Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Redskins

Taking a look deep inside Sunday's season finale between the 49ers and Washington Redskins at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, injury impact, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the game.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:15 Pacific
SITE: Candlestick Park in San Francisco
SURFACE: Grass
RECORDS: 49ers 6-9, second place in NFC West; Redskins 8-7, fourth place in NFC East
TV: FOX (Ron Pitts, Tony Boselli, Charissa Thompson)

SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. The 49ers lead 13-9-1 and also won three of the four playoff matchups. The most memorable recent game was the penultimate contest of 1999 as Brad Johnson hit Larry Centers in overtime with the touchdown pass that gave the Redskins the victory at San Francisco and their only division title of the last 17 seasons.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Redskins have averaged just 11 points the past seven games in part due to injuries along the offensive line and because the passing attack has never stepped up to complement the power ground game. The 49ers are stronger against the run and will do their best to stuff RB Clinton Portis and force QB Jason Campbell to hurt them with his arm. ... QB Shaun Hill has one final critical audition in his attempt to be the 49ers' starting quarterback next season. After tossing three interceptions last Sunday, Hill rewarded coach Mike Singletary's faith by leading a pair of touchdown drives in a comeback win. He has been forced to assume a larger role in moving the ball because of RB Frank Gore's absence the past two weeks. Gore hopes to play, which would be a huge boost because the Redskins secondary is difficult to take on without a balanced offense.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Washington players who have started all 32 games, including the 2007 wild-card loss, during Washington's last two seasons: running back Clinton Portis, guard Pete Kendall, tight end Chris Cooley, linebacker London Fletcher and safety LaRon Landry. 44.6 -- The 49ers' third-down percentage since Mike Singletary took over as head coach. Through the first seven games of the season, the 49ers capitalized on third downs just 27.6 percent.

QUOTES TO NOTE
"I always planned on being back." – Jim Zorn reacting to the news that front-office boss Vinny Cerrato said he would return for a second year as Washington's coach in 2009.
"I think the most important thing that has transpired right now is that we're just working hard, just trying to get things where they need to be. After this game, we just have to figure out what the direction is, and we'll go from there" – 49ers interim coach Mike Singletary on his future, as well as the team's future.

49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers figure to get Frank Gore back this weekend for the season finale. Gore tried to play in last week's game, but his sore ankle was still not ready to go when he tested it during pregame warmups. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz will want to get the ball in Gore's hands early to give him a good chance at gaining 22 yards and becoming the first player in 49ers history with three consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards rushing. With Gore back, it should be easier for Martz to set up play-action pass for Shaun Hill. Martz's instinct is to try to get the ball down the field, but Hill is at his best when he's throwing the short and intermediate routes. The 49ers must stay in third-and-manageable situations. That will allow Hill the opportunity to get the ball to his favorite target, Isaac Bruce, to keep moving the chains. Rookie receiver Josh Morgan came up big last week with a leaping 48-yard touchdown grab in the final two minutes to defeat the Rams. The 49ers would like to feature Morgan a little bit more in the season finale. Defensively, the 49ers have been pretty sound in recent weeks as the players appear to have settled into their roles. The Redskins have a strong rushing attack, and the middle of the 49ers' line will be tested. Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin will move a lot, as he no longer plays as much two-gap as he did earlier in the season. Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes will try to attack the line of scrimmage to slow down that run game.

REDSKINS GAME PLAN: The Redskins have still not scored 30 points in a game and have averaged just 11 points the past seven games (five losses). Their only touchdown last Sunday came on an 18-yard drive and was the first for Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis in eight games. Given that the 49ers are stronger against the run than the pass, it's about time for quarterback Jason Campbell (four touchdowns, six interceptions during the 2-5 slide) to rediscover his first-half (eight touchdowns, no interceptions) form.. Improved pass protection (18 sacks allowed the past seven games) would help. Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley managed just 91 yards the past three games, receiver Santana Moss just 148. The defense doesn't have a Pro Bowl player, but it ranks fourth in the NFL and second in the NFC thanks to an outstanding secondary that was critical in holding the high-flying Eagles to just a field goal last Sunday. The 49ers present much less of a challenge, especially if ace running back Frank Gore remains sidelined. The Redskins have 13 sacks the past seven games after recording just 10 in the first eight weeks and they should continue that relative hot streak against the 49ers, who allow the most sacks per drop-back in the NFL. Jason Taylor had two sacks last week. Fellow end Andre Carter, who trails Taylor and Demetric Evans by a half sack, is aiming to lead the team for a third year running.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--- 49ers QB Shaun Hill vs. Redskins FS LaRon Landry - Hill threw three interceptions before rallying the 49ers to a victory last week against the Rams. Landry has two interceptions and 11 passes defensed.
--- 49ers RB Frank Gore vs. Redskins MLB London Fletcher: Gore is expected to return to action after missing time with an ankle sprain. Fletcher leads the Redskins with 135 tackles.
--- 49ers WR Bryant Johnson vs. Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall: Johnson has come on in recent games after getting healthy. Hall was a midseason pickup by the Redskins after being cut by the Raiders.
--- 49ers FS Mark Roman vs. Redskins TE Chris Cooley: Roman gave up a deep pass for a touchdown against the Dolphins two weeks ago. Cooley leads the Redskins with 77 catches for 792 yards.
--- 49ers CB Nate Clements vs. Redskins WR Santana Moss: Clements is the 49ers' top cover man. Moss needs just 24 yards receiving to go over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
---49ers OLB Parys Haralson vs. Redskins right tackle - Haralson has a team-leading eight sacks for the season. Injured Jon Jansen has been replaced the past two weeks by Jason Fabini.
--- Redskins RB Clinton Portis vs. 49ers MLB Patrick Willis -- In a year when the Redskins hardly score, how Clinton Portis produces often determines how the team does. The Redskins are 6-1 when the Pro Bowl running back rushes for at least 85 yards and 2-6 when he doesn't. Washington is 5-1 when Portis scores as he did last week against Philadelphia, 3-6 when he doesn't. Willis, the Niners' top tackler, has made the Pro Bowl in both of his seasons since being drafted in the first round in 2007.
--- Redskins CB Shawn Springs vs. 49ers WR Isaac Bruce: Springs and Bruce have been dueling for years back to their days in Seattle and St. Louis, respectively. Springs, who missed much of the year with injuries, should start a third straight game on Sunday. Bruce leads the 49ers with 59 catches, 827 yards and seven touchdowns. In six games against Springs (not counting 2006 when Springs was hurt early on), Bruce has 26 catches, just one touchdown and only topped 70 yards once.

INJURY IMPACT

49ERS:
RB Frank Gore (ankle) has missed the past two-and-a-half games. He will try to play Sunday, as he needs just 22 yards to gain 1,000 for the season. RT Adam Snyder (ankle) did not play last week. If he is ready to go, he will likely get the start over veteran Barry Sims. S Michael Lewis (abdomen) and center Eric Heitmann (abdomen) both missed practices early in the week, but are expected to be available for Sunday's game.

REDSKINS: If RT Jon Jansen doesn't play for a third straight week, Jason Fabini will start again in his place. LT Stephon Heyer is starting for Chris Samuels, who's out for the year. If DT Kedric Golston can't play again, Anthony Montgomery will start in his place.

PERSONNEL NEWS

REDSKINS


--- OT Jon Jansen was limited again on Thursday after sitting out the past two games with a sprained left knee. He could return to the starting lineup Sunday at San Francisco.

--- MLB London Fletcher returned to limited duty on Thursday after not practicing on Wednesday because of the left foot he sprained on Nov. 23 at Seattle. He started the past four games despite the injury and is expected to do so again against the 49ers.

--- G Pete Kendall (knees) returned on Thursday after not practicing on Wednesday as usual but is expected to start on Sunday as always.

--- DT Kedric Golston, who missed two of the past three games with bone spurs in his right ankle, was limited again in Thursday's practice but is expected to play Sunday.

--- RB Clinton Portis, who has a number of injuries, took full practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday and is expected to start on Sunday as he has all season.

49ERS

--- Interim coach Mike Singletary will become the team's full-time coach, according to a report by the Sacramento Bee. The paper reported Singletary will be signed to a multi-year deal, although terms were not known.

--- QB Shaun Hill has a passer rating of 87.0 while starting seven games this season. He is on pace to become the highest-rated 49ers starter since Jeff Garcia had a 94.8 rating in 2001. Hill has thrown 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

--- RB Frank Gore saw limited practice time on Wednesday and used Thursday to continue treatment on a left ankle sprain that has kept him out of the lineup for two-and-a-half games. Gore said he believes he will be able to play in the 49ers' season finale against the Redskins. He needs just 22 yards to become the first player in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive games.

--- DE Roderick Green returned to his role as a third-down pass rusher against the Rams and recorded two quarterback hurries. For the season, Green is third on the 49ers with 3.5 sacks with 28 quarterback pressures, according to the statistics kept by the team.

--- TE Vernon Davis enters the final game of the season with just 28 receptions for 340 yards. While Davis has flourished as a blocker in his third NFL season, he has been phased out of the offense as a pass target. Davis caught 52 passes for 509 yards and four touchdowns last season.

--- LB Takeo Spikes ranks second on the team with 115 tackles, according to the stats compiled by the team's coaches. Spikes has been a good complement to Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, who leads the team in tackles. Spikes is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, so his status with the club for 2009 is uncertain.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

49ERS


Coach Mike Singletary gave his 49ers players a day off on Christmas, but he did have a request.

"I want them to make sure they tell their wives, make sure you tell your kids, you know what? 'I just need an hour. I just need some time here to get away and think about my game plan, and think about this and think about that,'" Singletary said.

That did not seem to be a problem for the players. Quarterback Shaun Hill said he planned to stop by the 49ers' practice facility.

"All my family is back home (in the Midwest), and I was planning on it being a work day anyway," Hill said. "I'll be in here and definitely giving football some time."

Rookie defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer said he planned to spend a lot more than an hour preparing to face the Washington Redskins in the season finale too.

"For me, I'm going to spend more than an hour because I definitely need it," Balmer said earlier this week. "It's the least we could do for him. He showed us a sign of faith by giving us the day off."

Balmer, the No. 29 overall pick in the draft, has seen little playing time and production in his first NFL season. While playing in the team's first 15 games, Balmer was credited with just six tackles and no sacks. Balmer expected to work his way into a more significant role as a rookie.

"It's been an up-and-down year," Balmer said. "As far as my confidence goes, the guys around me keep my confidence up. Every time I'm out there they believe I'm going to go out there and perform even when I'm at practice."

REDSKINS

Five days after saying he wasn't worth his $8 million salary-cap cost for 2008, Jason Taylor showed the Redskins for the first time that he just might be.

Acquired from Miami in July when starting left end Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury, Taylor arrived as the active sacks leader with 118.5. But through 15 weeks, the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year had more injuries (two) and medical procedures (two) than sacks (1.5). He missed three games after having emergency calf surgery on Sept. 22 and a follow up on Oct. 27 and has mostly played on passing downs since.

But during that interview, Taylor had also said, "I know one thing: This dog can still hunt. Put me in the right situation, the right position, and I'll hunt all day."

He did just that last Sunday against Philadelphia, sacking Donovan McNabb twice and forcing a fumble on the second one that London Fletcher recovered to set up the game's only touchdown in a 10-3 victory that ended Washington's three-game losing streak.

"I ... don't get overly excited about it," said Taylor, who moved within a sack of Clyde Simmons for 13th place on the NFL's career list. "I look at it as doing my job, doing what I'm supposed to do."

Against the Eagles that job included standing up as more of a linebacker and even covering star running back Brian Westbrook at times.

"We got a chance to see what (Jason's) capable of doing," said middle linebacker London Fletcher.

But since Taylor is due $8.5 million in 2009 when he turns 35 and has been so unproductive this year, it's doubtful that the Redskins will see him again after Sunday's season finale.



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