SF 49ers grades: Nick Mullens stinks it up vs. Washington in Week 14

Quarterback Nick Mullens #4 of the San Francisco 49ers is sacked by defensive end Montez Sweat #90 of the Washington Football Team (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Quarterback Nick Mullens #4 of the San Francisco 49ers is sacked by defensive end Montez Sweat #90 of the Washington Football Team (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
3 of 4
Jason Verrett, SF 49ers, Washington Football Team
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Jason Verrett (22) intercepts a pass intended for Washington Football Team wide receiver Cam Sims (89) Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

SF 49ers Defensive Grades vs. Washington

Unlike Week 13 against the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco fans have no right calling out defensive coordinator Robert Saleh for this week’s loss to Washington.

Saleh was asked time and time again to bail out Kyle Shanahan’s offense in the wake of the turnovers and short drives. And while Washington’s offense isn’t exactly of the high-profile variety, one should give Saleh credit for limiting the Football Team to just 3.1 yards per play.

Especially considering how shorthanded his side of the ball has been.


Washington’s defensive line is, right now, what fans hoped the SF 49ers’ own line would be had it not been for the plethora of injuries suffered this season.

That said, depth EDGEs Dion Jordan and Jordan Willis each recorded a sack against a sub-par Football Team O-line without having to worry too much about the mobility threats of Alex Smith and the quarterback who replaced him in the second half, Dwayne Haskins.

Defensive end Arik Armstead missed tackles, however, which is perhaps the only major negative from what would have been a solid blue-collar effort from this banged-up group.


If the Deebo Samuel injury wasn’t enough, linebacker Fred Warner suffered a neck/shoulder injury during the second half and didn’t return to action, and Washington didn’t hesitate to target his on-field replacement, Azeez Al-Shaair.

Al-Shaair finished the game with five tackles and gave up two catches after being inserted into the starting role.

Meanwhile, linebacker Dre Greenlaw had himself a bounce-back game by picking up a team-high seven tackles, including two for a loss, while helping give the Niners a chance late by stopping Washington running back J.D. McKissic just short of the first-down marker late in the fourth quarter.

That would have been an exemplary play if San Francisco capitalized on it with a game-tying score.

But it didn’t.


It’s pretty apparent veteran cornerback Richard Sherman has lost a step, and he wasn’t that fast to begin with anyway. Early in the game, Smith regularly went after Sherman by targeting wide receiver Terry McLaurin, and that matchup usually went McLaurin’s way.

But some decent pressure from the SF 49ers defensive front and blitz packages took pressure off the secondary, which still only allowed just 95 net passing yards over the contest.

What was even crazier was how fellow cornerback Jason Verrett recorded his second interception of the season, only for the Niners to give it right back to Washington on their very next possession. Another chance wiped out.

Safety Jimmie Ward nearly recorded his first interception since 2016. But further review revealed the ball touching the ground while Ward caught it, negating the turnover.

Such has been the story of 2020 for San Francisco.