The once notorious NFC East division is now turning heads, with the Washington Football Team and New York Giants fighting for a playoff spot. On Sunday, the Giant lost against the Arizona Cardinals, pushing them to second place at 5-8, while Washington defeated the Arizona (formerly known as Arizona for their next two homes game) 49ers 23-15.
Washington improved their record to 6-7, having won four straight games now. They stand at first place in the NFC East division now and are poised to stay there if they continue their streak.
Here are 5 takeaways from Sunday's game.
5. Dwayne Haskins fills in just fine for Alex Smith
Going into the second half, Alex Smith was questionable to return due to a calf strain in his right leg. This was the same leg in which Smith had his horrific injury, so concern was certainly there. But he did not enter into the game despite being prepared to do so on several occasions, which likely meant that Washington was taking it cautiously with him.
In the post-game interview with head coach Ron Rivera, he stated that if they needed Smith to play, they would have put him. But it was clear the team was comfortable with Haskins filling in, and he seemed alright against the 49ers.
While Haskins did not have any spectacular stats, he certainly had some good throws to the receivers and played better than Smith's performance in the second half. Fans should take his performance with a grain of salt however, considering his future with the team is still in question.
4. Washington's running back depth is good
Washington was without their star rookie running back Antonio Gibson this week due to a toe turf injury. That meant the team would rely on J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber, both who contributed well in the offense which was rather lacking against the 49ers. Combined they had 23 rushes for 105 yards and zero touchdowns, with several bursts during the game by both running backs.
McKissic and Barber are both on two-year deals with the team, which will certainly help Gibson's growth with this team. But when needed, both of them have been crucial players, especially on third-down plays.
3. The 49ers are a very tough team
The score cannot show this, but considering what head coach Kyle Shanahan and his team have gone through with the injuries, this team has held up very well. The 49ers should be considered to have one of the best depth-filled teams in the league.
Quarterback Nick Mullens has filled in relatively well for the 49ers, though it seemed like in between the game that he would be replaced by C.J. Beathard. The 49ers defense is ranked 6th in the league, and credit goes to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who has utilized the players he still has left healthy in an amazing way. Saleh is certainly considered a hot ticket for a head coaching position in the upcoming 2021 off season.
2. Washington's secondary continues to improve
Against the 49ers, the defense showed great spark defending against Mullens, who has thrown at least one interception in the last five games. Today, rookie safety Kam Curl took advantage of that, with a pick-6 right at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Mullens completed 25 of 45 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown. Washington did allow receiver Brandon Aiyuk 119 receiving yards, but it was due to the 49ers great run-heavy offense that contributed to that.
1. Chase Young did something
In all seriousness, rookie defensive end Chase Young has been performing at a level that no other rookie defensive end has in a while. Today, he showed what he can bring when he isn't being double or triple-teamed by opposing offensive linemen.
Young had one sack, a forced fumble, a fumble return touchdown for the day. This marked the first player in Washington franchise history to achieve all three stats and only the 8th rookie in NFL history to do so.