Washington puts 3-game streak up against 49ers
The Washington Football Team and San Francisco 49ers take identical records but far different postseason outlooks to the desert Sunday afternoon when they meet in Glendale, Ariz., the Niners’ new temporary outpost.
Washington (5-7) remained in a first-place tie with the New York Giants (5-7) in the NFC East with a stunning, 23-17 victory at previously unbeaten Pittsburgh on Monday.
The win put Washington, which began the season 1-5, in position to take over first place in the East with a win over San Francisco and a Giants loss to Arizona.
The 49ers (5-7), meanwhile, made an uphill climb a bit steeper with a 34-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Monday night.
San Francisco enters the weekend two games out of the final wild-card playoff spot in the NFC, tied in that distinction with Chicago (5-7) and Detroit (5-7), and with Arizona (6-6) also residing between the 49ers and the team currently in the final playoff spot, Minnesota (7-5).
The 49ers have beaten Washington in five of their last six meetings, including 9-0 in the nation’s capital in October 2019 in a heavy downpour.
Weather conditions can be expected to be a lot tamer this week in Arizona, especially given the fact that State Farm Field has a retractable dome.
The 49ers, banished from their home field for both practices and games because of new Northern California COVID-19 restrictions, will be playing their second consecutive game on the Arizona Cardinals’ turf. The first time around didn’t go so well against the Bills, with San Francisco falling victim to four Josh Allen touchdown passes.
Dejected by the performance, staying on the road and having a short week of practice, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan found himself stressing mental toughness this week.
“Monday night was a letdown. We were pretty disappointed after the game,” he said. “So you’ve got to show the guys what happened, why it happened, so we can work on not letting it happen again this week. You can’t do these mistakes if you want to win football games.”
Interestingly, Washington coach Ron Rivera found himself taking the opposite approach with a team that had plenty to celebrate in Pittsburgh.
“We’ll have a little lesson today about humility,” he said about a team meeting early in the week. “Just because we won this game doesn’t mean we’re going to show up somewhere else and win automatically. We’ve got to earn it.”
The 49ers will see an old friend behind center Sunday. Alex Smith, the club’s No. 1 overall pick in 2005 when Aaron Rodgers was available, has started Washington’s last four games and directed three straight wins.
Smith has faced the 49ers just once since being dealt to Kansas City in 2013. That came for the Chiefs in 2014, a game in which he was limited to just 158 passing yards and one touchdown in a 22-17 loss.
More so than Smith, Washington’s winning streak has been built on defense, with Cincinnati (272), Dallas (247) and Pittsburgh (326) having been held to an average of 14 points and 281.7 yards per game.
The Washington defense might find itself having to stand even taller this week with top back Antonio Gibson having suffered turf toe in the win over the Steelers. He is unlikely to face San Francisco.
The 49ers, meanwhile, were healthier than they’ve been in a while for the Buffalo game, but it didn’t matter. The San Francisco turned the ball over on downs at the Buffalo 1-yard line and twice suffering Nick Mullens interceptions, including once in the end zone.
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel (foot), defensive tackle D.J. Jones (ankle) and guard Tom Compton (concussion) were among five Niners who missed practice Wednesday.
For Washington, starting offensive linemen Brandon Scherff (calf) and RT Morgan Moses (groin) missed practice as did backup offensive lineman David Sharpe (knee). Wideout Terry McLaurin (ankle) was limited.
–Field Level Media