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49ers need to move the sticks

  • 49ers are getting to see a lot of punter Andy Lee. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Three-and-out. Three-and-out. Three-and-out.

Short of turning the ball over, it's probably the worst scenario for a team's offense — as well as a defense that keeps having to walk back onto the field after a shorter-than-expected rest.

Just ask Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers, who have run the obligatory three plays and punted five times in each of their past two games, a one-point loss to the Carolina Panthers and a three-point defeat to the New Orleans Saints.

“When you're on the sideline, of course there's frustration,” 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers said. “You're sitting back there asking what's going on. You know, 'Move the ball, put some points on the board,' especially if you're playing real good on defense.”

Rogers then went out of his way to say there isn't an offense-defense divide on the team, that each side has the other's back, and that there will no doubt be days with the feelings are reversed.

“There's going to be some weeks where teams are going to score on us and put up points,” Rogers said. “And the offense is going to be wondering, 'Why we aren't getting three-and-outs. Why we aren't shutting people down?' ... They'll get it together. They've got good players, a good coaching staff and have more players coming back. We'll find a way.”

Kaepernick and the 49ers (6-4) will hope to find their way tonight against the Washington Redskins (3-7). Forget, at least for now, trying to win the NFC West — San Francisco needs to stop the slide to keep pace in a crowded wild-card race.

The 49ers have gone three-and-out on 28.9 percent of their possessions this season, the fourth-worst percentage in the NFL, offering more evidence how defenses have adjusted to zone-read quarterbacks such as Kaepernick and the Redskins' Robert Griffin III. Last year, those two looked poised to change the NFL; this year, both are proof that it's hard to make an NFL living on zone-read and play-action alone.

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