It was a clash of dominant defenses in the San Francisco 49ers Christmas Eve matchup versus the Washington Commanders. However, it was the 49ers defense who stood a little taller on Saturday, holding Washington to 20 points in Week 16 by way of two big goal line stands and two takeaways. On the other side of the ball, rookie quarterback Brock Purdy led San Francisco to a 37-point day to head into the holidays on a high note. The 49ers improve to 11-4 on the year and extend their win streak to eight-straight games.
"I was real happy with the guys. That's a really good team we played," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I'm proud of how all three phases played."
Ray-Ray McCloud III Makes a Splash Out of the Backfield
The receiver took a page straight out of 'wideback' Deebo Samuel's book, taking the handoff from quarterback Brock Purdy 71 yards to the house with the help of some key blocks by Mike McGlinchey, Christian McCaffrey and Willie Snead IV. The score was the first rushing touchdown of McCloud III's career and put the 49ers on the board with 6:26 left in the second quarter. McCloud III notched his first-career receiving touchdown in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"My number was called, and I just wanted to make a play," McCloud III said in the breakdown of his rushing touchdown. "It's not me making a play, honestly, it was the line. The front, Christian McCaffreymaking this block, Mike McGlinchey pancaking his dude, Willie Snead IV sealing the edge, and I think anybody in that position of getting that ball would have made the same play."
Nick Bosa Adds to the Sack Count
The defensive lineman was already the NFL sacks leader heading into Week 16, and his 2.0 sacks of Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke only further solidified that for Bosa, who now has 17.5 takedowns on the year. His first sack came in the final two minutes of the first half and was good for a total loss of nine yards. In the fourth quarter, Bosa notched a strip-sack of Heinicke, forcing a fumble later recovered by fellow defensive lineman Jordan Willis. The 49ers took over on Washington's 21 yard line and turned the takeaway into three points for the 27-14 lead with 12:02 left in the fourth quarter.
"It was huge whenever you can strip it," Bosa said. "It was definitely a big play for the defense."
Although it won't go down on the stat sheet, Bosa did have another sack in Saturday's contest, taking down Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz on a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. When asked if he believed sacks on two-point conversions should count, his response was "ideally."
Goal Line Stands Galore
San Francisco's defense robbed the Commanders of a scoring opportunity in the second quarter, coming away with a big goal line stop that resulted in a turnover on downs for Washington. The 49ers stuffed Commanders running back Antonio Gibson on fourth-and-one to take over on Washington's one yard line. San Francisco made good use of their ensuing drive, capping off a seven-play, 99-yard drive with McCloud's 71-yard touchdown run.
A second, and just as impressive, goal line stop by San Francisco's defense came late in the second half. On fourth-and-one, Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner combined for a tackle of Heinicke that resulted in no gain on the play and another turnover on downs. The 49ers took over on the 34 yard line this time around and George Kittle found the end zone on the ensuing drive.
"Man, it feels great," Warner said about the goal line stands on fourth down. "Shoot, you want to try us on fourth down, go ahead. We take those as takeaways for our team, so it's big time."
The People's Tight Notches Touchdown No. 7 and No. 8 of the Year
It's another multi-touchdown game for Kittle. The third of the year to be exact.
Purdy connected with the tight end on the opening drive of the second half to give the 49ers the 14-7 advantage with 10:38 left in the third quarter. That 34-yard touchdown reception was his first score of the day and with it, he's now surpassed his previous regular season best of six touchdowns (2021).
However, that wasn't the end of it for Kittle in Week 16. Later in the third quarter, Purdy hit a wide open Kittle (thanks to a nice block from Jauan Jennings) and racked up 27 yards-after-catch to reach the end zone again. That touchdown put the 49ers up 21-7 with 4:52 left before the final frame.
Brandon Aiyuk Records Another 50+ Yard Game
The third-year wideout posted his ninth 50+ receiving yard game of the year with five catches for 81 yards on Saturday. Fifty-four of those 77 yards came on a deep ball from Purdy in the final minute of the third quarter, and that big catch helped set up a 26-yard field goal for the 49ers to put them up 24-14.
Ward Notches Interception No. 3
Saturday was another prime example of why San Francisco's defense is ranked No. 1 in the league. The unit answered DeMeco Ryan's call to "play better" in Week 16 with two big goal line stands and two takeaways. The second of those turnovers was the result of a splash play by defensive back Jimmie Ward. The veteran picked off Heinicke in the fourth quarter and front flipped into the end zone for what was initially ruled a pick-six. However, a review of the play showed Ward made contact with a Commanders player, so the play resulted in an interception, and the 49ers took over on Washington's 25 yard line. San Francisco turned their next possession into points with a 35-yard field goal from kicker Robbie Gould to take the 30-14 lead.