Here is a link to my Monday column about the 49ers’ win over the Redskins. The full text runs below:
A win is a win is a win.
That is all you need to know about football. It is the truth of all truths.
Sure, we know the 49ers struggled against the wretched Redskins — we’re mostly talking about the 49ers’ offense, fairly wretched in its own right. But struggling does not matter. Struggling has nothing to do with the issue at hand. The issue is to win. The 49ers won 17-13.
A win is a win is a win.
The 49ers have won three in a row. They were a crummy 4-4 and seemed destined for irrelevance, but they hung tough. They remain tied with the Seattle Seahawks who beat Arizona on Sunday. The Niners play the Seahawks on Thanksgiving night. Showdown City. The 49ers earned the showdown by beating Washington. The 49ers remain in contention for a wild-card ticket to the postseason. They have five games left. They are alive.
The 49ers have been a crummy fourth-quarter offense. Until Sunday, when they stormed down the field and came from behind to score the winning touchdown. Along the way, they converted a fourth down in their own territory. It was the first fourth-quarter touchdown for the first-team offense all season and it came at the right time and showed the offense is making progress.
So, don’t put down the win. Don’t discount it or dismiss it. Don’t say the Niners had trouble with Washington and that means they will lose to Seattle. Football doesn’t work that way.
Every game is a separate universe. This is what you learn over time. And that means the Washington game has no bearing on the Seattle game. It’s as if the Washington game never happened. The Niners’ offense could score 35 against the Seahawks or it could score 10. No one knows. We’re talking different universes.
And remember this. There are no style points in football. A team doesn’t get graded on the beauty of its win. Forget beauty. Just answer one question: Did you win? No one on the Niners was apologizing for letting the Redskins play them tough. Playing tough is worthless, meaningless and irrelevant. Only wins and losses matter. And the Niners got the win and the Redskins got the loss.
Afterward, Jim Harbaugh bounded into the auditorium, a man in full-joy mode. A win does that to a coach. A win is the simplest, most basic, most rewarding form of positive reinforcement. He grinned.
“Guys did what they needed to do when they needed to do it,” Harbaugh said. “Good teams win those kind of games. Proud of our guys. By any means necessary. That’s how we’re looking for wins.”
It was Harbaugh’s way of saying a steel boundary separates a win and a loss, and his guys won.
Harbaugh also said, “We turned the ball over and some teams will hang their heads when that happens. But that’s not what this team’s about. This team’s about each other. They’re about the team, the team, the team. Not into criticizing each other. We’re not into badmouthing each other, talking about each other. We’re into lifting each other up. Guys just kept playing and fighting. That’s what good teams do.”
It was an inspiring speechlet and it had a specific subtext. Harbaugh meant, I believe, the winner Niners are nothing like the loser Redskins. All week long, the Redskins had criticized each other and talked trash about each other. Robert Griffin criticized his teammates, although he had no right to. And coach Jay Gruden said Griffin has been “coddled.” Quite a fun bunch.
Down the hall from the 49ers’ auditorium, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks was getting dressed at his locker. I don’t know what you’ve heard about Brooks, but he is the go-to guy in the postgame locker room. Randy Cross was that guy in another era. The go-to guy expresses the state of the team, its mood, its essence. I said to Brooks the Niners have won three straight but struggled against the bad Redskins.
Brooks rubbed a towel over his wet head, mentally forming his answer. “I think we’re fine,” he said. “We turned the ball over a little bit today. I don’t really know what to say about that. I’m not an offensive player. It’s just a perspective on that side of the ball. I think offensively we could have done better. Defensively maybe we could have caused more turnovers. I don’t even think we caused a turnover today. If we would have done that then we would have put the offense in good field position.”
Note: At the very end of the game Justin Smith sacked sad-sack Griffin, the most overrated quarterback on Earth, and Brooks recovered the ball. So, the defense did force one turnover, but the game was almost over and the fumble was easy to forget.
One other truth emerges from this game. Thank God for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. I myself am not thanking the Deity for the Fangioness of Fangio. I imagine the 49ers are. The defense is saving the 49ers’ season. That fact is so obvious it’s like saying gravity makes things fall down.
The offense continues to be a dud — more on that in a moment. But the defense is elite. This was the second game in a row San Francisco’s defense gave up only one touchdown. That is astonishing. And the defense is astonishing no matter who plays. Patrick Willis is hurt. No problem. Chris Borland is great. Fangio knows how to coach his players and his game plans are brilliant. If you can name a better defensive coordinator in the NFL, please drop me a line.
Fangio is a better defensive coordinator than Greg Roman is an offensive coordinator. You can close your eyes and see that. But this is not a get-Roman column.
This is a hopeful column for the 49er Faithful. The defense is winning the games while the offense works things out. On Sunday the offense seemed to work things out when it mattered.
In October, the San Francisco Giants showed us the postseason is an entirely new season. Teams change. Teams improve. What’s important is getting into the playoffs. If the 49ers make the playoffs — no lock — their offense may be better, ought to be better. The defense is buying the offense time.
And remember a win is a win — well, you know the drill.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.