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If the Redskins want to be great, they shouldn't be satisfied with barely beating the 49ers

If the Redskins want to be great, they shouldn't be satisfied with barely beating the 49ers

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. 

RELATED: Cousins, Redskins defense closes the door on near-loss to winless 49ers

“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

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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This group Redskins postgame interview was so much better than any group celebration from this year

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@sung_minkim

This group Redskins postgame interview was so much better than any group celebration from this year

Get out of here with being thankful for good health and family and all that other nonsense.

The thing you should've been most grateful for on Thanksgiving was the tremendous group postgame interview the Redskins did after beating the Giants 20-10 at FedEx Field.

This year, group celebrations are the thing to do in the NFL, and they've been fine. The Steelers' choregraphed hide-and-seek was cute, and the Eagles have actually looked like the best baseball team in Philadelphia at times this season.

But those collective efforts have NOTHING on Kirk Cousins hand feeding Brandon Scherff a giant turkey leg or Ryan Kerrigan and Jamison Crowder cheers-ing with their own massive legs:

MORE: KIRK COUSINS IS EVOLVING, AND HERE'S PROOF

Can we all take a moment and look at how happy Morgan Moses is to rip a bite off of his drumstick?:

And please check out DJ Swearinger piggy-backing on random-signing-turned-starting-center Tony Bergstrom:

Four days after walking off the field following a sickening loss in New Orleans, the Redskins got to shove meat down their gullets. Winning in the NFL is more fun than losing in the NFL.

RELATED: PLAYERS WON'T TALK ABOUT THE FIELD - PUBLICLY, ANYWAY