49ers vs. Commanders score, takeaways: George Kittle’s huge day powers San Francisco to eighth straight win

The San Francisco 49ers won their eighth straight game as they defeated the Washington Commanders 37-20 in Week 16. The 49ers never trailed in this matchup, and their No. 1 defense got Taylor Heinicke benched for Carson Wentz in the fourth quarter after back-to-back Washington turnovers.

Brock Purdy completed 15-of-22 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in his third career start. George Kittle had another huge game with 120 receiving yards and two touchdowns on six catches. Christian McCaffrey was somewhat held in check with just 58 scrimmage yards and one touchdown.

As for the Commanders, Heinicke completed 13-of-18 passes for 166 yards, two touchdowns and one interception before being benched. Wentz came in and completed 12-of-16 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown in the fourth quarter. Washington’s emerging big three of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel caught a touchdown apiece.

The 11-4 Niners have already clinched the NFC West, but still have a No. 2 seed to play for. As for the 7-7-1 Commanders, they hold onto the No. 7 seed in the NFC, thanks to losses from the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions.

So, what happened in Santa Clara on Saturday? Let’s take a look

Why the 49ers won

The 37 points the 49ers scored in Week 16 are tied for the second-most they have scored in a game this season. In the last four games Purdy has played in, San Francisco has scored at least 33 points in three of them. The 49ers’ No. 1-ranked defense is obviously the headline when it comes to this squad, but it seems to get lost on people that this offense can put up points. Even with McCaffrey not having his best outing, Kittle recorded his first 100-yard game of the season and caught two touchdowns for the second straight week, Brandon Aiyuk caught five passes for 81 yards and Ray-Ray McCloud had an impressive 71-yard rushing touchdown as well.

The 30 points San Francisco scored in the second half propelled the 49ers to victory. When both sides of the ball are gelling like they did in the final two quarters, the 49ers are hard to stop. They punted just once in the second half!

Why the Commanders lost

There’s plenty of blame to go around for this loss, but the second-half collapse is why the Commanders lost on Saturday. They went into halftime tied with the 49ers, but ended up losing by 17 points. The 37 points Washington allowed Saturday are the most allowed by the Commanders in a game this season, and the offense didn’t exactly help the defense by turning the ball over and giving the 49ers a short field twice.

The 49ers went just 1 of 5 in the red zone, but “bend but don’t break” doesn’t work if you spend the entire game “bent.” Robbie Gould hit all three of his field goal attempts in the second half.

Turning point

Nick Bosa is a superstar, as he recorded two sacks on Saturday. Early in the fourth quarter, Bosa beat Cornelius Lucas around the edge, hit Heinicke from behind, popped the ball out and it was caught by Jordan Willis. This gave the 49ers a short field, and they extended their lead to 13 points with a 23-yard field goal.

Two plays into Washington’s next possession, Heinicke threw an interception to Jimmie Ward. This led to another 49ers field goal to extend the lead to 16 points, and Heinicke was then benched for Wentz.

Play of the game

Ray-Ray McCloud probably isn’t a player that’s starting in many fantasy lineups this week, but he’s a speedy weapon with home-run potential. He showed just that on this 71-yard touchdown rush.

What’s great about this play is the blocking — specifically McCaffrey, who helped create the running lane.

Heinicke benched

After two straight turnovers, Rivera made the decision to go to Wentz. He hinted earlier this week that a quarterback switch could be coming, but was it the right move? Wentz led an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown drive as soon as he entered the game, but Heinicke is 5-3-1 as the starter this season, while Wentz is 2-4.

The Commanders were not headed in the right direction with Wentz under center. After his injury, Heinicke came in and sparked the offense, going 5-1-1 in his first seven starts. Now that the Commanders have dropped two straight, another quarterback change could be coming. In the postgame press conference, Rivera wasn’t ready to name a starter for Week 17, but you can bet it’s likely going to be Wentz. The Commanders control their own destiny when it comes to the playoff picture, so this is a massive decision.

What’s next

The Commanders return home next week to host Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns. As for the 49ers, they hit the road to take on the Las Vegas Raiders.

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