49ers Week 6 Game Recap: San Francisco at Washington Redskins

QB C.J. Beathard's inspiring debut was not enough to save the 49ers from another heartbreaking loss, 24-26.

Post-game review
The CJ Beathard era has begun in San Francisco, but the result is the same: a brutal loss within 3 points. In fact, the 49ers are the first team to lose 5 straight games by 3 or fewer points in NFL history. Despite the 0-6 record, the 49ers continue to show a refusal to give up. The 49ers should be proud of how they dealt with adversity this game, and continue to push forward with Beathard at the helm now.

The 49ers were down 14-0 when Beathard entered the game, where his first drive ended in a punt after a promising start (23 yards on the first two plays) followed by two drops and a near interception. However, after going down by 17 1:56 left in the 2nd quarter, the offense put together a solid drive to end the first half with a TD and started the second half with 10 more unanswered points. The game came down to a final drive from the offense, needing to drive from their own 20 into field goal range with only 52 seconds left. They came up short thanks to a costly penalty and a game ending interception on 4th and 20.

The 49ers defense also came to play today. That may sound odd considering they allowed 26 points and 419 yards, but the Redskins are one of the NFL’s best offenses to begin the season (ranking 8th in total yards with an average of 363 and 13th in points with an average of 23). The 49ers run defense continues to show the immense growth from last year, allowing 94 yards on 3 carries. The weak point of the defense this game was the linebacking corps, who struggled in pass coverage, allowing running backs and tight ends to run wild.

There are two plays that define this game and for two different reasons. In the 4th quarter, the Redskins held a 3 point lead and began a drive against a 49er defense that had kept them out of the endzone since around the 10 minute mark in the 2nd quarter. On the fourth play of the drive, Kirk Cousins hit former 49er Vernon Davis for 52 yards down the middle of the field, which set the table for the Redskins to push the ball into the endzone and take a 9 point lead.

The second play was the questionable offensive pass interference call against Pierre Garçon on the Redskins’ 40-yard line during the game’s final drive. On 2nd and 10 on Washington’s 40-yard line (within Robbie Gould’s range) Garçon ran an in route and made contact with Redskins’ LB Mason Foster. The refs called offensive PI because they believed Garçon ran a pick route beyond 5 yards, despite the ball being in the air towards Garçon. This put the 49ers in a 2nd and 20 situation that they never recovered from and lost the game on a 4th down interception. But the question remains, why would Garçon be running a pick if the ball was already en route to him? Also, wouldn’t that mean that Foster committed defensive pass interference, or at least illegal contact? Either way, this call was wrong.

It may seem gratuitous, but CJ Beathard deserves to be this week’s MVP. There was a definite shift in the offense when Beathard entered the game and that energy transferred to the defense, which played much better. He also played much better than his completion percentage (52%) and 1-1 TD-INT ratio shows. He was more accurate and decisive than Hoyer was to start the game, and despite his obvious limitations, willed the 49ers back from a 17-0 deficit to a potential game winning drive.

There wasn’t exactly a “clear” least valuable player today, but I’m giving the award (that’s not really an award) to both Brock Coyle and Ray-Ray Armstrong. Brock Coyle had a tough assignment, being thrust into the starting spot after the release of NaVorro Bowman, but he struggled in pass coverage. He had trouble keeping up with his man in coverage, and was not successful covering the sidelines, being outran a handful of times. Armstrong is here exclusively for that Davis play I mentioned earlier. He did a great job forcing a fumble that eventually led to a Carlos Hyde TD, but he literally let Vernon Davis run right past him for the huge gain that changed the whole dynamic of the game.

Play of the game
The 45-yard TD pass from Beathard to Aldrick Robinson with less than 2 minutes left was not only the 49ers’ longest play from scrimmage, it was by far the most important. The play gave the team hope that a comeback was within grasp and set up the possibility of a game winning drive. It was also just a great play from a purely football perspective, with Beathard avoiding pressure and throwing a dime on the move to Robinson, who then makes a man miss on his way into the endzone.

Next up
The Niners finally return home after this 3 game stretch away from Santa Clara and play another team off a bye week. The Dallas Cowboys have had a lot of drama surrounding them this week, with Ezekiel Elliott losing his appeal and being suspended again, only to file another appeal. It appears that Elliott will not play against the 49ers. Hopefully, the Cowboys will be distracted by all this and their confusion could allow the 49ers to get the jump on them.

The Cowboys are coming off a bye week, giving them an edge in rest and preparation. Before this bye week, the Cowboys lost their last two games by allowing 2nd half comebacks. The 49ers hope to keep this competitive fire they have had these last 5 games and give Beathard a full week as the starter in practice, in order finally get a win. These two teams met last year as well, ending in a 24-17 Niner loss.

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