49ers 27, Redskins 24
And so, the season ends much the way it began, with disappointment and speculation on what changes might be made. I'll be speaking with some of my journalistic colleagues (read: drinking buddies) and preparing a post to go over the Skins' offseason plans, what I think they will be and what I think they should be. But for now, let's review Washington's most recent loss.
The offense did some things I'm happy about. They put together four drives of 40 or more yards, which is something they've struggled to do all season. Three of those drives resulted in touchdowns, also encouraging. But they also had three 3-and-outs and a devastating fumble to start the second half. Additionally, they had five drives that netted less than 10 yards, which means that they were providing no field position advantage to their defense most of the time.
Jason Campbell totaled just 156 yards passing, though he showed once again that, while he doesn't have great speed, his instincts on scrambling are almost always spot on. But the quarterback's job, first and foremost, is to get the ball down the field, and with 4.6 yards per passing play, Campbell failed miserably on that front. The ground game was decent but not special, and I'm beginning to think more and more that this was Portis' swan song as a premier running back in the NFL...which makes me wonder why Ladell Betts didn't get more opportunities this season (just 61 carries this season).
The defense has been a strength all season, but this Sunday played at a very unimpressive level. The 49ers outgained the Redskins by nearly 100 yards, and had seven, seven drives of 20 yards or more. Most important, San Francisco put together scoring drives on all three of their 4th quarter possessions, gaining 80 yards for a TD, 34 yards for a FG, and 51 yards for another field goal to win the game at the buzzer. When the game was on the line, when the Redskins needed a stop, the defense just couldn't hold.
Once again, the defense was also unable to generate much in the way of turnovers, though it was nice to see Carlos Rogers actually hold on to an interception. But just once next year, I'd like to see a four turnover game. The 'Skins have got the personnel in the secondary to make it happen; they just need some pass rush to harass a quarterback or two.
Special Teams: C+
The special teams were anything but special. Shaun Suisham made a 41-yard field goal, his only attempt of the day, and Ryan Plackemeier was generally effective. But once again, the punt return game by Antwaan Randle El was atrocious. I hope they get Devin Thomas working on his hands and open-field moves, so we don't have to suffer through another season of these terrible, go-nowhere punt returns.
I'm fine with Randle El as the #2 receiver, by the way. He's got decent hands and seems to have a good rapport with Campbell. I don't think you can lay more money into receivers with Cooley being featured and after drafting three receivers in the second round last year. You have to ride the current group for the time being, and hope someone else emerges to go alongside Santana Moss.
There's not much else to say about this performance. There were a few highlights, but as has been the case for much of the second half of the 2008 NFL season, the Redskins just didn't have what it takes to close the deal. The first year of the Jim Zorn era ends at 8-8, not a terrible season, but certainly a let-down after the 6-2 start in what should've been tougher games.
See you next year.
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