SANTA CLARA –- It could not have looked any easier for the 49ers’ offense on their first possession on Sunday.
But, in keeping with their theme of the season, the 49ers could not maintain any consistency on offense. The 49ers committed three turnovers and had bad field position throughout.
But the 49ers put together a pressure-packed 75-yard drive to account for the first-team offense’s first touchdown in the fourth quarter this season for a critical 17-13 victory over Washington on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
Running back Carlos Hyde scored on 4-yard touchdown run with 2:59 remaining to cap a drive highlighted by Frank Gore’s fourth-down run and Colin Kaepernick-to-Anquan Boldin passes of 29 and 10 yards.
The 49ers’ defense clinched the victory with Justin Smith’s sack-strip on Washington quarterback Robert Griffin. Ahmad Brooks, who was benched last week, recovered the fumble to wrap their third consecutive victory.
The 49ers (7-4) now have a quick turnaround to one of the many key games that awaits them down the stretch of the season. On Thanksgiving, the Seattle Seahawks come to Levi’s Stadium for a pivotal NFC West game.
Seattle (7-4) kept things interesting in the NFC West with a 19-3 victory over the division-leading Arizona Cardinals (9-2).
Boldin, who caught nine passes for 137 yards, had two big receptions to key the winning drive. He absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit from Washington safety Ryan Clark to add 15 yards onto a 29-yard gain, which gave the 49ers possession at the 10-yard line.
Gore picked up three yards on a crucial fourth-down run on the winning drive to atone for an earlier mistake.
On a play in which Gore moved past Ricky Watters and into No. 21 on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, he coughed the ball up for the second game in a row. Stanford product Trent Murphy forced the fumble, and safety Phillip Thomas recovered at the 49ers’ 39.
Four plays later, Kai Forbath kicked a 46-yard field goal to give Washington a 13-10 lead with 7:42 remaining.
The 49ers trailed for the first time in the game. And they had to do something they had not accomplished since the first time they touched the ball on Sunday.
After all, the 49ers got into the end zone on their first possession. The 49ers sliced through the Washington defense on their first possession on a five-play, 59-yard drive that was capped by Colin Kaepernick’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin
It looked as if the 49ers would be able to handle their guests without many problems.
But if the 49ers had hopes of throttling Washington early and resting the starters for Thanksgiving night, they could not make that happen.
Washington evened the game at 7-7 on Alfred Morris’ 1-yard touchdown run.
Meanwhile, the 49ers were stuck with horrendous field position all game. Five of their first eight drives began at or inside their own 10-yard line.
The 49ers took a 10-7 lead into halftime on Phil Dawson’s 41-yard field goal. The 49ers moved the ball 70 yards on 12 plays in 5 minutes, 33 seconds to set up Dawson’s kick on the final play of the first half. Crabtree set up the field goal with a leaping 25-yard catch at the sideline with :05 remaining.
Washington pulled even late in the third quarter on Kai Forbath’s 27-yard field goal.
Kaepernick completed 20 of 29 passes for 256 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Gore had a rough day with 13 carries for 36 yards.
Aldon breaks through: Washington played without two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, and it did not take Aldon Smith long to take advantage. On the second play of the game, Smith beat rookie left tackle Morgan Moses to sack quarterback Robert Griffin for a 9-yard loss. Smith beat Moses for his second sack on the first defensive series of the second half.
Bowman examined: All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman visited this weekend with Washington team doctor James Andrews, who performed reconstructive surgery on him in February. General manager Trent Baalke said there was nothing new to report on Bowman’s condition.
Bowman has no structural damage in the knee, and he has not sustained any setbacks in his rehabilitation, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said on Friday. The 49ers are expected to lean heavily on Bowman’s feedback on how his knee feels while determining how to proceed with his attempted comeback.
Inactives: Backup tight end Vance McDonald was inactive due to a hip injury. Derek Carrier saw action as the 49ers’ No. 2 tight end behind starter Vernon Davis. Carrier sustained a foot injury in the second quarter.
Jonathan Martin had his sixth start of the season in place of right tackle Anthony Davis, who was not cleared to play due to a concussion he sustained last week. And Quinton Dial made his second straight start at nose tackle with Glenn Dorsey still not available after he underwent surgery to repair a torn biceps in training camp.
This ‘n’ that
--Rookie running back Carlos Hyde lost a fumble on the 49ers’ first play of the second quarter. It was Hyde’s first fumble of his NFL career. Hyde was on the field for the 49ers at the end of the game, but finished with just 16 yards and a touchdown on seven rushing attempts.
--Safety Eric Reid sustained a right ankle sprain while defending a deep pass to DeSean Jackson in the first quarter. Craig Dahl replaced Reid for one play. Reid got his ankle re-taped and he was back on the field for the next series.
--Washington was playing without starting cornerback David Amerson. During the game, E.J. Biggers and Tracy Porter were injured. But when Kaepernick tried to exploit rookie Greg Ducre, he intercepted a deep third-quarter pass intended for Boldin. It was Kaepernick’s first interception in 131 pass attempts.
--When Kaepernick was sacked on the first play after Washington took a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter, it marked the NFL-most 15th time he has been sacked on a first-down play this season.
--Twice on third-down plays, tight end Vernon Davis did not get enough depth on his route to turn completions into first downs. The first time led to a 49ers punt. The second time with a little more than five minutes remaining, prompted the 49ers to go for it. Gore picked up the necessary yardage.