The 49ers were not their usual dominant selves, but they still flew across the country for an early body clock game on a short week and won by 17 points.
And clinched the top seed in the NFC in the process.
Not a bad Sunday.
Brock Purdy: B+
Brock deserves a ton of credit for bouncing back after the worst game of his young career. He showed no signs of anxiety or fear about turning the ball over, which would have easily been the case with other inexperienced QBs his age.
Instead, with a chance to put the game away, Brock drove the team 95 yards in 10 plays and made magic on touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk.
The TD will get all the love, but this throw a few plays earlier (first in the video) made a much bigger statement to me.
If Purdy had any trepidation left over from the Ravens loss, he doesn't even attempt this throw. Instead, he rips a 30+ yard bomb outside the numbers to Brandon Aiyuk that's only complete because it was placed with perfect precision - all with the outcome of the game still in question.
That is a big time throw and a perfect capper for what will likely be Purdy's last significant action before the postseason.
Oh by the way, he also surpassed Jeff Garcia for the most passing yards in a single-season by any 49ers quarterback. Not bad coming off career-saving elbow surgery this offseason, right?
Running Backs: A
For the first time since Christian McCaffrey arrived, he has to share this heading with the rest of the running back room.
McCaffrey was his usual self in this game, racking up 91 total yards on 18 touches, but he sat out the majority of the second half because of a calf injury. Shanahan would call it minor after the game, and the good news is that Christian will have multiple weeks to rest up for the playoffs. After a league-leading 339 touches this season, he's earned it.
Fortunately Elijah Mitchell looked fresh in relief. Taking over in the third quarter, Mitchell ran for 80 yards on 17 carries and his first touchdown of the season. It's a sign of the team's depth at the position that the backup can come in and average almost five yards per carry.
The problem with Eli has always been availability rather than productivity. Hopefully he can provide a boost while McCaffrey heals up, and into the postseason as well.
Brandon Aiyuk did most of the work in this group project, but overall the effort was solid against a decimated Commanders' secondary.
Aiyuk caught seven passes for 114 yards and his seventh touchdown of the season. Through 16 games he leads all receivers with a whopping 18.3 yards per catch. Much like Brock Purdy, Aiyuk's play has reached a level never before seen in his career. That's not a coincidence.
Deebo Samuel chipped in through the air and on the ground for 72 total yards and his career-high seventh receiving touchdown on the year. Samuel now has 12 total TDs in 14 games played this season.
George Kittle only caught three passes for 29 yards, but it was just enough to push him over the 1,000 yard mark for the third time ever. That accomplishment also pushes the team as a whole into unprecedented territory in NFL history, but I'll get to that a bit later.
Defensive Front Seven: B
The 49ers were pushed around a bit early in this game, both on the ground and during screen plays. Fortunately they responded later in the game and locked things down thanks to a good effort from the secondary.
The Commanders scored on two of their three real possessions in the first half. Despite giving up 60 sacks coming into the game and missing three starters along the offensive line, Washington only surrendered one sack in the entire game.
Maybe that's just a sign of how tired and beat up this defense is, but that's disturbing going into the playoffs. Let's hope the rest rejuvenates the boys up front.
Much of the Commanders passing yardage in the first half came on screen passes and one 42 yard deep ball to Terry McLaurin.
The game swung on a massive interception from Mooney Ward. With the 49ers up by double digits, the Commanders marched 65 yards in 10 plays and were threatening to make a game out of things. Instead, Ward capitalized on a poor throw by Sam Howell and snuffed out Washington's hopes of an upset bid at the 49ers' two yard line. Ward now has five picks on the year.
On the following drive, Deommodore Lenoir snatched a ball over the middle for the Niners' 21st interception of the season (2nd most in the NFL).
Kyle Shanahan: A+
Kyle did an excellent job of protecting Brock Purdy from himself early in this game. The first drive started with three straight runs and almost every pass was either a short pass to a running back or a throw outside the numbers away from all the traffic in the middle of the field. After last week's four interception game, Kyle wasn't going to let Purdy throw an early pick in this one, but he also didn't totally take the ball out of his hands, either. Nicely handled by the head coach, who has shown a tendency to get skittish after turnovers in the past.
Also, Shanahan did a good job keeping Christian McCaffrey out of this game once he got injured. McCaffrey was seen running on the sidelines with his helmet on after the injury, but Kyle wisely let Elijah Mitchell handle the running back duties for almost all of the second half. Now CMC has an opportunity to get extended rest before the final (hopefully) three real games of the season.
One final note I mentioned earlier: The 49ers are now the first team in the history of pro football with a running back (McCaffrey) two wide receivers (Aiyuk & Deebo) and a tight end (Kittle) each with 1,000 scrimmage yards in the same season.
We are watching a once-in-a-lifetime offense right now, and Kyle Shanahan deserves a ton of credit for maximizing all the talent he has on that side of the ball.
Special Teams: C+
Ronnie Bell is pulling the entire unit down.
Bell has been nothing short of a disaster since taking over for Ray-Ray McCloud as the primary punt returner. He had two punt returns in the game. One saw him almost touch a ball he had no intention of ever returning, and the other saw him take a massive hit instead of calling for a fair catch. In limited duty this season, he's had multiple fumbles and near-fumbles.
He simply cannot be allowed to return kicks in the playoffs. The writing is on the wall and there have been too many close calls for the 49ers to deny it. Use Week 18 get someone else ready in case McCloud cannot return in a few weeks (or gets injured again).
Meanwhile Jake Moody continued to do his job, making 38 and 22 yard field goals in addition to three more extra points. The team has also finally realized they can't cover kick returns, and Moody has been booting balls through the endzone regularly without a problem.