SANTA CLARA — The 49ers extended their hot streak Saturday on a day in which unbearably cold weather was the story around most of the rest of the NFL.
Quarterback Brock Purdy continued his steady play with a pair of touchdown passes to tight end George Kittle in the 49ers’ 37-20 victory over the Washington Commanders at Levi’s Stadium.
Ray-Ray McCloud got the scoring started in the first quarter with an explosive 71-yard touchdown run. It was his only carry of the game and he had no receptions on one target.
The 49ers (11-4) picked up their eighth consecutive win — and their third in a row with Purdy as the starter. They remain at No. 3 in the NFC playoff seedings behind the Minnesota Vikings (12-3), a 27-24 winner of the New York Giants earlier in the day.
Here are three takeaways from the 49ers’ Week 16 win:
Bosa strengthens DPOY case
Defensive end Nick Bosa was one of six 49ers chosen to the NFC Pro Bowl team this week, and next up: A possible NFL Defensive Player of the Year honor.
Bosa continued his remarkable season with two sacks on Saturday, raising his NFL-leading season today to 17.5 for the season. He picked up 15.5 sacks last season.
Bosa pulled into a tie with Fred Dean (1983) for the second-most sacks in a single season in franchise history. Aldon Smith registered 19.5 sacks in 2012 to set the 49ers record.
Bosa also thwarted a two-point conversion attempt with a fourth-quarter sack of Carson Wentz. However, that play does not officially count as a sack in the stat sheet.
The 49ers have two games remaining in the regular season for Bosa to challenge Smith’s record.
Bosa’s second sack of the day led directly to points, as he stripped Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke with a blindside hit. Jordan Willis recovered the fumble at the 12-yard line.
Kicker Robbie Gould cashed in with one of his three fourth-quarter field goals.
Purdy throws deep strike for score
There is little doubt Purdy knows where to go with the ball and how to get it out quickly and accurately.
The one concern that contributed to Purdy remaining available until the final overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft was his arm strength, but he showed Saturday that he has plenty of arm to make the throws required of NFL quarterbacks.
Purdy finished the way with 15 completions on 2 attempts for 234 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception thrown.
Washington wanted to take away San Francisco’s run game and limit their ability to turn short passes into big games, leaving the 49ers an opening to make a big play down the field, and Purdy made the Commanders pay with a perfectly thrown deep ball to Kittle that gave the 49ers a 14-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Purdy took a snap out of the shot gun. He looked left, then straightened up and stepped into a deep throw down the middle. Kittle beat the coverage of safety Darrick Forrest to haul in the pass just as he was crossing the goal line for a 34-yard score.
Purdy and Kittle hooked up for another touchdown on the 49ers’ next drive. This time, it had a completely different look.
Kittle took a short pass from Purdy, who rolled left on a bootleg. Kittle caught the pass at the 27, picked up a block from Jauan Jennings, then angled his way across the field and into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown.
Kittle surpassed his previous career high of six touchdowns, which he set last season.
Commanders go after Lenoir
There are few areas on the 49ers’ defense that has allowed the opposition any hope of attacking, and the Commanders went after the most-unproven player on the unit Saturday.
Cornerback Deommodore Lenoir made his 10th consecutive start since Emmanuel Moseley sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 5 at Carolina.
The 49ers went deeper into their depth on Sunday when Charvarius Ward exited the game in the third quarter. Rookie cornerback Sam Womack replaced him, and the Commanders immediately went after him on a 51-yard pass to Terry McLaurin.
Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke targeted Lenoir on the first series of the game with a deep throw for rookie receiver Jahan Dotson. Lenoir overran the play, and Dotson dropped what could have resulted in a 79-yard touchdown pass.
Lenoir later gave up an 11-yard pass to Dotson on a third-and-9 situation. Dotson beat him for 44 yards on a play that was nullified by offsetting penalties.
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The Commanders tied the score late in the second quarter when Dotson got free along the back line of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown. Lenoir had the shallow zone on that side on the play, while it appears as if Pro Bowl safety Talanoa Hufanga was ultimately the person in coverage.
The 49ers’ defense was stellar for most of the game Saturday. Teams will continue to look for ways to move the ball against the 49ers, and going after Lenoir could be the path their postseason foes attempt to follow.