Chase Young dominates, Washington takes control of NFC East
Four wins in a row. First Place in the NFC East. Only the Washington Football Team can proudly say that after defeating the San francisco 49ers in a crucial road win. With the Giants loss to Arizona earlier in the day, the NFC East was now in Washington’s control with a win. Ron Rivera and the Washington defense continued to prove that they could keep them in any game: Especially games where the offense plays poorly.
Washington already missing Antonio Gibson this week due to turf toe was at a severe disadvantage offensively against a very solid San Francisco defense. Washington would need to rely on J.D Mckissic and Peyton Barber to solidify the run game that they had been dominating in recent weeks.
Washington’s first few possessions went as they have in recent games as they started off very slow and struggled to pick up any first downs. It wasn’t until the third possession of the game when Washington finally got a decent drive going after a few strong runs by Mckissic. However, Washington stalled in Niners territory and had to settle for a 53 yard field goal attempt which Dustin Hopkins missed wide right. Hopkins miss set up San Francisco with good field possession to start their drive. Niners QB Nick Mullens playing for an injured Jimmy Garapolo led a strong seven play 57-yard yard drive capped off by Jeff Wilson 1 yard touchdown run. The next two possessions for both teams ended in quick punts away as both offenses were struggling to get anything going. Smith looked a little bit shaky as he was missing some open receivers and making questionable reads. After multiple punts by both teams, Washington finally was able to put points on the board after 2 Terry Mclaurin catches put them into field goal range. Hopkins split the uprights from 51 yards out making it 7-3 niners with five minutes remaining in the half.
Momentum quickly swung into Washington’s favor after Chase Young forced Jeff Wilson to cough up the ball on the second play of the drive. This wouldn’t be the last time the niners had to deal with Young today either. Washington took over in Niner territory and 6 plays later were only down 7-6 after Hopkins hit from 31 yards.
Do you guys remember that Chase Young guy? That guy people were ignorantly declaring as a bust early in the year? If anyone was doubting what Young brings to the Washington defense before the game, they were sorely mistaken. After a Smith interception, Daron Payne sacked Mullens and knocked the ball free. Young came flying in as he scooped the football and returned it 47 yards for a Washington touchdown. Just like that Washington now had a 13-7 lead in a matter of minutes. Young finished with a dominating performance of six tackles, one sack, a forced fumble, and a touchdown. Young showed why he believed he was the best player taken in the draft last year. Washington got one more stop on defense to go into the half up 13-7. However, bad news for Washington ensued just before half as Alex Smith left for the locker room early with an apparent calf injury.
Washington received the kick to start the second half and Smith did not jog out for the possession. It was Dwayne Haskins. Haskins, previously benched 4 weeks into the season after struggling with accuracy was now in with the game and possibly his future on the line. Needless to say, It’s very clear why Haskins was benched so quickly as his struggles in making accurate passes continued throughout the entire second half. Put in Haskins some fans demanded after Smith’s slow start. Those people should have been careful what they wished for as the Washington offense was stalled for most of the second half. The only success they had was on their first possession where a strong running attack got Washington to San Francisco’s three yard line. Unfortunately, The possession only ended in another Hopkins field goal to make the score 16-7. That was the last drive where Washington didn’t end up punting in the game.
With only a one score lead and a struggling offense: Washington knew the defense was going to have to win them this game. With 4 minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Niners were threatening with a solid drive until on second down and two Mullens made a crucial mistake as Kamren Curl stepped right in front of the short pass and picked it off and returned it 76 yards for a massive Washington touchdown. Just like that, Washington now had complete control of the game up 23-7 late in the third quarter.
San Francisco regained life after Montez sweat was called for roughing the passer on a third down where they were stopped short of the line to gain. San Francisco used this break to mount an 11 play drive where Mullens hit Kyle Juszczyk for a six yard score. The Niners then converted a two point conversion making it a one score game with 10 minutes left in the game.
Momentum continued to shift into San Francisco’s favor as Haskins showed no confidence on the field and looked honestly like a quarterback who just wasn’t ready for the NFL. Fortunately, the stout Washington defense continued to force the Niners to punt and was able to get off the field with no damage done. A few drives later, with 5 minutes remaining Young made another huge play as he deflected the ball at the line of scrimmage on third down ending another San Francisco threat. After a few more possessions for Washington where they were unsuccessful in running the clock, San Francisco was given one more chance with 2:30 left in regulation on their own 48. Mullens on third down hit Kendrick Bourne over the middle as he broke a tackle and took it all the way to the Washington 22 yard line. Washington felt a sigh of relief when the play was called back due to an offensive holding. Washington’s defense held up on 4th and 12 with 1:45 remaining all in all sealing a massive victory for Washington.
Once again, this Washington Football Team with so much going against them had found a way to grind out a crucial road victory. Washington, losing their starting quarterback in Smith and not having Gibson all game, had still come out victorious. Hats off to the Washington defense which showed why they are known as one of the best in the league. Washington forced three turnovers and had two defensive touchdowns. This game was won by a gutsy defensive performance by Washington. Washington now sits alone on top of the NFC East as they move to 6-7 on the season. They will take on a tough Seattle team next Sunday looking to continue their push towards the postseason and keep their four-game winning streak alive.
Alex Smith X-Rays came back negative on his calf which is very good news for Washington as they will certainly need him during this final stretch of the season. Washington will hope to have him back next week for a pivotal game.