The San Francisco 49ers came to FedEx Field Sunday and the Bay Area weather tagged along.
With conditions to remind them of home — wet, windy and chilly — the 49ers displayed a mindset directly from the school of positive psychology, finding sunshine on a rainy day.
Meanwhile, the elements provided a perfect reflection for the Washington Redskins’ damp and dreary season, which is already a washout less than halfway through.
When quarterback Case Keenum was sacked on the final play, capping a hopeless situation with Washington trailing, 9-0, the Niners turned the drenched field into their personal Slip ‘N Slide. First, defensive end Nick Bosa hydroplaned on his belly to celebrate. A few teammates on the field joined in, with defensive tackle D.J. Jones creating a splash with his hook slide.
Then, multiple players on San Francisco’s sideline dove and slid onto the field as Washington coach Bill Callahan walked to meet his counterpart for the postgame handshake at midfield. He almost had to wait because 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan contemplated taking a plunge with his players.
“It was definitely fun watching our whole team slide across the field at the end,” Shanahan said. “I did think about joining, but I don’t think I would’ve done it right.”
While the visitors and their fans frolicked in the wet conditions, the home team departed to dry out and begin preparations for Thursday’s game at Minnesota.
“The only thing I’m thinking about right now is that it’s going to be about 70 degrees with zero chance of rain,” Keenum said about facing the team he led to the NFC title game two seasons ago.
As far as San Francisco was concerned, FedEx Field was a beach, the mud was sand, and the skies were clear and bright. It’s impossible to have a different outlook after improving to 6-0 with a shutout victory, even though the game was uglier than the weather. The eyesore produced 437 yards of total offense combined. Unfortunately for Washington, the Niners contributed about two-thirds of that output.
On a day built for ground attacks, Washington seemed well-suited early on, picking up 67 of its 104 rushing yards in the first quarter, paced by running back Adrian Peterson. Washington began the game with seven consecutive runs by Peterson, who had 49 yards on an opening drive that ended in frustration when Dustin Hopkins missed a 39-yard kick.
Keenum attempted only a dozen passes, including a couple of the shovel variety to Steven Sims Jr. We know Callahan is committed to running the ball more often than his predecessor, Jay Gruden, but averaging just a pair of legitimate forward passes per quarter seems a bit much.
“The conditions, on both sides, played into the decision to run the ball a little more and obviously be more controlled in the pass and limit the pass attempts,” Callahan said. “That was more field conditions and weather conditions.”
Thursday’s game, in the controlled environment of U.S. Bank Stadium, will help us determine how much was due to precipitation and how much is simply Callahan’s preference. Washington’s season-low in passing attempts prior to Sunday occurred in Callahan’s debut as interim coach, when Keenum threw 25 passes as Washington‘ barely hung on against hapless Miami for their first victory.
Sunday’s climate actually could be an apt metaphor for Washington’s current circumstances. Maybe the offense will be forced to rely on Peterson’s ancient legs — regardless of the meteorological forecast — because none of the quarterbacks can be trusted and most of the receivers are pedestrian.
If that’s the case, Washington will have to grin and bear it as more teams celebrate like 6-year-olds at a pool party.
“It was a lot of fun,” 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said of the postgame mud angels and baby seal imitations. “It was definitely worth it. Everybody started sliding around and everything. It was like a bunch of little kids out there. That’s part of the game, having fun, and right now we’re having a lot of fun.”
Winning has that effect on a team, and a little water doesn’t make a difference. But for Washington, when it rains it pours … and not in a good way.
The season is slip-sliding away, with darker clouds ahead.
⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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