Nobody anticipated that the San Francisco 49ers would lose to the Washington Commanders on Christmas Eve. However, the first half ended with a 7-7 stalemate after the Commanders and 49ers traded heavyweight blows.
In contrast, Washington’s defence was unable to stop 49ers tight end George Kittle in the second half, and San Francisco scored 30 points in the second half to win 37-20.
The benching of quarterback Taylor Heinicke was the main finding from Washington’s perspective. Heinicke was replaced by Carson Wentz with around 10 minutes left in the contest.
The defeat brought the Commanders’ record to 7-7-1, but with to Seattle’s and Detroit’s defeats, they still hold the No. 7 playoff slot in the NFC.
Five lessons from Washington’s defeat are listed below.
Against the 49ers, Chase Young finally made his 2022 season debut. He was anticipated to get between 12 and 16 pitches. Young was so talented that he exceeded the suggested cap. Three plays stood out. First, Young unsuccessfully stopped a San Francisco rushing back. On another play, Young nearly intercepted a ball by reaching up to intercept it with his hands. Christian McCaffrey was stopped after being pursued by vintage Young from behind, stopping him at four yards.
The development of Young following his first game activity in more than a year will be fascinating. The Commanders were impressed by what they observed from Young.
Prior to his interception in the fourth quarter, Heinicke was performing brilliantly. Unfortunately for him, he fumbled after being struck by 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa two plays earlier. It was his third fumble in the past two weeks, all of which resulted in points for the adversary. Ron Rivera decided to change after the interception. Rivera knows he’s going with Wentz even if he claims he hasn’t made up his mind about next week.
Poor pass protection and odd playcalling from offensive coordinator Scott Turner, who will be discussed further below, occasionally held Heinicke hostage. But you can’t turn the ball over when your options are already limited. Heinicke’s starting position for the rest of the season was likely lost as a result of such mistakes.
After being absent from practise for over two months due to a fractured finger on his throwing hand, Carson Wentz just made a comeback. Heinicke played effectively during that absence, putting Washington in playoff contention. But lately, the Commanders’ attack has stalled and their offensive potential with Heinicke has been constrained. Many people thought Wentz would get another chance to play quarterback for Washington.
Sunday came around that time. Even in brief action, Wentz looked fantastic. He basically accepted everything that was handed to him, which led to some simple completions underneath. He threw a great touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel.
49ers defense held Washington to relative inefficiency everywhere except late passing downs — those are the third-and-longs that the Commanders kept converting.— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) December 25, 2022
Coincidentally this was also a problem for 49ers in Week 16 of last season (Tennessee). They got it fixed pic.twitter.com/MJKriHjrkn
There are some pass protection difficulties with Washington’s offence. With a quarterback like Wentz, that is not ideal. The Commanders, on the other hand, are counting on Wentz’s right arm to make some huge plays down the field, exploit Washington’s excellent wide receivers, and carry them into the postseason.
The final two weeks should be intriguing.
Turner’s name was brought up last week for all the wrong reasons. Washington would have defeated the New York Giants had Turner continued to feed running back Brian Robinson Jr. Robinson somehow only had 12 carries despite averaging over seven yards per carry. Turner said following the game that Robinson needed to have more possession of the ball.
What was Turner’s response? 18 attempts were forced-fed to Robinson in the first half. Robinson ran the ball 22 times for a total of 58 yards. Those numbers may not have pleased you, but those were amazing yards. Each yard was earned by Robinson. To gain those yards, you had to run quickly past the Niners and around them. Ron Rivera made a surprising decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal from one yard out in the first half. On the fourth down run, after running Robinson three times, he pulls him and inserts Antonio Gibson. Gibson is a gifted back, but he is not a good short-yardage runner. He was short, as expected, and Washington lost the ball on downs.
Heinicke was successful with his throws at this point, even on third-and-long. Turner, however, continued to carry the ball. Turner almost seems to lack any sense of the game. He will be lost if he deviates from his plan. Watch how Kyle Shanahan adapts. Did you catch the second-half San Francisco offence? Turner never makes such adjustments. It seems like he usually reacts to the defence too late. Turner should take more responsibility than Heinicke for Saturday’s offensive struggles for Washington.
Through the opening 30 minutes, Washington’s defence appeared poised. The Commanders and Niners were tied, and it appeared as though the Commanders might actually win this match. The 49ers, though, took advantage of defensive weaknesses in the second half. In particular, Brock Purdy, a rookie quarterback, connected with standout tight end George Kittle, who had a significant game.
Purdy’s life wasn’t made difficult by Washington. Even though the box score lists three sacks, two of them were really covering sacks. What happened to Jonathan Allen? The place of Montez Sweat The rushing stats for San Francisco are distorted by a single, 71-yard run. The run defence, aside from that, was fairly strong. On Saturday, it was the pass defence.
Safety Kam Curl was greatly missed by the Commanders.