage.

Still, San Francisco has played two top-ten offenses (Tampa Bay and LA Rams, ranked 4th & 10th respectively), and the Redskins have a win percentage of just .167 and an offense ranked 30th in the league in points per game.

Moving from statistics to the eye test, watching San Francisco play the last game or two, I was pretty impressed by what I saw of their defensive front 7. It’s gonna be hard to run the ball straight at them, and they are likely to put a lot of pressure on Case Keenum, who threw two touchdowns in Miami this week, but who turned the ball over 5 times in his previous complete game against the Bears.

I did see the Rams have success on the opening drive this week by using misdirection and cut-back runs, which the Redskins are well-equipped to run with Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson and Wendell Smallwood. Furthermore, the Rams hurt themselves on a couple of occasions against SF. They ran a play on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line that was stuffed. It was a great defensive effort, but the Rams had driven the field effectively, and could have take the lead with a field goal. Los Angeles also opened up the second half by fumbling a lateral on a first-down play inside their own 20 yard line, giving San Francisco a short field and an easy touchdown.

That’s not intended to minimize the accomplishments of the undefeated 49ers or suggest that they don’t deserve what they’ve accomplished this season; it’s merely taking note of the fact that the Rams gave up some points on the scoreboard themselves.

That said, offensively, the Redskins are scoring an average of just 15 points per game. Only the Dolphins and the Jets are worse. Washington has scored 11 touchdowns on the season — 5 of those have been scored by rookie wide receiver, Terry McLaurin, who missed one game due to injury. I’m getting the feeling that the Niners may concentrate their efforts on stopping two players — Scary Terry and Adrian Peterson. If they can do that, the Redskins may not have enough firepower to push the ball downfield.

Washington is going to need to minimize penalties, win the turnover battle, and get pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo. Beyond that, Kevin O’Connell is going to have to equal Kyle Shanahan’s play-calling abilities, dialing up a creative offensive scheme at home this week.

That’s partly because Kyle Shanahan is likely to arrive at FedEx Field this week with a chip still on his shoulder and wanting to prove a few things. For those who have forgotten the RG3 era, Kyle left the Redskins rather unhappy when his father was fired at the end of the horrendous 3-13 season in 2013. He and Dan Snyder are reportedly not on speaking terms, and Kyle will probably want to show Snyder exactly who has turned out to be the winner, and just who has turned out the loser.

The Reskins mustered only 17 points against the Dolphins this past Sunday, and have not scored more than 21 points since the Week 1 opener against the Eagles. I’m beginning to wonder if the Redskins offense will be able to score at all against the talented Niners defense.

Let’s not even talk about Greg Manusky’s 28th ranked defense trying to stop Kyle Shanahan’s creative and effective 3rd ranked offense.

It could be a bloodbath on Sunday.

Poll

Which of the following best describes what the 30th ranked Redskins offense will produce against the 2nd ranked SF defense on Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    It will be a shutout
    (148 votes)
  • 39%
    Dustin Hopkins may score, but there will be no touchdowns
    (250 votes)
  • 27%
    The Redskins should score around their season average: between 14 and 17 points
    (177 votes)
  • 3%
    The Redskins will score between 18 and 24 points.
    (23 votes)
  • 6%
    The Skins offense will put up over 24 points
    (40 votes)
638 votes total Vote Now