We knew Washington’s defense was one of the better units coming into Week 14. On Sunday, their physicality got the best of a 49ers offense that didn’t seem too interested in Washington’s style of play. Washington’s football team finished the game with four sacks, five tackles for loss, and 11 pass deflections, which is a number you don’t see often.
Most offensive plays, especially in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, is net neutral, at worst. When a team like Washington is as disruptive as mentioned above, it makes life difficult on an already struggling offense.
Take the Niners running game, for example. They don’t block the backside edge rusher on many of their wide zone/toss plays because they figure why not use that player to climb to the second level and seal off a linebacker. Against Washington, that plan did not work out. Whether it was Chase Young or Montez Sweat, they were responsible for a few tackles for loss simply by chasing down the play.
Washington didn’t just punch the 49ers' offense in the mouth. They were too fast for San Francisco as well. Add in Jon Allen, and the defensive line played and looked like the best front in the NFL.
Giving Washington’s defensive line credit
Here’s a look at the blown blocks from the offensive line, tight ends, and third-down back, Jeff Wilson Jr.:
I haven’t seen a defensive lineman get the best of Tomlinson the way Jon Allen did against him on Sunday. Tomlinson fared better against Aaron Donald 1-on-1 a few weeks ago. Allen was winning with both power and speed and often got the best of Tomlinson.
Mike McGlinchey played a relatively clean game, and then the final drive happened. McGlinchey missed a block on a screen where his defender made the tackle. On the next play, McGlinchey was beaten by Sweat on a run play, and Sweat made a stop to gain one. Then, on third down, Sweat beats McGlinchey to the outside and draws a holding penalty to take away a chunk play for the 49ers.
This game should be a game where Trent Williams stares John Lynch in the face and says, “are you sure you don’t need me?” Williams’s athleticism for a 300-pound man will always be impressive:
pay him whatever he wants. williams made young/sweat look “normal.” a lot of those reps were boring, which’s a good thing for williams.— KP (@KP_Show) December 15, 2020
here are two plays where trent’s athleticism stand out, plus a clip with him helping tomlinson https://t.co/xuhhwRPeDJ pic.twitter.com/pSqvJdrWhO
He’s the only player that had success without stringing multiple bad plays together against Washington’s front. When I say Williams had “boring” reps, that means he kept Young and Sweat at bay. Williams is going to make a lot of money this offseason, and he deserves every penny (million.)
As you can see, it was yet another rough game for Kyle Juszczyk. He’s been consistent this season, but not in a good way. I’m fascinated to see how much Juice commands this offseason given his play this year.
Mullens seeing ghosts
As you can see from the first screenshot, Mullens was responsible for two QB hits and three sacks. He did not look comfortable in the pocket. I counted five times where he ran out of a clean pocket, including his pick-six. Other times Mullens would stare Brandon Aiyuk down and drift in the pocket closer to Aiyuk. Because of that, Washington’s “pressures” look great, but that was thanks to the quarterback.
I asked Shanahan on Monday what are some coaching points for a young QB to make sure he keeps his eyes down the field when it comes to pressure:
“Yeah, you’re going against a very good front, but I thought we did block them pretty well, but they also got after us a few times, kind of like I expected the game to be. Then the number of times you throw it, I don’t care what your O-Line is when you go against a D-Line like that, there’s going to be times you get off on the snap count, and they have good plays, and that’s where you hope the quarterback can get rid of it, not take a sack, but worst-case scenario, take a sack.
I thought a couple of times, the pocket was bad, and he escaped and gave us a chance to make a play, and then there was a couple of times in the game where we picked it up, and I think he got a little spooked and got out of there just because of how it was going. Nick’s a tough guy. He has no problem hanging in there and taking hits, but you’ve got to be careful holding onto that ball.
That was my biggest disappointment in the pocket is when stuff did break down, and people were around him, and he’s trying to make a play and get away, not having two hands on the ball because it’s a matter of time you turn it over and that’s happened too much.”
Mullens did stand in the pocket and take a few big-time hits, so he should get credit for those. As Kyle mentioned, the worst-case scenario happened too much. Mullens has preached these last two weeks how he’s been practicing ball security and needs to take better care of the ball. We’ve yet to see him do it in a game, though.
Bourne’s rough sequence
Bourne had a sequence similar to McGlinchey’s, but Bourne had four negative plays in a row. He dropped a first down where Bourne was schemed wide open. On second down, he missed a block, and his guy made a tackle to gain one. To be fair, it was a defensive lineman, and Bourne didn’t stand much of a chance. On third down, Bourne was flagged for a false start to make it 3rd & 14. Then, Bourne missed the block on a screen on third and long. It would be tough to script a worse series for Bourne.
Those inconsistencies are why fans get frustrated with a guy like Bourne. He’ll make an acrobatic catch, as he did a couple of times in this game, then drop two passes. It feels like when Bourne makes one mistake; they tend to snowball. Check out Shanahan’s reaction to both of his drops: