49ers punch Skins in stomach

SAN FRANCISCO--A virus left 17 players sick for San Francisco, causing its quarterback to leave the game. Washington was sick afterward because of something else: its play.

The Redskins head to the bye week hoping they're not about to wave goodbye to what many hoped would at least be an entertaining season. But try getting a show like this past the networks. It would be cancelled by now.

San Francisco beat Washington, 20-10, in front of 67,541 fans at Candlestick Park. The Redskins fell to 1-2; the 49ers improved to 2-1 after a win in which the Redskins constantly did whatever they could to help them.

They entered with hopes of wiping an ugly loss from their minds. They exited with yet another quarterback controversy, multiple questions about their defense and even more about the offense.

And the Fun 'n' Gun has turned into a mistake-filled attack that no one wants to see. The receivers don't get open, but when they do they're missed. The running game is all but forgotten. The line struggles in the pass rush. Now the starting quarterback is undecided as Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said he might start rookie Patrick Ramsey against Tennessee.

Bye week? They need it.

''Right now,'' Redskins linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said, ''it looks like we need a break.''

The Redskins will spend the next two weeks trying to figure out what's gone wrong the past two games, in losing by a combined 57-17. If they don't get it figured out soon, any hopes of the playoffs will end quickly. Which isn't what they expected in Spurrier's inaugural season.

It also appears the defense is not on the same page as coordinator Marvin Lewis, leading to more woes.

''I don't care how good the players are and the coaches are, it takes time,'' Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington said. ''Until that point, we'll have hard times. Whenever you change coaches and schemes, it takes time and that's what we're facing again. It's called growing pains. We're only 1-2; we haven't lost 15 or 16 games. [But] it seems like an eternity when you lose two games.''

The Redskins lost this game because they turned the ball over and couldn't  move in the second half.  Running back Stephen Davis fumbled on Washington's first possession, giving the 49ers the ball at the 14-yard line. Two plays later Kevan Barlow scored on a seven-yard run.

They allowed a 38-yard run by Terrell Owens for another touchdown and 14-3 lead. They had Owens trapped on a reverse in which he wanted to throw. He escaped and eventually scored.

In the second half, Washington penetrated 49ers territory, but couldn't convert a third and one run, leading to a punt. And, on quarterback Danny Wuerffel's first possession, the Redskins were called for holding and eventually allowed a sack.

''It seemed like anytime we get something going, we shoot ourselves in the foot,'' Redskins right tackle Jon Jansen said. ''We can't continue to play like that and expect to win.''

Even the special teams chipped in with untimely penalties, spoiling great field position at times. And left tackle Chris Samuels suffered through his worst game as a Redskin, getting flagged for holding, giving up sacks and allowing too much pressure.

''Everything's a concern right now,'' Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said. ''It's the whole team; don't put it all on the quarterback. . . . The penalties are a big concern. We're not good enough to make stupid careless penalties. They just beat us today, every way.''

Washington recovered from Owens' scoring run with an impressive 12-play, 70-yard drive on its next possession, converting three third downs--and overcoming a second and 23. Quarterback Shane Matthews tossed 19 yards to tight end Zeron Flemister for the score, with Flemister breaking a tackle at the 2.

But the Redskins lost the momentum when the 49ers closed the half with a 33-yard Jose Cortez field goal for a 17-10 lead.

Following three straight Redskin three-and-outs in the third quarter, Cortez made it 20-10 with a 35-yard field goal. Washington never again advanced past the 49ers' 40 the rest of the game. The Redskins blew excellent field position midway through the fourth quarter when Wuerffel, from the Niner 40, unwisely threw deep into double coverage for an interception.

''I guess Danny didn't see the safety back there,'' said the intended receiver, Rod Gardner.

San Francisco ran out the final 7:59, clinching the win. The 49ers did this despite not using quarterback Jeff Garcia for most of the second half. Garcia had a stomach virus and only played two series after halftime. Backup Tim Rattay led the final field-goal drive, helped by starting at midfield.

The 49ers stopped Washington's offense, copying much of what Philadelphia did against the Redskins a week earlier. They played lots of soft, two-deep zones, forcing the Redskins to dump the ball downfield. When Washington tried to throw deep, it didn't give the quarterbacks time. Or the Redskins would be forced to keep in extra blockers, making it hard to send as many players on routes as the coaches wanted.

''We couldn't get into a rhythm,'' Matthews said. ''Last week we didn't get it done at all. [Sunday] we had our chances.''

''I'm frustrated,'' Spurrier said. ''We called our plays. They just didn't go anywhere.''

Ex-Redskin linebacker Derek Smith knows what it might take to jump start the offense: more runs by Stephen Davis. He only carried 13 times for 59 yards and has just 25 carries the past two games. Some of it is play-calling; some of it is dictated by the score.

''When a guy runs the ball that well you have to get it in his hands a few more times,'' Smith said. ''I don't want to compare him to [their other offensive players], but Stephen is a real threat when the ball is in his hands.''

Right now, the Redskins aren't going anywhere, unless they can stop the bleeding.

''I came here to win games,'' said Redskins linebacker Jessie Armstead, who had 17 tackles. ''It's hard to say we're in a slump because it's only two games and it's a team effort. We're just not getting it done as a team. It's absolutely a team problem. The bye week at first seemed like it was early. Now it's coming at the right time.''

 


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