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That Sinking Feeling

Washington's Offense Still Ill, San Francisco Runs at Will

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 23, 2002; Page D01

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 22 -- The Washington Redskins found the San Francisco 49ers sick and vulnerable today, but they didn't have the offensive wherewithal to capitalize, as Coach Steve Spurrier made another quarterback switch in vain. The defense again suffered through costly missed tackles, and the 49ers managed to grind out a 20-10 triumph on a day when many of their players, including quarterback Jeff Garcia, suffered from stomach viruses.

Garcia sat out most of the second half, but the Redskins (1-2) were left feeling the most ill after another afternoon of failures on offense. They were limited to 217 yards, and Spurrier's benching of starting quarterback Shane Matthews in favor of Danny Wuerffel in the fourth quarter failed to get the offense moving. The Redskins were left searching for answers after their second straight loss, and Spurrier said he will consider using rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey when the club emerges from a bye week to play at Tennessee on Oct. 6.

The Redskins get off to a bad start when tailback Stephen Davis fumbles on their second offensive play on a hit by Julian Peterson, No. 98. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)

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"We had some chances," Spurrier said. "We did virtually nothing on offense in the second half. . . . We are what we are. If we think they're not playing with effort, then we've got to get somebody else in there. If the guys are playing hard and that's the best that we are, then that's what we are. We need to find out what we do best offensively and defensively and try to win some games. But we're only 1-2. Hopefully we can make improvements as we go."

Tailback Stephen Davis fumbled on the Redskins' second offensive play to set up a touchdown for the 49ers (2-1) on a seven-yard run by reserve running back Kevan Barlow. San Francisco made it 14-3 in the second quarter on a 38-yard run by wide receiver Terrell Owens on a broken play -- a reverse that was supposed to be a pass -- in which two Redskins, linebacker LaVar Arrington and end Renaldo Wynn, had chances to corral him in the backfield.

The 49ers rolled up 252 rushing yards, including 94 by Barlow and 97 by Garrison Hearst. Still, the Redskins' defense probably played well enough to win, surrendering only 125 passing yards to Garcia and backup Tim Rattay. The Redskins weren't overwhelmed like they were in last Monday night's 37-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at home, but they couldn't generate enough offense to get back into the win column.

"We played a little bit better, but not much better," left tackle Chris Samuels said. "We have to look in the mirror. We're making mistakes up front and getting beat. I've got to go out there and do my assignments. I've got to look at myself. I didn't have a good game."

Samuels struggled against young defensive end Andre Carter, who had two sacks and forced one fumble by Matthews. Carter also got a roughing penalty for a third-quarter hit on Matthews, who was playing with a badly bruised left shoulder. Matthews called the hit probably the hardest he ever has absorbed, but said he could have finished the game. Spurrier, though, went to Wuerffel, who led a pair of fourth-quarter drives that ended with a punt and an interception by safety Zack Bronson on a ball that Wuerffel threw into double coverage.

"I thought it just might change something up," Spurrier said. "I thought we'd give [Wuerffel] a chance. . . . It's the whole team. Let's don't put it all on the quarterbacks. Our offensive line wasn't super. . . . There were a lot of disappointing plays up front. . . . We didn't play real super and they played pretty good, I guess."

The Redskins scored on a 33-yard field goal by James Tuthill and a 19-yard pass from Matthews to tight end Zeron Flemister in the second quarter. They trailed only 17-10 at halftime, and Garcia failed to join his teammates on the field for the start of the second half. He played one series in the third quarter, getting intercepted by cornerback Champ Bailey in the end zone, and didn't return.

"We had a rough night [Saturday] night," 49ers Coach Steve Mariucci said. "We had to cut our meetings short and prevent the guys from breathing on each other. . . . We were a sick team to start, and became a banged-up team." The Redskins couldn't take advantage.

"We didn't move the ball at all the other night," said Matthews (17 of 28, 169 yards). "Today we had our chances. We just didn't get it done. We just got beat."

It took only five offensive plays by the 49ers for some of the fans to begin booing. The Redskins got good pressure on Garcia on San Francisco's opening drive. The 49ers managed one first down but then had to punt.

The Redskins' first possession was far worse. Matthews hit Davis for a seven-yard gain, but on second down from the Redskins 22-yard line, Davis fumbled as he was hit by linebacker Julian Peterson. Safety Tony Parrish grabbed the ball out of the air and provided a 10-yard return to the 14.

The 49ers needed two plays to score. Garcia threw to tight end Eric Johnson for seven yards. Barlow took a second-down pitchout to the left, cut inside cornerback Fred Smoot and outraced linebacker Jessie Armstead and other defenders to the end zone.

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