49ers

49ers takeaways: What we learned in sloppy 9-0 win over Washington

49ers takeaways: What we learned in sloppy 9-0 win over Washington

BOX SCORE

LANDOVER, Md. -- Nothing came easy for the 49ers on Sunday, who entered Week 7 as the NFC’s only unbeaten team.

In a sloppy game that resembled the field conditions at FedEx Field, the 49ers did just enough to pick up their sixth victory to open the season with a 9-0 win over Washington.

Here are three takeaways from the 49ers’ victory. 

The defense leads the way ... again

The 49ers’ defense continues to lead the way.

On a rain-soaked day, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s unit kept the 49ers in the game with another strong showing.

For the second week in a row, the 49ers had problems stopping the run on the first drive of the game. Washington put together a 60-yard drive that lasted 8 minutes, 14 seconds. And for the second week in a row, the defense came back strong and dominated the rest of the way.

Arik Armstead and Dee Ford registered sacks, and so did Nick Bosa on the game's final play. In all, the rookie had four tackles for losses.

The big play came near the end of the third quarter when linebacker Kwon Alexander stripped Washington running back Adrian Peterson and defensive tackle Jullian Taylor made the recovery at the 49ers’ 41-yard line.

Helps on way for kicking game

When Robbie Gould hooked a 45-yard field goal attempt to the left in the first half, it was his career-worst seventh missed field goal of the season. And the 49ers are not even at the midway point of the season, yet.

Gould has struggled this season, making 11 of 18 attempts after signing a four-year, $19 million contract extension in the offseason. Gould made kicks on Sunday from 28, 22 and 29 yards.

It is difficult to pinpoint the reason for Gould’s struggles, but the fact that the club has gone through three long-snappers could have contributed to the issues in the kicking game. The 49ers should finally have some stability in that area beginning next week.

Kyle Nelson, the team’s long-snapper since the 2014 season, is eligible for reinstatement after serving a 10-game suspension over two seasons for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

[DC PERSPECTIVE: Weather only real winner between 49ers and Washington]

Losses on offense start to show

The 49ers had a difficult time gaining their footing on offense Sunday.

The offense struggled to function in the constant downpour without starting fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not have much time to throw in the first half. He completed just three of 10 pass attempts for 10 yards and was sacked once. Garoppolo opened the second half with a 28-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne, but that drive ended on a fourth-down interception.

On a fourth-and-4 play from the Washington 36, Garoppolo lofted a pass to Dante Pettis on a corner route. Washington safety Troy Apke ranged from the deep middle to make the interception. He returned it 33 yards, but the 49ers defense didn’t allow Washington to get much closer.

LeBron James reacts to 49ers' wild 48-46 last-second win over Saints

LeBron James reacts to 49ers' wild 48-46 last-second win over Saints

There still are three weeks left in the regular season, but it will be hard to top what the 49ers and Saints just did in New Orleans. 

LeBron James agrees. 

The 49ers' last-second 48-46 road win over the Saints had the Lakers star on the edge of his seat on Sunday. And for good reason, too. 

San Francisco and New Orleans combined to score 94 points in the Superdome, the most ever between the two foes, according to ESPN Stats and Info. 

[RELATED: Where 49ers stand in playoff picture after win vs. Saints]

Quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Drew Brees found themselves in a non-stop shootout. The two each threw for 349 yards  -- 698 between the two -- and totaled nine passing touchdowns. There were only 20 incomplete passes in a battle of NFC powerhouses.

The King might be a Cowboys fan, but for this Sunday, LeBron was mesmerized by the show the 49ers and Saints put on.

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NFL playoff picture: Where 49ers stand in NFC after win vs. Saints

NFL playoff picture: Where 49ers stand in NFC after win vs. Saints

The 49ers avoided their first losing streak of the season Sunday, and (briefly) regained control of the NFC's top seed. 

San Francisco improved to 11-2, dropping the New Orleans Saints to 10-3 in a nail-biting, 48-46 win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The 49ers moved back into the NFC's No. 1 seed, and they could hang on to it if the Seattle Seahawks lose to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night. 

A Seahawks win at the LA Coliseum would drop the 49ers back into the No. 5 seed, but San Francisco would still be on a path towards earning home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Though the Seahawks currently hold the tiebreaker, the 49ers could win the NFC West -- and, likely, the NFC's top seed -- if they win in Seattle in Week 17 and hold a tiebreaker over the Seahawks. 

Those can get complicated, with records against the division, common opponents and/or conference possibly taken account into account. The 49ers have a win over the Saints while the Seahawks do not, but it'd still be easier for the 49ers to root for the Seahawks to slip up before a must-win Week 17. 

[RELATED: 49ers center Richburg carted off vs. Saints with injury]

Here's what the NFC playoff picture looks like following the conclusion of the 1 p,m. ET/10 a.m. PT games.

  1. San Francisco 49ers (11-2)
  2. Green Bay Packers (10-3)
  3. New Orleans Saints (10-3)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (6-7)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (10-2)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (9-4)