SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Robert Griffin III took five more sacks to build on a long list of them this season, and each time he got up. Even 49ers pass-rushing star Aldon Smith thought he’d stay down.
After a week in which the quarterback received criticism from his coach for speaking his mind, he almost helped Washington pull off a big road upset. Almost.
Carlos Hyde ran for a go-ahead 4-yard touchdown with 2:59 remaining, and the San Francisco 49ers barely squeaked by the Redskins with a 17-13 win Sunday that kept them in the thick of the playoff chase.
“There’s one thing we’re not going to do, and that’s quit. No matter how gloomy it might look, or whatever’s being said, we’re going to stay positive,” Griffin III said. “We’re going to try to get better each week and trust the process, trust what we’re doing, trust what coach is doing, and be able to go out there every week legitimately thinking that we can win the game. I think we did that today, and we just couldn’t get it done down the stretch.”
Coach Jay Gruden credited his players for how they competed after a rough week.
Still, the result was the same as Washington (3-8) lost its third straight. And it didn’t help the Redskins lost several key guys to injuries.
Cornerback E.J. Biggers left in the first quarter with a concussion, while linebacker Adam Hayward went down with a right knee injury that Gruden called a “knee tibia plateau fracture.”
“I’m really proud of the way they competed. They could have hung their heads,” Gruden said. “Moving forward if we can play with that type of effort and intensity and continue to prepare, I told our team I think some of these losses will turn into wins down the road.”
A fourth-down conversion in their own territory away from losing, the Niners finally capitalized with a rare TD in the final period on the way to their third straight victory. San Francisco (7-4) overcame three turnovers.
Gruden won a challenge with 5:36 left that Vernon Davis hadn’t made a first down. San Francisco went for it and Frank Gore converted the fourth-and-1. On the next play, Colin Kaepernick hit Anquan Boldin for a 29-yard gain and safety Ryan Clark was flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for his hit on Boldin.
As the play developed, Boldin just reminded himself “catch the ball and protect yourself.”
Boldin made a 10-yard reception two plays later, leading to Hyde’s score — the first TD by San Francisco’s first-team offense in the fourth quarter this season.
“For the past couple weeks you’ve seen guys laying it all out on the line,” Boldin said.
Kaepernick threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Boldin on San Francisco’s initial series but did little else offensively to break open what was expected to be a lopsided game. San Francisco was a nine-point favorite in the opening betting line.
Boldin, who caught a pair of touchdown passes in a win at Washington last November, finished with nine catches for a season-high 137 yards.
Kai Forbath kicked a 46-yard field goal with 7:42 to go that put Washington ahead. Alfred Morris ran for a season-best 125 yards and a 1-yard touchdown for the Redskins (3-8), who lost their third in a row and fourth straight to the 49ers.
Gruden didn’t appreciate Griffin III’s comments he considered critical of teammates in the wake of a 27-7 loss to Tampa Bay, but everybody seemed to move forward from the franchise turmoil.
“He had a lot of pressure on him,” wideout DeSean Jackson said of the QB. “He made the best out of it.”
Gore fumbled with just more than 10 minutes left and Phillip Thomas recovered to give the Redskins first and 10 at the 49ers’ 37.
Hyde redeemed himself with the late TD after fumbling the first play of the second quarter. Kaepernick also threw an interception as Washington’s Greg Ducre made his first pick midway through the third quarter.
Forbath kicked a tying 27-yard field goal in the final minute of the third quarter. The Redskins got a big break on that scoring drive.
Griffin got sacked and rookie Aaron Lynch was flagged for roughing the passer for a helmet-to-helmet hit. That gave Washington first down on the 49ers’ 16 and set up Forbath’s field goal.
Aldon Smith exploited Washington rookie left tackle Morgan Moses and sacked Griffin III twice. San Francisco had five total sacks after getting six against him in a win last November.
Notes: Redskins CB Tracy Porter sustained an AC separation in his right schoulder and was scheduled for an MRI exam on Monday. RB Silas Redd Jr. had a rib contusion. … Moses started in place of the injured Trent Williams. … Washington CB David Amerson didn’t play because of a violation of a team rule. Gruden wouldn’t elaborate.