Why 49ers' defense earned A-plus grade in muddy win over Washington

Why 49ers' defense earned A-plus grade in muddy win over Washington

The 49ers remained undefeated with their 9-0 win Sunday in Washington DC, but in this case, the field stole the spotlight from the actual game being played.

FedEx Field produced a backyard game of mud football, with heavy rain coming down and water splashing up every time a player ran through the puddle. The conditions called for an ugly game, but Robert Saleh's 49ers defense handled the adversity admirably.

Former 49ers safety Donte Whitner, who dealt with plenty of tough conditions over his 11-year NFL career, believes San Francisco played about as well as a team could on such a mess of a field.

"I give them an A-plus," Whitner, now a 49ers analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, said Sunday. "Playing in these type of conditions, understanding that it's not going to be a game about who has the best players, who has the best game plan ... it's gonna come down to willpower and understanding it's going to be a four-quarter game of runs, direct runs with a guy like Adrian Peterson.

"Going into it, you know it's gonna be an ugly, muddy football game where the most mentally strong team that makes the least amount of mistakes wins."

Defensive backs might be at the biggest disadvantage with a wet field. Cornerbacks and safeties easily can lose their footing while backpedaling in the mud. The same goes for trying to change direction and react to a receiver's route.

It's not like receivers have an easy task running through the mud and loose surface, but knowing your route automatically puts you ahead of the defense. It's hard enough for a DB to read if a receiver is running in on a quick slant or cutting off a deep route for a comeback.

Now try it in the rain.

"You have to react on the run, and who knows what kind of footing you're gonna have, so you have to keep your knees bent, keep your hips bent so you can get out of those breaks," Whitner said. "If not, you'll give up big plays."

The 49ers didn't give up too many big plays at all Sunday. They held quarterback Case Keenum to 77 passing yards -- their second straight week where a QB was held under 100 -- and Adrian Peterson couldn't bust a back-breaking run, his longest being 15 yards.

Mud football games might be fun when you're with your friends at the park, but it's a different story in the NFL. Every week counts, and neither team was wishing for this type of weather.

[RELATED: Watch Bosa's slip-and-slide sack celly to end 49ers' win]

"It's just miserable for everybody," Whitner said. "The most mentally strong team that makes the least amount of mistakes is gonna win the game."

On Sunday, that team was the 49ers, who continued to look like real contenders.

NFL offensive coach still not sold on 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo long term

NFL offensive coach still not sold on 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo long term

Jimmy Garoppolo balled out in the 49ers' thrilling 48-46 win over the Saints last Sunday.

For the third time this season, Garoppolo threw four touchdown passes in a game.

In guiding the 49ers to an NFC-best 11-2 record, Garoppolo has completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 3,245 yards. He's thrown 25 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions this season.

While Garoppolo's not in the MVP conversation, he's putting up solid numbers as the 49ers continue to rack up wins. But there is one anonymous NFC offensive coach that still hasn't quite bought into Garoppolo.

"I don’t think he can do it consistently, but he did it today," the coach told The Athletic's Mike Sando after the 49ers beat the Saints. "[Drew] Brees moved down the field and scored. That is what you expect. I didn’t know that Garoppolo would be able to do it, but he did it."

Sando noted that in his annual Quarterback Tiers survey, the coach in question had Garoppolo on the second tier in 2017. Last season, after Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL in Week 3, the coach moved Garoppolo down to the third tier of NFL quarterbacks.

Whether or not Garoppolo is an elite quarterback is up for debate. NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms feels the 49ers quarterback is "really good," but doesn't consider him elite. But what is for certain is that Garoppolo is not a "third tier" quarterback. He doesn't have the gaudy numbers like Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson or Lamar Jackson, but Garoppolo has a 19-4 career record as a starter in the NFL. That can't be ignored.

[RELATED: Five 49ers to watch vs. Falcons]

Garoppolo will have another chance to impress the offensive coach Sunday when the 49ers host the Falcons at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

NFL rumors: Terrell Suggs, waived by Cardinals, wants to rejoin Ravens

NFL rumors: Terrell Suggs, waived by Cardinals, wants to rejoin Ravens

When the Arizona Cardinals waived veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs on Friday, 49ers fans instantly wondered if the top team in the NFC would try to claim T-Sizzle.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco believes Suggs would be a fit for the 49ers due to injuries to Ronald Blair, Damontre Moore and Dee Ford.

But you can lower your expectations, 49ers fans.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Saturday, citing league sources, that Suggs would "strongly consider not reporting if a team other than the Baltimore Ravens claims him."

Suggs spent the first 16 years of his NFL career in Baltimore, so it's understandable that the Ravens are the only team he wants to play for.

While it appears Suggs won't be donning a 49ers' uniform, it would still make sense for the 49ers to put in a waiver claim on the 37-year-old.


Assuming Suggs gets through the 30 teams ahead of the 49ers in the waiver order, the 49ers would be wise to try to block the linebacker from going to the Ravens.

After all, the 49ers and Ravens could meet up in Super Bowl LIV, and the last thing San Francisco wants to see is T-Sizzle coming after Jimmy Garoppolo.

[RELATED: Five 49ers to watch vs. Falcons]

And you never know. Maybe coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch can convince Suggs to play for the 49ers.

Suggs' fate will be decided Monday when teams can put in a waiver claim on him. No matter what happens, the 49ers absolutely should claim him.