The NFL is a business, but football is a game, and games should be fun. For the 6-0 San Francisco 49ers, it is.
Defense and Rain
After 49ers’ defensive end Nick Bosa sacked Washington quarterback Case Keenum to put the nail in the Niners 9-0 win over the Redskins, Bosa did an airplane slide onto the field, a field that has been a slippery mess all day.
“It kind of just came to me right away,” Bosa said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I gotta slide, whoosh.’ I slid way farther than I thought I was gonna slide though.”
Sealed the W, turned the place into a slip-n-slide. pic.twitter.com/2WTSTmaDsV
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) October 20, 2019
After that, much of the defense joined him, and one couldn’t help but smile.
“I saw those guys running and diving on the ground,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “I was like, ‘I got out of this one healthy, so I’m just going to go. I’m just going to observe and then jog to the sideline, but it was fun. It was ‘Mud Bowl 2019 Champions.’”
The 49ers slid around all day, with the weather and field conditions making it a less than ideal day for football.
“That was bad as I’ve seen,” Sherman said. “You know I’ve played this stadium once before in the playoffs and it was pretty bad…It was mostly sand, like playing in a sand pit. Today, it was rain and everything was going bad.”
But the game must go on, and the 49ers defense was once again clutch, holding Washington to 154 net yards. Keenum finished the day 9-of-12 for 77 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked three times, with Arik Armstead and Dee Ford getting the other two.
Defensive tackle Jullian Taylor, who has seen limited playing time, came up big for the 49ers more than once. With about four minutes left in the second quarter, Washington had 4th and 1 on the San Francisco 28 and went for it. Taylor, combined with Ronald Blair, tackled running back Adrian Peterson for -1 yards and the Niners took over on downs. This was huge on a day where one score could have made all the difference.
“We just wanted to go out and have fun,” said Taylor. “We weren’t really focused on the environment. We were just focused on winning the game.”
Late in the third quarter, Washington was driving again when LB Kwon Alexander forced a fumble that Taylor recovered.
“I just wanted to score, but I’m too slow for that,” Taylor said.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan had nothing but praise for Taylor.
“…[W]e got a lot of confidence in Jullian,” Shanahan said. “He never knows each week whether he’s going to be up or not…but it was a huge turning point to get that turnover…I was going to give him a game ball, but he didn’t score, so I told him he had to score to get one.”
Shanahan was joking, but according to 49ers’ tight end George Kittle, the game ball went to Kyle Shanahan’s father, Mike Shanahan. The two coached in Washington, and as has been well-documented, it was not a pleasant experience.
Earlier this week, the younger Shanahan said the best part was coaching with his dad. The worst part was “everything else.” So getting the win here was a little extra special.
“Everyone’s a little more sensitive being that things involve your family,” Shanahan said. “That’s why I’m always a little more sensitive to this with my dad here, and that’s why it was nice to get the win. But, it definitely had nothing to do with the game, has nothing to do with the score. But, you always want to take care of things the right way when you’re bothered by how some things have been for a family member.”
Offense Gets It Done
The offense started slow, which was in large part due to the rain, and in part due to execution.
That being said, after one very bad interception early in the third quarter, Jimmy Garoppolo and company settled in, with Garoppolo leading an eight play, 67-yard drive that ended in a Robbie Gould 28-yard FG. Wide receiver Richie James, Jr. came up big on that drive with a 40-yard reception.
The next two offensive drives ended in field goals, and that was enough for the win. Garoppolo ended the day 12-of-21 for 151 yards. He also had 20 yards rushing, including an impressive 11-yard run.
“I got in the open field. Wasn’t really used to being there,” said Garoppolo. “When it’s muddy like that, everyone is on the same playing field, so I took advantage of that.”
Both tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Kendrick Bourne were keys to the win, with clutch catches on the 49ers’ final two drives.
“It was big, man, I was just doing my role,” Bourne said after the game. “[WR Marquise Goodwin] kind of got banged up a little bit, so I got my little opportunity and took advantage of it. We’re only as good as our third team or second team, so whoever comes in, we can’t have any drop-off. If we want to be a championship team, we got to keep that up. Whoever comes in, we expect them to do great. That’s our standard here and we’ve kept that since I’ve been here. I think that’s why I’ve always done so well when I come in, it’s because I have just been able to be poised. Kudos to my whole team, great [offensive] line, great quarterback, especially putting the ball on the money and being poised, stuff like that. Whether we start fast or slow, he’s the same so it’s good for us.”