LANDOVER, Md — You’ll be hearing a lot of everyone’s favorite football cliché, “A win is a win,” following the Redskins’ fist-clenching 26-24 victory over the 49ers on Sunday.
However, if Washington really wants to stay involved at the top of what looks like an open NFC, they shouldn’t be thrilled with how they finished the matchup at FedEx Field.
At first, it looked like the Redskins were actually going to snuff out an inferior opponent by the half, which doesn’t seem to happen very often with this team. They went up 17-0 on San Francisco just before the break, and the vibe at the stadium was a positive one.
But then the visitors made a change at quarterback — subbing in rookie C.J. Beathard for Brian Hoyer — and instead of pouncing on the inexperienced passer, the ‘Skins slowly let the Niners back in the contest. A late, favorable penalty and crucial interception prevented a total collapse, but an overall uninspired second half should have the Burgundy and Gold feeling like they have a lot to fix before traveling to Philly next week.
“People know if you play long enough in football, whenever you put the pads on, it’s going to be a competitive day,” Jay Gruden said afterward. “Our guys responded, competed, let them back into the game unfortunately, but you know, they’ve got good players, too. We responded and got the victory. That’s all that matters.”
Gruden’s last sentence is another one that’ll be repeated as this game is reviewed, and he’s right, of course. His guys are now 3-2, and they turned things around right when they needed to vs. the 49ers to close them out.
He also has plenty to be proud of. His signal caller, for the most part, played well. His secondary, meanwhile, had some rough moments after key injuries, but inexperienced defensive backs like Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau and others held up on San Fran’s final drive.
However, teams in the upper echelon of the league take a 17-0 lead while facing a first-year signal caller and an 0-5 squad and turn it into a 31-10 blowout. The Redskins really looked like they could be one of those contenders after topping the Rams, smashing the Raiders and competing with the Chiefs, but squeaking one out vs. the 49ers following a bye hurts their legitimacy a bit.
That’s why they’d benefit from taking an approach like Ryan Kerrigan’s.
"We’re getting to the point where we feel like it’s about how we play,” the pass rusher said. "We had some good moments in there, but too many big plays, too many missed opportunities.”
To his credit, Gruden did also acknowledge that he’s not “as happy” after this result as he typically is when the Redskins win. “I know we can play a lot better,” he said.
They certainly can, and they have at most points in their other, earlier games. But until they do so consistently, no matter who they’re lining up across from, they shouldn’t be completely satisfied.
More Redskins: D.J. Swearinger explains his actions for costly penalty