LANDOVER, Md. -- All eyes studied the 49ers' solidarity last season when they switched quarterbacks. If sides were picked between Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, it happened quietly and bipartisanship was achieved publicly.

It helped that the 49ers kept winning with Kaepernick, all the way up to Super Bowl XLVII.

This season's potential locker-room fracture: offense vs. defense. Once again, solidarity is emerging -- so far.

Entering Monday night's game at Washington, the 49ers' unproductive offense has bred back-to-back losses for the second time this season. Defensive players, albeit weary of the trend, are standing by their offensive men.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) ( Dave Martin )

"We're a tight family," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "Whatever we need to handle in-house, we handle in-house."

That doesn't seem to be the case with the 49ers' opponent. Washington wide receiver Santana Moss last week openly questioned quarterback Robert Griffin III's leadership and accountability.

Like Washington (3-7), which has gone from first to worst in the NFC East, the 49ers (6-4) have struggled more than expected. They have the league's fewest passing yards, partly because of their stout running attack but also owing to Kaepernick's growing pains, an injury-riddled receiving corps and uncharacteristic pass-protection issues.


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"We're all going to have slumps and not play the way want to," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "It wouldn't do good to go over and yell, say this, say that. Just speak positive and hope the best comes."

The 49ers defense has met expectations. Only three NFL defenses have allowed fewer points (17.8 per game) and San Francisco ranks seventh in yards allowed.

In their four losses this season, the 49ers have scored 39 points, three times failing to reach double digits. In the last two defeats, the offense has failed to net 200 yards.

It's only human for the defense to get frustrated.

"It's frustrating for everybody, not just defensive guys, because there's going to be some weeks teams are going to score on us and our offense is wondering why we're not getting three-and-outs and shutting people out," Rogers said. "They'll get it together. We've got a good coaching staff and people coming back."

Michael Crabtree, last season's leading receiver, is on the verge of returning from a torn Achilles. Mario Manningham, the No. 2 wideout last season, is only two games into his comeback from a knee injury.

"As a defense, we want to focus on what we have to do, and let the offense do what they need to do," linebacker Ahmad Brooks said.

Tight end Vernon Davis has been on past 49ers teams that relied on a stingy defense to carry a weak offense. This slump is nothing new to him, and he knows what must be done to maintain harmony.

"It's very important we stay on the field, to give our defense a break, but most importantly to put up points," Davis said.

The 49ers, who rank 12th in scoring (24.7 points per game) and have the 10th-most touchdowns (29), could break out Monday night. The Washington defense is allowing 31.1 points per game, which ranked 30th entering play Sunday.

"As I tell Kap and guys before each game, 'Just go out and play. We've got you guys (with our) defense,' " Willis said.

Added Davis: "We're supposed to stick together, look out for one another and play the game the way it's supposed to be played."

For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers.

offensively challenged

While the 49ers defense has been one of the best in the league, San Francisco's offense has struggled to move the ball. Here's how they rank:

Defensive statistics Rank
Yards allowed/game: 323.8 7th
Points allowed/game: 17.8 4th
Offensive statistics Rank
Yards per game: 309.0 29th
Points per game: 24.7 12th
* -- Rank among 32 NFL teams