LANDOVER, Md. – Coach Kyle Shanahan targeted Brian Hoyer to be his quarterback on the first day of free agency.
On Sunday, Shanahan felt as if he had no choice but to officially admit his mistake. And the 49ers saw an immediate improvement in the play of their struggling offense.
Rookie C.J. Beathard took over for Hoyer, who was benched in the second quarter after another poor performance, and helped the 49ers rally from a 17-point deficit.
But it ended up being the same old story for the winless 49ers, falling short in their comeback attempt Sunday with a 26-24 loss to Washington at FedEx Field.
Hoyer completed just four of his 11 pass attempts for 34 yards to prompt Shanahan to make the call to the bullpen. Beathard completed 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Beathard did not attempt a pass in the 49ers’ first five games of the season.
The 49ers rallied from a 17-0 deficit to tie the game on Carlos Hyde’s second 1-yard scoring run of the day. The play was set up when Ray-Ray Armstrong stripped former 49ers tight end Vernon Davis after a short completion.
Safety Jimmie Ward scooped up the loose ball and returned it 43 yards to the 1. (The play was originally ruled a touchdown. After a review, referee John Parry announced Ward stepped out of bounds 1 ½ yards from the goal line.)
The 49ers entered the game with four consecutive losses by three points or left. The club was also playing its third road game in three weeks to cap a tumultuous week, which included the team’s decision to release veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman on Friday.
Two days later, the 49ers moved on from another veteran player – the quarterback who was brought to the team to run Shanahan’s offense. Hoyer previously played under Shanahan while both men were with the Cleveland Browns in 2014.
But Hoyer could not find any consistency once the season began with the 49ers – his seventh team in nine NFL seasons.
Hoyer ranked near the bottom of nearly every passing category. He has completed 119 of 205 pass attempts (58 percent) for 1,245 yards with four touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 74.1.
Finally, Shanahan had seen enough.
Beathard appeared to provide the 49ers with a spark at the end of the first half after falling behind 17-0. The 49ers drove 75 yards in 11 plays and scored on Hyde’s 1-yard run on fourth down just before halftime.
Washington built a 17-point lead on Kirk Cousins’ two touchdown passes in the first half. Cousins completed 25 of 37 pass attempts for two touchdowns and one interception.
Washington took a 20-17 lead with 10:34 remaining in regulation on a short field goal after the 49ers’ defense stiffened near the goal line on good plays from Ward, Solomon Thomas and Dontae Johnson.
Safety Eric Reid returned to action after missing the past three games with a knee injury. But he did not step back into his starting role.
Jaquiski Tartt retained his starting role at strong safety. Reid entered the game when the 49ers went with six defensive backs, mostly in third-down situations.
THIS ‘N’ THAT
--Rookie Solomon Thomas recorded his second sack of the season, throwing Cousins for a 5-yard loss in the second quarter.
--The 49ers lost two defensive starters due to injuries. Arik Armstead sustained a hand injury in the second quarter and did not return. Aaron Lynch left with a calf injury in the third quarter that occurred as he was chasing Cousins from the pocket.
--With Reuben Foster declared inactive, the 49ers started Brock Coyle at inside linebacker, alongside Ray-Ray Armstrong. Coyle took over calling the 49ers’ defensive signals in the huddle.
--Robbie Gould made a 52-yard field goal in the third quarter to pull the 49ers to within 17-10. It was the 32nd consecutive made field goal for Gould, dating back to the 2015 season. But Gould’s streak ended on his next attempt, when he missed wide right from 47 yards.
--Rookie Trent Taylor busted a 39-yard punt return in the third quarter to set the 49ers up at midfield on the drive that ended with Gould’s miss.
--One play after Ward’s interception was overturned on review, cornerback Rashard Robinson made an over-the-shoulder interception of a deep Cousins pass. It was the second interception of Robinson’s career.
--Seven members of the 49ers took a knee and held their hands over their chests during the playing of the national anthem in silent protest of racial inequality in America. Those players were Reid, Marquise Goodwin, Adrian Colbert, Dekoda Watson (inactive), Eli Harold, Armstead and K’Waun Williams.