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Redskins Week 12 Opponent Preview: San Francisco 49ers

November 22, 2013

When: 8:40 p.m. Nov. 25
Where: FedEx Field (85,000)
Records: 49ers, 6-4; Redskins, 3-7
TV: ESPN (Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)
Radio: Redskin Radio Network (Larry Michael, Sonny Jurgensen, Chris Cooley), WestwoodOne Sports (Wayne Larrivee, Boomer Esiason, Ross Tucker)

The Redskins' game against the 49ers Nov. 25 will feature a pair of starting quarterbacks struggling to repeat the success they enjoyed last season as they emerged to lead their teams to division titles.

Washington's Robert Griffin III continues to struggle with passing accuracy and has spent the past week answering questions about his leadership ability. San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick seems far removed from the player who engineered last year's run to the Super Bowl.

The game will feature two of the league's best running backs in the Redskins' Alfred Morris and the 49ers' Frank Gore.

Both teams have lost two straight. Seattle (10-1) is running away with the NFC West, and the 49ers need a win Nov. 25 to hold their ground in the wild-card race, where they're a game behind the fifth-seeded Panthers (7-3) and ahead of Chicago and Arizona based on tiebreakers.

Meanwhile, the Redskins can't lose again if they're to have any hope of drawing an inside straight and winning the NFC East.

When the Redskins have the ball
San Francisco's defense ranks seventh in the NFL, allowing 323 yards per game and fourth in points per game (17.8).

"It's a very good defense -- the best one we've gone against this year," Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said this week. "Their front seven is as good as any front seven in football. They've got safeties who fly around. Their corners are very good players."

The Redskins' offense ranks sixth, averaging 412.1 yards per game, but has been inconsistent from quarter to quarter.

The good news for Griffin is San Francisco's pass rush has produced 21 sacks thus far (27th in the NFL). The 49ers have grabbed 11 interceptions, which places them in a tie for 13th in the league, and have accumulated 56 pass defended, good for seventh best. Cornerback Tramaine Brock has four interceptions and nine pass defended.

San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks has been in the news all week following his hit on New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, which resulted in a game-changing penalty and fine from the NFL. Controversy aside, Brooks has 42 tackles and a team-high 6.5 sacks this season.

The 49ers have a +6 turnover differential, compared with Washington's -2.

Redskins wide receiver Leonard Hankerson is out for the season because of an LCL injury, and tight end Jordan Reed's status is uncertain. Wide receiver Josh Morgan will return to the starting lineup against his former team.

Morris averages 5.1 yards per carry, which ranks third among NFL running backs with at least 6.25 attempts for each game his team has played. But Morris tends to get fewer carries late during the second half of games.

When the 49ers have the ball
San Francisco's offense ranks 29th in the league with 309 yards per game. They scored a combined 29 points during losses to Carolina and New Orleans, but are averaging 24.7 points per game. The 49ers' passing offense is last in the NFL, averaging 168 yards per game.

Washington's defense ranks 28th (389.9 yards per game) and is allowing 31.1 points per game.

Kaepernick has an 81.8 passer rating through 10 games this season. He's completed 141 of 251 passes for 1,802 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Kaepernick is ranked 31st in completion percentage at 56.2. He's added 355 yards on the ground.

"I haven't seen anything that's changed based off what I've seen from last year to this year," Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "I think one, he's a great athlete. He's got great speed. He's got a big-time arm. He does a great job with their zone read. I think he's running the offense as well as he can."

Gore leads the fifth-ranked rushing offense in the league and has 748 yards during 10 games.

"He's going to run you over," Haslett said. "He's not looking to miss, you know, juke you and all that stuff. He's going to take it, put the foot in the ground. He's got great leg strength and drive, and I think that's our challenge. When you get to him, you better be able to tackle him."

San Francisco tight end and Washington, D.C., native Vernon Davis already has more receiving yards, 553 on 34 catches, in 2013 than he did in 2012. He has eight touchdowns and is averaging 16.3 yards per reception, tops among tight ends.

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin leads the 49ers with 47 receptions.

The team's banged-up receiving corps is getting healthier. Michael Crabtree worked out this week and could make his season debut against Washington. Mario Manningham returned from major knee surgery during Week 10.

Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati injured his knee at the end of the Nov. 17 loss to the New Orleans Saints and may miss the Nov. 25 game.

Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson (toe) was limited at practice this week.

Special Teams
Washington and San Francisco have two of the worst punt-return units in the NFL. The Redskins rank 31st (5.8 yards per return) and the 49ers are 26th (7.0 yards per return). It's uncertain whether Washington coach Mike Shanahan will give Nick Williams another chance to return punts or revert to Josh Morgan or Santana Moss.

The teams' punters are at the opposite end of the spectrum. San Francisco's Andy Lee is third (48.7 yards per kick), while Sav Rocca is 32nd (41.2). The 49ers are allowing 7.4 yards per return, compared with 18 yards per return by Washington.

Both teams are near the bottom in kickoff return average.

San Francisco's Phil Dawson has made 14 of 17 field goals, with a long of 55 yards.

San Francisco has shown no ill effects from cross-country travel of late, going 6-1 on the East Coast since 2011. Kaepernick's defense gives him more margin for error. The Redskins' offense needs to be good for 60 minutes, something it has struggled to do so far … 49ers 34, Redskins 24.