Game snapshot: 49ers vs. Redskins
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET SURFACE: Grass TV: CBS, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa SERIES: 27th meeting. The 49ers lead 16-9-1, but the Redskins have won two of the last three meetings since 1999. Before that, the 49ers had won seven straight over the Redskins. 2005 RANKINGS: 49ers: offense 31st (26th rush, 29th pass); defense 32nd (18th rush, 32nd pass). Redskins: offense 7th (8th rush, 8th pass); defense 5th (14th rush, 7th pass) KEYS TO THE GAME: The Redskins can expect a good pre-game speech from coach Joe Gibbs, who was upset by stories in the media dubbing this an easy win for his team. Washington should have little trouble moving the ball against San Francisco, whose defense is allowing over 40 more yards per game than the next worst defense in the league and is saddled by a beat up secondary. And the Redskins shouldn't have to score an abundance of points with the 49ers giving rookie QB Alex Smith just his second career start. Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is one of the best in the league at bringing pressure from all different angles, and San Francisco has to hope Smith can avoid the turnovers that plagued his first start. But to keep the game competitive through four quarters, 49ers RBs Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore must move the chains even though Washington knows San Francisco will come out attempting to establish its ground game. FAST FACTS: 49ers: Coach Mike Nolan was Washington's defensive coordinator from 1997-99. ... WR Arnaz Battle already has career highs in receptions (15), yards (171) and touchdowns (two). Redskins: QB Mark Brunell has at least two touchdown passes in four consecutive games. ... Gibbs seeks 150th career victory for third consecutive game. PERSONNEL NEWS 49ers --- LB Jim Maxwell, signed to the active roster this week when Jeff Ulbrich was placed on injured reserve, is expected to suit up and might see some action Sunday against the Redskins. --- LB Julian Peterson returned to practice Thursday and is expected to start Sunday. Peterson has missed considerable time since sustaining a right hamstring strain on Sept. 25. --- WR Otis Amey, the team's No. 3 receiver and its punt returner, has a high ankle sprain and did not practice. If he is unable to play, rookie Rasheed Marshall would return punts. --- T Patrick Estes rolled his ankle and missed the last part of practice Thursday. His is unlikely to be available as a backup on Sunday. Estes is the backup left tackle behind starter Anthony Clement. If Estes is unable to play, rookie Adam Snyder would enter Sunday's game as the No. 2 left tackle. ---RB Frank Gore has impressed the 49ers because of the decisiveness with which he hits the holes. For the season, he has 25 carries for 109 yards, a 4.4-yard average. Starter Kevan Barlow plays about two-thirds of the time with Gore taking the other third of the playing time. Redskins --- RB Clinton Portis missed a second straight day with an injured shin but is expected to start Sunday. --- C Casey Rabach missed a second straight day with a sprained ankle but is expected to start on Sunday. --- CB Carlos Rogers returned to practice after missing Wednesday's workout with a sprained ankle and is expected to play on Sunday. --- K John Hall, who pulled a quadriceps on his last kickoff in the Sept. 11 opener against Chicago, could finally be ready to return to action on Sunday. He has split time in practice with his replacement, Nick Novak. The undrafted rookie could be cut if Hall is good to go. Sunday's forecast for cold and rainy weather could be a factor. --- LB LaVar Arrington might see some snaps on defense Sunday for the first time in three weeks. Assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams said the three-time Pro Bowl pick has practiced well the past two weeks and is looking good physically. INSIDE THE CAMPS 49ers The 49ers will get a chance to see Sunday against the Redskins if cornerback Bruce Thornton's starting debut Oct. 9 against the Colts was an aberration. The 49ers played that game with four of their top five cornerbacks out of action. Thornton, who only a week earlier had been on the practice squad, started against one of the most feared passing attacks in the leagues. He put together a spectacular game, holding Colts receiver Marvin Harrison to just two catches for 17 yards. Thornton also had an interception in the end zone. "I'm anxious to see what he is," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "He did a lot of good things in the game. It's one thing when you come up with an interception and there were 12 other plays in the game where coaches give him a lot of minuses. (But) Bruce played a good game. He played a good game, not just a down or a series. We'll see where he goes." One of the cornerbacks who was originally ahead of Thornton on the depth chart, rookie Derrick Johnson, will return for Sunday's game. Johnson is expected to play as an extra defensive back. Another cornerback originally ahead of Thornton on the depth chart, veteran Willie Middlebrooks, was realeased by the team on Saturday to make room on the roster for center Norm Katnik. Based on his play in his debut, Thornton will get another shot at starting. He will be matched Sunday against Redskins receivers Santana Moss and David Patten, depending on the formation. Thornton will take on the receiver who lines up on the right side of the Redskins' offensive formation. Thornton was a fourth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2004 and made the team's opening-game roster only to sustain a torn right ACL in his first game. This summer, the Cowboys released Thornton and the 49ers signed him to their practice squad. "I wanted to be there and I wanted to be with the Cowboys," Thornton said. "But I took the approach that my next destination is where I would try to make my home." Redskins The Washington Redskins got a scare in practice yesterday when red-hot quarterback Mark Brunell mildly strained his left calf. However, coach Joe Gibbs and director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said that Brunell should start Sunday. "I just tweaked my left calf when I was dropping back," said Brunell, whose 2004 season was ruined when he played with a pulled hamstring. "I don't think it's that big a deal. I'm moving around. It feels like it's not going to be a problem at all. If it was painful, it was tough to move around or I was limping, I'd be concerned. I'd be concerned if it was Saturday, but we have a couple of days." Mobility is a critical factor for the 35-year-old Brunell, who has had runs of 14, 18 and 25 yards this season. Meanwhile, Joe Salave'a didn't practice for a second straight day with plantar fasciitis. Neither did fellow defensive tackle Cedric Killings because of a high ankle sprain. They were joined by rookie free agent Aki Jones, who was in line to be activated if either Salave'a or Killings isn't ready for Sunday's game with San Francisco. Jones mildly strained a hamstring during Wednesday's practice. That left starter Cornelius Griffin and second-year backup Ryan Boschetti as the only healthy defensive tackles with just one practice remaining before the game. "Our guys are interchangeable," assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams said. "You'll see us throw (starting ends) Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn inside. We've got enough tools, enough packages that we'll get through it. Joe (Salave'a) will practice tomorrow. Two of the three guys might. As long as (Joe gets) a good day's practice in on Friday, he can go. The rest has actually been good for him."
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