San Francisco 49ers

49ers ride their winning wave past Washington as defense shines in slog of a game

How tough was it playing in the rain Sunday at FedEx Field?

“That was as bad as I’ve seen,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Mud bowl 2019 champs.”

Added coach Kyle Shanahan: “That weather was as bad of weather we’ve played in since we’ve been here, just combined with that field, just how the field always is, it’s really tough for anyone to move.”

Said receiver Kendrick Bourne: “This game was just funny. I thought we would have blown them out, to be honest, if it wasn’t raining. But it’s just a different type of game.”

San Francisco didn’t blow out Washington, but the 49ers did shut out the home team. The 49ers survived the constant downpour, slippery conditions and the mud for a 9-0 victory, improving to 6-0 and remaining the only undefeated team in the NFC.

49ers defense dominant

They did it without getting into the end zone and having their worst offensive output since Week 1 (283 yards). Jimmy Garoppolo threw his sixth interception in as many starts, but San Francisco prevailed as the defense had its first shutout of the year. It has allowed 10 points during the past three games combined.

Rookie pass rusher Nick Bosa capped it with a sack of Case Keenum, and appropriately slid head first some 10 yards as time expired to celebrate. His defensive line mates all joined in, and then a slew of his teammates did the same from the far sideline, some even making mud angels to commemorate the win.

Unlike the flag planting when Bosa got to Baker Mayfield three weeks ago on “Monday Night Football,” this celebration wasn’t premeditated.

“I slid way further than I thought I was going to slide though,” Bosa said. “It was a pretty good ending.”

After the game, Kyle Shanahan gave the game ball to his father Mike, who was embroiled in a bitter divorce with Washington when he was fired as head coach after the 2013 season, when Kyle Shanahan was his offensive coordinator.

“It definitely was a game that we wanted to win for both him and Mike Shanahan,” tight end George Kittle said. “It was really fun we could get that for him. ... (Giving him the game ball) was pretty special.”

Mike Shanahan had reportedly been accused of giving his son, Kyle, preferential treatment when on his coaching staff. Some criticized Kyle Shanahan for having inexperienced assistants, such as Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur and Mike McDaniel. The first two are head coaches with the Rams and Packers, respectively, while McDaniel serves as the 49ers’ run-game coordinator.

But the issues with Shanahan were more personal because they involved his father.

“Everyone’s a little more sensitive being that things involve your family,” Shanahan said. “So that’s why I’m always a little more sensitive to this with my dad here, and that’s why it was nice to get the win. But it definitely had nothing to do with the game, has nothing to do with the score, but you always want to take of things the right way when you’re bothered by how some things have been for a family member.”

Offenses bogged down in muddy field

It was evident from the beginning points were going to be at a premium. The first half came and went without a point on the board as both teams missed field goals toward the southeast end zone.

San Francisco ended up hitting field goals on its final three possessions, with Robbie Gould’s last kick coming with 27 seconds remaining to lock up the team’s third 6-0 start in franchise history. The team has won four straight road games for the first time since 2011.

The defense held Keenum to 77 yards on 9 of 12 completions — and has allowed 176 net passing yards over the past three games combined.

A turning point in the game came when linebacker Kwon Alexander forced a fumble from Adrian Peterson (20 rushes, 81 yards). San Francisco took it the other way and made it 6-0 on Gould’s second field goal.

Garoppolo struggled in the rain. He completed a season-low 12 passes. His previous low was 17 in the blowout victory over the Bengals in Week 2, when he threw for three touchdowns.

Garoppolo in the first half Sunday had more rushing yards (20) than passing (10). But he had 141 in the second half, connecting with Richie James Jr. for 40 yards and Kendrick Bourne for 26 that help set up two field goals.

“It was a sloppy game out there,” Garoppolo said. “We had an idea of what they wanted to do in the second half and I thought we took advantage of it.”

The 49ers outgained Washington, 283-154. They went 0-for-4 in the red zone and could have made the game far more lopsided by converting opportunities.

But San Francisco managed to convert 7 of 16 third downs, a respectable 44-percent clip, particularly given the conditions. Kittle was responsible for three of those conversions. James’ 40-yard play also came on third down.

“Converting third downs is how you score,” Kittle said. “It says a lot about this team, the focus, catching those balls.”

The 49ers got three sacks from Bosa, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford in their first shutout since the 2016 season opener. The team’s defense has been spectacular all season.

“It definitely puts you at ease,” Shanahan said. “Especially know how that game was going to be.”

The 49ers will have a good test next week against the Carolina Panthers (4-2), who are coming off their bye week following 37-26 victory over the Buccaneers Oct. 13 in London.

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Chris Biderman has covered the 49ers since 2013 and began covering the team for The Sacramento Bee in August 2018. He previously spent time with the Associated Press and USA TODAY Sports Media Group. A Santa Rosa native, he graduated with a degree in journalism from The Ohio State University.