Linebacker Rich Milot reviewed the damage of the last three games: 57 points for his Washington Redskins, 110 for the other guys. His conclusion: "Long balls and bombs."
The 49ers had just thrown their way to a 27-0 lead, before holding on to win, 37-31.
The last time these teams met was in the National Football Conference championship game in January. The Redskins took a 21-0 lead and won, 24-21. Then came a 38-9 beating at the hands of the Los Angeles Raiders. Then a 35-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins last week in the season opener. Then tonight's Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde routine, with 49ers quarterback Joe Montana completing 24 of 40 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns.
All three games, all Redskins losses, featured "long balls and bombs" against the team that has visited two straight Super Bowls.
"If I can pinpoint one thing that has been missing from this team the last 2 1/2 games, it's emotion," Milot said. "This is not a team that can get the big head. So that's not a problem. It's just that we haven't been an emotional team since the first half of that 49er game last year. That's why I think tonight's second half could be a positive sign for us."
It was as positive for the Redskins as the first half was negative. The 49ers' offensive line spent the first half pushing Redskins across the field. Montana had so much time to throw that the 59,707 spectators could study the full moon, then watch Montana complete another pass.
"All I know is, they sure did hold a lot," said Redskin defensive end Charles Mann, who spent most of his time across from offensive tackle Keith Fahnhorst. "When I came in at halftime, I had a whole lot of dirt prints on my chest. But they did the same thing last year."
Last year, however, the 49ers were awful in the first half when the Redskins were great.
Defensive linemen Darryl Grant and Dexter Manley had something to do with the 49ers' second-half troubles this time. In the third quarter, with the 49ers starting from their 44 and trying to add to their 27-10 lead, Grant rushed into the backfield and smacked Montana to the ground. Wendell Tyler fumbled on the next play, with Grant recovering, and the Redskins were making it 27-17 during the next four minutes.
Manley joined the act in the fourth quarter, rushing around offensive tackle Bubba Paris to sack Montana on third and nine at the Washington 21. The 49ers were forced to settle for a 38-yard field goal, making it 37-24.
Still, the Redskins couldn't overcome their first-half trouble.
"I don't even know how to explain what happened between the two halves," Grant said. "We knew we had to do something to swing the momentum in our direction, because we were getting embarrassed out there. It was ridiculous."
Coach Joe Gibbs said that at halftime, "I didn't have to say anything, because everybody knew what kind of hole we were in. The second half has been our spark lately. Maybe we found something (tonight) that can help us the rest of the way."