San Francisco quarterback Steve DeBerg had an interesting theory about his struggling young team after losing to the Washington Redskins, 38-20, yesterday.
"When I was out there playing, I really didn't think the Redskins were as good a team as we are," said DeBerg, "and even now, I still think that.
"We had a better performance (today), but we had more mistakes. That's where a veteran team can beat an inexperienced team.
"Offensively, I think we were successful. The one play that changed the momentum was the interception I threw."
The interception, by Ken Houston, came in the second quarter when the 49ers, 1-8, enjoyed a surprising 10-0 lead.
"I thought he (intended receiver Ken MacAfee) would adjust differently to the defense," said DeBerg. "I thought he would sprint to the side-line but he throttled down."
Washington took over on its 44, and after Vern Roberson's pass inteferance penalty gave the Redskins a first and goal at the one, John Riggins scored two plays later. Washington rolled from there.
"The big play was the interception," O. J. Simpson agreed. "It seemed to change the momentum of the whole game. We had our opportunities but we did not take advantage of them."
Simpson, who was held to 46 yards on 15 carries, praised the work of resurrected Redskin quarterback Billy Kilmer, whose offense scored the most points of any team against the 49ers this woeful season.
"Kilmer is like a quarterback on a pitcher's mound," said Simpson.
"Taking advantage of the little things. But that's what an experienced player will do."
"His passing really suprised me," said linebacker Bruce Elia. "His timing was exceptionally good for a man who has not been playing. Let's face it. Billy Kilmer's a very smart quarterback. He doesn't look like Bert Kilmer's a very smart quarterback. He doesn't look like Bert Jones. But the looks like Billy Kilmer.
"He passed the . . . ball all over the place."
Elia was involved in one of the 49ers' typically youthful mistakes. The 49ers, who were supposed to punt, mixed up their signals; and the ball was snapped to Elia, the blocking back, who was hit by Garard Williams as he tried to pitch to punter Mike Connell. But the ball went behind Connell, so Elia was charged with a fumble, and the Redskins recovered. They scored two plays later.
"I'll be honest with you," said Elia. "Nobody knows what was supposed to happen on that play. I have no comment on the whole thing."
Forty-Niner Coach Pete McCulley, a former Redskin assistant, said he was 'feeling anywhere from terrible to worse.
"Today, we were off to a good start, which is different, and we blew a 10-0 lead."
DeBerg said he is "just trying to learn as quickly as I can. I have so much to learn, and we have rookie guards, a rookie tight end, a rookie wide reeiver and our left tackle has been shifted four times.
"I think the young guys are optimistic but I know its hard on O.J. He's got a lot of pride. I really hope people aren't judging him by the team's failure."
"San Francisco's turnovers have haunted them all year long," said Washington Coach Jack Pardee. "We just kept enough pressure on them for it to happen again."
McCulley added: "We gave them good field position and they wee able to take advantage of it. Today's score wasn't indicative of the differences in these two teams.
"We did not take advantage of the opportunities and we let the ball drop."