Keys to the Redskins-49ers game
1. HOLD ON TIGHT (END)
Only four NFL players have more touchdown catches this season than Vernon Davis’ eight, and his average of 16.3 yards per reception leads all NFL tight ends. Davis has replaced the injured Crabtree as Kaepernick’s go-to guy in the red zone. After starring at nearby Maryland, Davis has plenty of incentive to play well in front of familiar faces. Making his chances of doing so even greater is that he’ll likely be matched up for much of the night with Redskins inside linebacker London Fletcher, whose cover skills have, shall we say, diminished at age 38.
2. SECOND-YEAR SLUMPS
A year ago, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick were among the leaders of a new wave of young, dual-threat quarterbacks revolutionizing the NFL. Both have regressed a bit this season—Griffin after undergoing knee reconstruction, Kaepernick after losing his top receiver (Michael Crabtree) to a torn Achilles. As the NFL has developed strategies to contain them, Griffin’s passer rating has dropped from 102.4 in 2012 to 83.6 this year, Kaepernick’s from 98.3 to 81.8. Whichever second-year starter plays better tonight will give his team a chance to win.
3. UNITED THEY STAND?
The Redskins have vowed that they’ll keep playing hard, despite their struggles on the field and the debate about Mike Shanahan’s coaching future. But last week, the first cracks began to show when Griffin implied the team was outcoached by the Eagles, and veteran Santana Moss called out Griffin for his reluctance to take any blame. Washington’s sometimes-fickle fans are as frustrated as the players are, and it will be interesting to see how the Redskins are received tonight—especially if they struggle early. And there’s a good chance of that; Washington has been outscored by a combined 81–30 in the first quarter.