Nick Mullens and the San Francisco 49ers' offense just about gave away any chance for the defending NFC champions to remain in the playoff race.
Mullens committed two turnovers that Washington turned into defensive touchdowns and the 49ers lost their second straight game at their temporary home in Arizona, 23-15 on Sunday.
“We were not clean today offensively,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Regardless, we would have found a way to win if we didn’t turn the ball over. It was a number of things today from an execution standpoint. ... You can’t expect to win many games when you play like that.”
After finding out they wouldn’t be able to practice or play at their stadium and facility because of COVID-19 rules banning contact sports in Santa Clara County, the Niners rallied around each other for a 23-20 win at the Rams two weeks ago to keep them in the wild-card race.
San Francisco arrived in Arizona with hopes of staying in contention long enough for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and 2019 All-Pro tight end George Kittle to return for the stretch run, only to fall flat in back-to-back losses.
The defense was gashed last week in a 34-24 loss to Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, and then the offense self-destructed against Washington, wasting a solid defensive game that saw the Niners allow only three field goals to Washington’s offense and just 3.11 yards per play overall.
The Niners have turned over the ball multiple times in seven straight games, the team’s longest streak since an eight-gamer in 2018.
“We won’t beat anybody on our schedule giving the ball away like we have these last few games,” left tackle Trent Williams said.
The game turned on the two turnovers by Mullens that turned into touchdowns. Da’Ron Payne knocked the ball loose on a sack with San Francisco protecting a 7-6 lead late in the first half. Rookie Chase Young scooped it up and ran 47 yards for the score that put Washington up for good.
Then in the third quarter, Mullens missed Kyle Juszczyk on an outlet pass that Kamren Curl returned 76 yards for another TD.
“You’re just trying to make a play to get rid of the ball,” Mullens said. “It’s just a mishap that happened. I just have to protect the ball and can’t make that type of mistake. It changes the game.”
The Niners still had a chance after Mullens threw a TD pass to Juszczyk and a 2-point conversion to Kendrick Bourne to make it an eight-point game. But San Francisco punted on its next two drives before falling short on its final chance after a holding penalty on Mike McGlinchey wiped out a 22-yard pass to Bourne to the Washington 22.
Two plays later, Mullens connected with Bourne on an 11-yard pass on fourth-and-12 and the game — and possibly San Francisco’s season — essentially was over.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” Shanahan sad. “The way our defense was playing versus that offense, you have a very good chance to win as long as you just don’t turn the ball over. For us to turn the ball over and give them 17 points off of it, two without our defense having even to go on the field, was borderline the back breaker.”
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