The San Francisco 49ers have a prime bounce-back spot after getting embarrassed by the Ravens on Christmas with a trip to Washington to face the 4-11 Commanders.
Brock Purdy is coming off one of the worst games of his young career with four interceptions against Baltimore on Monday night. But Washington’s defense isn’t exactly forcing turnovers. That’s where we will start with this week’s numbers to know:
Passes defended. The Commanders have 74 passes defended this season, the ninth-most in the league this year.
While the Commanders have a nose for breaking passes up, Washington has struggled to force interceptions. Of the teams with the most passes defended this season, the Commanders are the only team in the top 12 to have lower than a 2.0 interception percentage at 1.3 percent, the third-lowest in the NFL.
While Benjamin St-Juste and Emmanuel Forbes have combined for 27 passes defended, the duo has combined for just two interceptions on the season, with neither picking off a pass since October. Even Kendall Fuller, who has the sixth-most interceptions in the league since 2000, only has a pair of interceptions, with the most recent coming in October as well.
Baltimore proved the best way to beat the 49ers is by forcing turnovers (generally a way to beat any football team) with four interceptions. Suppose there was any concern about Brock Purdy’s interceptions leaking into another game. In that case, Washington’s defense has only intercepted one pass since Week 10 while forcing four turnovers over the same stretch.
Receiving yards. Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson have combined for 670 receiving yards this season.
While Robinson has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, Washington’s running back duo is the only pair of teammates ranked in the top-15 in receiving yards for at running back and the only pair of teammates with at least a pair of receiving touchdowns out of the backfield.
Passing out of the backfield has been essential to Washington’s 16th-ranked pass offense despite leading the league in pass attempts. While the Commanders’ offense features Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel - two of the better receivers in the league - Sam Howell had his issues with turnovers and was benched last week in favor of Jacoby Brissett, who will make the start on Sunday against San Francisco.
While Washington’s offense isn’t necessarily explosive, the 49ers defense must closely watch the dangerous backfield duo.
Ranked defense. The Commander’s defense is ranked 32 in points and yards allowed.
The 49ers are 0-4 in games where they score less than 20 points this season, while the Commander’s defense has allowed fewer than 20 points in a game four times this season. Those four games were:
W1 vs. Arizona (currently 26th in points scored)
W6 at Atlanta (24th)
W7 at the Giants (31st)
W9 at New England (32nd)
While Washington has held up against poor offenses, it’s also faced four of the top 10 scoring teams in the league, allowing an average of 39.8 points in those five games. On Sunday, the Commanders’ defense will try to stop the third-ranked scoring offense and second-ranked offense in terms of yards.
I don’t know what the opposite of a trap game is, but this feels like it. The 49ers offense is going from facing the best defense in the Ravens to the worst in the league in Washington. Sunday feels like a prime spot for the 49ers offense to figure it out after one of its worst performances of the season.