SANTA CLARA – Here is how the 49ers (11-4) graded in Saturday’s 37-20 home win over the Washington Commanders (7-7-1):
PASS OFFENSE: B
George Kittle is in the groove, producing two touchdowns for the second straight game, and these came on 34- and 33-yard receptions. He finished with six catches for 120 yards to take the top billing ahead of Brock Purdy, who reportedly is the first 49ers’ quarterback ever to win his first three starts. Purdy was 15-of-22 for 234 yards, and his first interception in three starts came when Jauan Jennings juggled it back into the air. Purdy’s mobility can be marvelously entertaining, such as the time he high-stepped his way past a blitzing safety before doing a spin-o-rama and throwing the ball away from trouble. Brandon Aiyuk (five catches, 81 yards) survived a couple big hits, and he had a 54-yard catch. Purdy got sacked three times, and while one came from miscommunication between Mike McGlinchey and Spencer Burford, one sack came when Purdy ran out of bounds rather than throwing the ball out of the end zone. McGlinchey’s two false-start penalties hurt red-zone opportunities.
RUN OFFENSE: C
Ray-Ray McCloud’s 71-yard touchdown run put the 49ers ahead 7-0, and he raved about the blocks he got from Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, Mike McGlinchey and Willie Snead IV. McCloud’s run was the longest since Raheem Mostert’s 80-yard score in Week 2 of the 2020 season, it came in a role usually reserved for Deebo Samuel, who missed a second straight game (knee, ankle). Christian McCaffrey ran for a touchdown for the third straight game, and that 1-yard score came in the final minutes after a tough-sledding contest (15 carries, 46 yards). Jordan Mason’s tight hamstring limited him to special-teams duty, and it allowed for Ty Davis-Price to get his first carries in two months (nine carries, 30 yards).
PASS DEFENSE: A-
Nick Bosa’s two sacks and four quarterback hits should lock up the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, especially given that second sack forced a fumble and raised his NFL-leading sack total to 17 ½ this season, just five shy of the single-season record and two off Aldon Smith’s 2019 franchise mark. Jordan Willis, dubbed the 49ers’ “Silent Assassin” by coach Kyle Shanahan, grabbed the fumble Bosa forced early in the fourth quarter to highlight another strong outing. Willis’ special-teams prowess also kept him in uniform while Drake Jackson missed his first NFL game because Shanahan wanted only four edge rushers to complement five interior linemen against the run-oriented Commanders.
RUN DEFENSE: A
Fred Warner had a season-high 13 tackles as the Commanders averaged just 2.4 yards per carry. Goal-line stops of Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson were stellar. Bosa and Warner got credited for the fourth-and-one denial of Taylor Heinicke’s sneak at the Washington 34-yard line, and two plays later, Kittle cashed in with his second touchdown catch. The 49ers made five tackles for loss, including stops by Tashaun Gipson Sr. and Bosa on the first snap of the Commanders’ first two possessions.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Robbie Gould made all three of his field-goal attempts from short range in the fourth quarter once the red-zone offense faltered. McCloud did well as a return specialist against the NFC’s Pro Bowl punter, Tress Way. Of the 49ers’ eight kickoffs, the Commanders failed to return six of them to the 20-yard line, so kudos to the coverage unit, especially Oren Burks (two tackles).
This win played out superbly by Kyle Shanahan, who acknowledged having mixed emotions about it. That’s because it was far from perfect with red-zone woes, a fourth-down option play that went for naught, a few penalties and a late touchdown surrendered. But he scripted explosive touchdowns for McCloud and Kittle, and he coached up a rookie quarterback who is 3-0 as a starter.
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