MAKING THE GRADE
SANTA CLARA -- Here is how the 49ers (7-4) graded in their 27-6 win Monday night at Washington (3-8):
Pass offense: Colin Kaepernick shook off the worst two-game stretch of his career and came through with his best passer rating (134.5), three touchdown passes and 235 yards. Mr. Armadillo Skin (see: Jim Harbaugh's post-game praise) completed a modest 15-of-24 attempts, a couple of which nearly got intercepted across the middle. Anquan Boldin's two touchdown catches don't happen if not for his third-down receptions earlier on those drives. Vernon Davis' chronological homecoming: 40-yard catch, third-quarter fumble and drop, 20-yard catch at the 6, and 1-yard touchdown. Mario Manningham had his best game as an early target.
Run offense: Unable to break any runs longer than nine yards, Frank Gore & Co. took a rare backseat to the passing attack. Gore had his second-fewest yards of the season (13 carries, 31 yards) and Kendall Hunter wasn't better (eight carries, 12 yards). LaMichael James made a backfield cameo but didn't get a carry. Kaepernick used his legs wisely and gained 20 yards. Adam Snyder seemed to play well in Mike Iupati's place.
Pass defense: Robert Griffin III faced relentless pressure by the defensive front, especially Ahmad Brooks (two sacks), Aldon Smith (two sacks) and Justin Smith (possibly two sacks upon review of his two tackles for loss). Donte Whitner made his second interception of the season, and Carlos Rogers recovered well in single coverage to defend a 50-yard bomb.
Run defense: Patrick Willis (11 tackles) and NaVorro Bowman (eight) swarmed to the ball, as was the case on a fourth-down stop that sparked the 49ers' second-half surge. Alfred Morris, Roy Helu Jr. and Griffin each averaged 3.7 yards per carry, with the impressive Morris being contained to just 52 total yards.
Special teams: Harbaugh happily proclaimed that, at last, the 49ers "have a return game," courtesy of LaMichael James' punt returns. He had a 40-yard return to set up the final touchdown and overshadow his muffed punt to start the fourth quarter. Phil Dawson has made his past 13 field-goal attempts, including 29- and 49-yard attempts in this game.
Coaching: Needing a bounce-back win after two narrow defeats, Harbaugh and his staff came through with impressive plans. The offensive tempo was improved, as were the play calls. Vic Fangio's defense played masterfully in allowing only two field goals in the first half and then just 30 yards after halftime.
-- CAM INMAN