Brock Purdy bounces back, 49ers clinch the NFC’s top seed by beating the Commanders 27-10

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Landover, Md. San Francisco won 27-10. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

LANDOVER, Md. — Minutes after rolling to a 27-10 victory at Washington, the San Francisco 49ers watched the final minute of Philadelphia’s game at Arizona together in the visiting locker room.

A loud cheer erupted when the Eagles lost to Arizona in stunning fashion. After Brock Purdy threw two touchdown passes to bounce back from the worst game of his NFL career and results elsewhere fell their way, the Niners clinched the top seed in the NFC and the first-round bye and home-field advantage that comes with it.


“Thank you, Cardinals,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “Back in ‘19, it took us winning in Seattle on the very last play of the game to secure the 1 seed, and the fact that we were able to get it with one game left in the season is big.”

Wrapping up the No. 1 seed before Week 18 could be a significant advantage for San Francisco (12-4) after losing Christian McCaffrey to a calf injury against the Commanders. The do-it-all running back left the game in the third quarter after gaining 91 scrimmage yards on 18 touches, and coach Kyle Shanahan thinks it could be a strained calf muscle.

“We think he’ll be all right,” Shanahan said. “I don’t know if he would’ve been able to go next week or not, but we’ll have to find out more (Monday). He was moving around all right on the sideline, so hoping it’s not too bad.”

The Niners got touchdown catches from Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and a rushing TD from Elijah Mitchell. Purdy, coming off throwing four interceptions in a humbling home loss to Baltimore, was 22 of 28 for 230 yards to reach 4,280 and break Jeff Garcia’s season franchise record of 4,278 set in 2000.

“To be able to come back and get the ball moving, throw it around to the guys and obviously get the offense to flow again and feeling it, it felt good,” Purdy said.

The defense, also looking to atone for some struggles against the Ravens, intercepted Sam Howell twice — once each by Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir.

Washington (4-12) was not much of an obstacle for the conference’s top team, as Howell added to his NFL lead in interceptions with his 18th and 19th of the season. He was starting only because journeyman Jacoby Brissett was sidelined by a hamstring injury after coach Ron Rivera decided earlier in the week to bench Howell.

“I thought Sam had some really good moments,” Rivera said. “Obviously there were a couple throws I promise you he would wish he had back, but he did a lot of good things.”

The Commanders have lost seven in a row, and as a result of the Cardinals win, could be in line to draft as high as second. While they’re looking ahead to an offseason of change under new ownership, the Niners have their eyes set on a long playoff run.

“We’re going to continue to get better,” Warner said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re our best when our best is needed for when our moment comes.”


49ers: Played without injured DT Arik Armstead (foot, knee), S Ji’Ayir Brown (knee), TE Ross Dwelley (ankle), WR Jauan Jennings (concussion) and OT Jaylon Moore (concussion).

Commanders: CB Tarik Castro-Fields left in the first half with a shoulder injury. … CB Christian Holmes was concussed early in the fourth quarter. … RT Andrew Wylie (elbow) was out after being listed as questionable. Trent Scott had a rough, penalty-filled day starting in his place.

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