On the first play from scrimmage, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel took a carry for nine yards, and that was the last we’d see from him all day. Samuel went to the sideline, grabbed a baseball hat, and never returned. It appeared that Samuel’s hamstring injury flared up. A series later, Trent Williams limped off the field, and it felt like we were in store for one of those games.
Fortunately, Williams returned, and it had a significant effect on the 49ers' running game. Early on, San Francisco did what they wanted to on the ground against Washington. Raheem Mostert had running lanes thanks to Laken Tomlinson and Trent Williams. Jeff Wilson Jr. capped off the first scoring drive to make it 7-0.
The early portion of the game didn’t feature the greatest quarterback play, to put it nicely. Alex Smith one-hopped a few third downs, and Mullens missed multiple open wideouts to start the game. Through the first nine drives, both offenses averaged 3.5 yards per carry. They were sloppy, and the 49ers seemed to suffer an injury to start each drive.
The only thing San Francisco couldn’t do was give Washington a short field. Sure enough, Wilson Jr. fumbled to give Washington the ball in their territory. A couple of plays later, and Washington was inside the 10-yard line. The 49ers' defense was stingy near the goal line and held Washington to a pair of field goals.
Mullens played a brutal first half. He held the ball too long on one play. Other times he flat out airmailed a receiver. Mullens fumbled, and Chase Young recovered the ball for a touchdown. Young was dominant and a game-wrecker. The score was 13-7 at halftime.
Alex Smith had his leg looked at and did not start the third quarter. Fred Warner, who left the game after being evaluated with a “head injury,” though it looked like a stinger in his shoulder, missed the start of the second half. Washington drove down the field, and San Francisco was fortunate to hold them to a field goal to make it 16-7.
The question became whether Mullens would start the second half after a poor first half, and he sure did. The half did not start well after Mullens had a pass broken up, and then he took a sack on third down. The offense looked lifeless and couldn’t move the ball. It felt like a quarterback change was imminent.
Warner’s presence was missed as there were two missed tackles on two straight drives right where Warner would have been positioned. Thankfully, Warner was cleared to return to the game after passing the concussion protocol. Unfortunately, he was ruled out with a stringer.
San Francisco showed life on their next drive, and it was much-needed because the defense had gotten a couple of stops, despite the offense going three-and-out. Two quick-hitting passes put the Niners right around midfield. On a critical third down, Mullens scrambled and found Richie James to convert. On the next 3rd & 11, Mullens beat the blitz and found Wilson for a first down. As the offense gained momentum and what felt like a drive where they’d convert, Mullens threw a pick-six to make it 23-7.
As they did the previous drive, the 49ers' offense marched down the field, this time getting inside of the 10-yard line. Mullens found Kyle Juszczyk for a score to make it 23-13. San Francisco went for two, and Mullens connected with Bourne to make it 23-15. Bourne had a drop during the two-minute drill but made a couple of tough catches in this game.
The offense stalled on one drive but had another chance to tie the game with just over five minutes left after another punt from Washington. After picking up nine yards on the first play, a throw on third and one was incomplete, and the offense punted on the next play. After a 58-yard punt, Washington’s offense was down, and the one and they were forced to punt.
So, Mullens needed to go just over 50 yards with 2:40 to play. A 35-yard gain from Bourne was negated after McGlinchey held. That made it 3rd & 12. A drop by Wilson followed by a route short of the sticks to Bourne sealed the deal. Yet again, mistakes cost San Francisco and their playoff hopes are all but over.