49ers vs. Commanders: The 49ers’ defense has a chance to make history against the Commanders

Deck the halls with boughs of Purdy! What better way to ring in the holidays than with some football on Christmas Eve? The red-hot 49ers will look to continue their seven-game winning streak against a formidable opponent in the Washington Commanders.

DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the 49ers listed as a 6.5-point favorite, with the over/under set at 37.5. Here are a few things to keep an eye on in this game.

The 49ers’ defense has a chance to make history

This 49ers defense has the talent across the board to match up with any of the great defenses of the last 25 years. In Saturday’s game against the Commanders, they’ll have an opportunity to accomplish something that none of the historic defenses have ever done before.

The 49ers have held their opponents under 70 rushing yards in seven straight games, which is tied with the vaunted 2000 Ravens defense for the longest such streak in NFL history. If they can rein in Brian Robinson and hold the Washington rushing attack to under 70 yards, they will solidify their place in the history books as the only team to ever accomplish such a feat.

The Commanders pose a serious challenge to the 49ers as they attempt to break this record, as they have rushed for over 125 yards in six consecutive games heading into this one. However the edge still lies with San Francisco and their number one rushing defense which has allowed just 3.4 yards per carry this season.

Oh, and if it wasn’t already going to be difficult for Washington to run the ball in this one, Javon Kinlaw is reportedly returning to the field on Saturday as well.

Can Brock Purdy keep this train rolling?

Since taking the reins following an injury to Jimmy Garoppolo on the first drive of the 49ers’ week 13 win over the Dolphins, Purdy has operated this offense with extreme efficiency. The seventh-round rookie has played with the poise of a seasoned veteran, which has allowed the 49ers’ offense to continue to put points on the board at a respectable clip.

Here are Purdy’s numbers since coming in off the bench in the second series of the 49ers’ win over the Dolphins.

69 percent completion percentage

612 yards

7.2 yards per attempt

6 touchdowns

1 interception

108.3 passer rating

Purdy has been fantastic given the circumstances, but the upcoming game against the Commanders might be the toughest test yet. The biggest question is…

What version of the Commanders defense will we see?

Washington currently boasts a top-ten scoring and total defense, ranking ninth in points against and fourth in yards allowed. The Commanders are a formidable unit that is strong at all three levels, particularly in the trenches, where they boast one of the strongest defensive lines in the league. They’ll also be getting reinforcements, with 2020 defensive rookie of the year Chase Young reportedly set to make his return to the field in Santa Clara.

However, there has been a major difference in how Washington’s defense performs when they play a high-end offense this season compared to the rest of the field. In their four games where they have played an offense currently ranked in the top ten, they have allowed 26.5 points per game. In their ten games against everyone else, they are only allowing 17.

The 49ers’ offense currently ranks seventh in yards per game and is tied for tenth in points per game. The offense on its own has averaged over 26 points per game since Purdy has been under center, so this game is as much of a test for the Commanders’ defense as it is for Purdy and the 49ers’ offense.

One area in particular that the Commanders’ defense has excelled in this season has been their third down defense. Opponents are only converting 32 percent of their third down attempts against the Commanders this season, which ranks fourth best in the entire NFL this season.

Turnover battle

The 49ers have made a remarkable turnaround in the turnover margin department this season, currently sitting at +7 on the year, which is the third-best turnover differential in the league trailing only Dallas (+9) and Philadelphia (+12).

After heading into the bye at -3 on the season, the 49ers have been exceptional over the last six weeks, registering 13 takeaways while only coughing up the ball three times themselves, good for a +10 margin over that span.

Washington, on the other hand, currently sits at -2 on the season, and their defense is tied for the fifth-fewest amount of takeaways on the season. If both teams trends hold serve, the path to the Commanders winning this game becomes very difficult for them.

Epic battle in the trenches

These are two of the best defensive lines in football, with both units possessing impressive depth and the top-heavy starters loaded with household names and superstar players.

Both the 49ers and the Commanders have had at least seven players record double-digit pressures this season, and it will be fascinating to see how each side deploys its substitutes throughout the game to keep the high-end guys fresh.

Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne have combined for 84 pressures and 17 sacks on the season, giving the interior of the 49ers’ offensive line their hardest challenge of the season to date. It should be a fascinating matchup at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

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