Although the Redskins ultimately held on to win, they nearly allowed a winless 49ers team to storm all the way back and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat Sunday at FedEx Field.
Washington led 17-0 early, but San Francisco scored a touchdown to close out the first half, and it was all San Fran to open the second half. The 49ers scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter, setting up for the game to be decided in the fourth.
And when they had the chance to put the 49ers away? Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins made things interesting, missing an extra-point attempt which would have given his team a commanding 10-point lead. Their margin of victory? Two points. Decided on the final drive.
“It’s just the way the NFL works,” Kirk Cousins told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier during his weekly segment Monday — ‘Under Center,’ driven by the Lindsay Automotive Group. “The 49ers get paid too.”
“When you don’t play at a high level play in and play out, you leave the door cracked open,” he said. “We had plenty of plays that, you look back, and the 49ers are a good team, but we basically make the mistake, or something we can control, we don’t take control of, and it ends up giving them an opportunity. And then they took advantage of a few to be able to make it as close as it was.”
“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “We just have to be on the details and be a really mature football team so that when each and every play happens, it has to be treated like it’s its own game. It matters, and we can’t afford to have a mistake or a brain cramp, or a moment where we miss a read, or a throw, or a block or an assignment, because when you do, it can be the pivotal turning point in the game.”
Tight end Vernon Davis again made a huge, momentum-shifting play, this time against his former team with six-plus minutes left in regulation, when he caught a pass in the open field and turned it into 51 yards. That extended a drive Cousins would complete with a rushing touchdown, giving the Redskins a 26-17 lead fourth-quarter lead.
“Vernon was able to find a soft spot in the zone, and we were able to get the ball off and then he does the rest,” Cousins explained. “And that’s where Vernon can be really dangerous, is when you get the ball in his hands — at his age, and his experience — he still has that elite speed and it’s fun to let him get going in the open field.”
“Those explosive plays change games,” he said. “I mean, when you can flip the field like that and get that momentum, that’s the kind of plays we’re talking about that can get your offense going, and go from sputtering to, suddenly, now you’re knocking on the door and you come away with points.”
Cousins finished the game with 330 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 67-percent passing. Running back Chris Thompson — once again — was his leading receiver with 105 yards, including a 49-yard gainer in the second quarter to set up a Hopkins field goal.
Second half, especially third quarter, you guys were running on first down on awful lot and not really getting much there, setting up bad second- and third-down-and-distance. Were you getting frustrated at all that you guys weren’t able to break through? And what did San Francisco start to do that made it so tough sledding for you guys on the ground in the second half? — Mark in Arlington
“I really can’t tell you why certain runs didn’t hit and others did,” Cousins said. “It is tough when you commit to run the ball, it’s first-and-10; next thing you know, it’s second-and-10. It’s not easy to get a drive going when that happens. Or, let’s say it’s first-and-10 and then you have an offsides or a personal foul, and now it’s backed up, first-and-20, or whatever it may be. Those are hard to overcome.”
The Redskins rushed for 94 yards on the day, 26 of which were attributed to the quarterback. Thompson, the lead rusher, had 33 yards on 16 attempts.
“And then when we did call play-action pass on first down in the second half,” Cousins recalled, “the end comes free and we get hit, and the ball’s over the middle to Jamison [Crowder] and we don’t connect. And then you’re second-and-10 on that play as well, because you didn’t connect.”
“It was just hard to get going,” he said. “And then, you know, we completed the keeper as a drive-starter to Vernon, and then next thing you know, it’s seven points for the 49ers. There’s plays that are good plays that are there, that we’re executing — we just have to finish the play, we have to catch that ball, we have to hold onto the football. We have to try to get as much as we can out of the run game.
“There’s all those little details is what I’m talking about when I came on the call, that we can improve, we can be better. The ability’s there, we just have to do it play in and play out, and the whole game long. In the NFL, if you have a play or two where you didn’t play to your utmost ability, so many times it comes back to haunt you at the end of the game.”