LANDOVER, Md. – Never much for words, Colin Kaepernick summed up the best statistical game of his NFL career with typical understatement: "I think this was a good step for us in the right direction."
Always one to speak at length when there's a camera around, Robert Griffin III reflected on one of the worst games of his young career by referencing "demons" that need to be conquered and the people who are supposedly "trying to character assassinate" him.
While their playing styles may be similar, their public personas are as divergent as their performances were in their first face-to-face matchup. Kaepernick clearly outplayed Griffin on Monday night as the San Francisco 49ers broke a two-game losing streak with a 27-6 win over the Washington Redskins.
Kaepernick completed 15 of 24 passes for 235 yards — the first time in five games he's topped 200 — with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a career-best 134.5 passing rating. He made a couple of throws to Anquan Boldin that looked worthy of a veteran drop-back quarterback.
That should quiet the critics. For a few days, at least.
"Some people have baby deer skin," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He's got the armadillo skin."
It will take more than an armadillo to quiet the angst surrounding the Redskins and Griffin, who completed 17 of 27 passes for only 127 yards and was sacked four times. His rating was 58.7, and Washington's offense amassed a mere 190 total yards.
Here are five ruminations on the 49ers (7-4), who remain tied for second with the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West, and the Redskins (3-8), who sit alone in the cellar of the NFC East.
HEY, WE KNOW THAT OFFENSE: The 49ers did to Griffin what other defenses try to do to Kaepernick — take away the run and force the QB to throw. Alfred Morris rushed for only 52 yards on 14 carries. The Redskins, playing catch-up, gained only 30 total yards after halftime. San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith had his first two sacks since undergoing treatment for substance abuse.
RG3 AND DAD: Before Griffin headed to his postgame news conference, the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year spoke with an unusual locker-room visitor: his father. RG2 then tagged along for the news conference. When RG3 returned to finish removing his uniform, the two men chatted for several minutes, sitting face-to-face. Griffin started the evening with four incompletions. When he finally completed his fifth pass, the play lost a yard. His sixth attempt was intercepted.
"We've got to conquer some of the demons that we have going on as an offense," Griffin said, "and just as a team in general."
CRABTREE JOINS THE CREW: Injuries to the 49ers' receiving corps have often been cited for Kaepernick's lackluster passing numbers. Mario Manningham (four catches, 45 yards) recently returned to the lineup, and now 2012 leading receiver Michael Crabtree is set to be activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list and play next week. Crabtree returned to practice Nov. 5 for the first time since tearing his right Achilles tendon in May.
"We need them all," Harbaugh said. "This is only for the tough. Where our team is headed, it's only for the tough."
SHANAHAN 'DISAPPOINTED': Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said his team got "embarrassed." He said he was "disappointed in the way we performed." He acknowledged that his team had not been "dominated like that since I've been here." The Redskins are 24-36, including playoff games, since Shanahan arrived with a $35 million, five-year contract. They are currently on pace for their third last-place finish in his four seasons. The defense made Kaepernick look fantastic, and cornerback Josh Wilson was particularly generous, repeatedly getting beaten by receivers. There was a sloppy sequence at the end of the first half for Washington's offense, including a timeout called while the clock was already stopped on a hurry-up drive.
And with the score still only 10-6 early in the second half, Shanahan decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the 41 and gave the ball to backup tailback Roy Helu. He was stopped short, and the Niners took over and drove 60 yards for a TD. Still, after all of it, veteran linebacker London Fletcher called Shanahan "a great leader."
49ERS LOOKAHEAD: San Francisco now heads into the stretch run and has to be feeling better about its playoff chances. Of their five remaining games, two are against division foes the Niners beat already — including St. Louis next Sunday — and two come against also-rans Tampa Bay and Atlanta. The most intriguing matchup comes in two weeks, at home against NFC West rival Seattle, which leads the NFL with a 10-1 record and beat visiting San Francisco 29-3 in Week 2.
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