As rainy days and Sundays go, the Washington Redskins just spent a miserable one yesterday at RFK Stadium.
Spinning their wheels in the mud, the Redskins gained 398 yards and scored no touchdowns in losing to the San Francisco 49ers, 35-8. Their record dropped to 7-6, their playoff chances fading with just three games left in the season.
"It's bleak," linebacker Rich Milot said of the Redskins' chance of reaching the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
"It stinks," said free safety Curtis Jordan.
How quickly the bubble burst for second-year quarterback Jay Schroeder.
He threw two interceptions and fumbled twice, three of those turnovers leading to 49ers touchdowns. He did throw 58 passes, breaking Sonny Jurgensen's team record of 50, and completed 30 for 348 yards, all season highs.
But those numbers are more a sign of futility than achievement; the Redskins were behind, 7-0, in the first 20 seconds, 21-8 at halftime, and 35-8 with more than eight minutes to go.
"That's a record you don't want to set," Schroeder said. "It means you're paddling from behind."
It was the worst defeat at home for the Redskins since a 38-7 loss to the then-Baltimore Colts on Oct. 17, 1965.
Is it surprising that as a cold, clinging mist rolled in, vast bunches of the 51,321 spectators rolled out?
"It's gonna take me a while to get over this," said Coach Joe Gibbs.
With three weeks remaining in the season, the playoff picture doesn't look good for the Redskins.
Chicago (12-0), Los Angeles (9-4), Dallas (9-4), New York (8-5) and San Francisco (8-5) are ahead of Washington, which went into yesterday's game still hoping for one of the two NFC wild-card berths. The three division winners automatically make the playoffs.
The bad news for the Redskins is that they don't play any of the teams ahead of them anymore this season. The Redskins are tied with Detroit and will have to rely on other teams losing now to work past Christmas.
The Redskins play at Philadelphia (6-7), home against Cincinnati (6-7), and at St. Louis (4-9) in the final three weeks. Even if they win all three, their playoff chances are not good because they would lose tie-breakers to the Cowboys, Giants and 49ers.
"We get in a tie-breaker, we're dead in the water," Jordan said.
The Redskins lost because they gave up the football and big plays, because they couldn't score when they got close to the end zone, and because, for the third week in a row, the running game ground to a curious halt.
Washington's defense wasn't at fault, holding quarterback Joe Montana to 11 completions in 22 attempts for just 119 yards, and allowing only 107 yards on the ground.
But John Riggins gained just 39 yards on 10 carries and didn't play much in the second half due to the urgency of passing and a dizzy spell. "I kinda felt like I was on the moon," he said.
George Rogers never played. Gibbs said he thought Rogers was still affected by last week's concussion and sprained ankle. Rogers, however, said, "I felt like I could play."
So Keith Griffin again carried the load, gaining 48 yards in 11 attempts.
Isn't this getting old?
"Yeah, we've had too many of these days this season," said Milot. "We've had too many of these bad days."
The 49ers began this game the way the Redskins began their game last week: with a 95-yard kickoff return.
Carl Monroe slipped past Stuart Anderson, Kevin Williams, Mark McGrath, and, finally, kicker Steve Cox at midfield to score with 20 seconds gone in the game.
Gibbs said it is "very tough to bounce back" from such a jolt. He was right.
Measured in any way but points, the Redskins dominated the first half. They loaded up on plays (39, to the 49ers' 19), total yards (241 to 59), and possession time (22 1/2 minutes to 7 1/2).
But they couldn't score and trailed at halftime, 21-8.
Give the 49ers credit. Incredibly economical, they rode three plays to 21 points, while the Redskins frittered away scoring chances on missed field goals and near-miss drives.
The first big play was Monroe's return. The second happened midway through the second quarter. After Schroeder threw his first interception in 74 passes since he became the starter, Freddie Solomon caught a 39-yard pass from Joe Montana, finally being bounced down by cornerback Darrell Green at the Washington one.
On the next play, Wendell Tyler scored to give San Francisco its second touchdown with 7:19 to play in the half, and a 14-5 lead.
The third big play unfolded as the Redskins were back in familiar territory (San Francisco's) with a second down at the 23. Schroeder went back to pass and was blindsided by safety Jeff Fuller. Fuller had lined up on the far right of the 49ers line and was left to breeze into the Redskins' backfield when Keith Griffin ran past him.
Two mistakes were made on the play: Griffin leaving Fuller alone, and Schroeder not turning to see him.
"I'll make sure I do that right next time," Schroeder said.
Fuller's tackle caused Schroeder to fumble. Linebacker Keena Turner, fighting off a block from Don Warren, picked up the ball and ran 65 yards for a touchdown with 3:53 remaining. The 49ers led, 21-5.
As easy as it was for the 49ers, it was incredibly difficult for the Redskins.
"It's an emotional thing," Gibbs said. "We do the best we can do, go down the field and miss field goals, and they get big plays and touchdowns."
The way the Redskins got to five points was interesting. Mark Moseley, who missed field goals of 41 and 24 yards in the first half, kicked a 25-yarder with six minutes remaining in the first quarter that brought the Redskins to 7-3.
This field goal came after Roger Craig's fumble at the 49ers' 27. Craig, heading around left end, was grabbed around the knees by strong safety Raphel Cherry, then middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz came along and finished him off with a swift forearm that jarred the ball loose for Green to jump on.
Craig's fumble occurred moments after Moseley left his 41-yard attempt short.
Tory Nixon, the Redskins' top draft pick traded to the 49ers in September, originally was called with roughing the kicker on the play, but was exonerated when officials ruled Milot welcomed Nixon back to town by shoving him into Moseley.
"It was a good call," Milot said. "I was trying to block him and then let up, but not in time."
Early in the second quarter, after two more forays into 49ers territory netted no points when Moseley missed his second field goal and Cox punted at midfield, the 49ers were headed for disaster backed up deep.
On third and 20 (after a holding penalty), Montana took one look at tackle Dean Hamel, furiously approaching in the end zone, and threw the ball away.
Since his closest receiver was tackle Keith Fahnhorst, and since Fahnhorst isn't a receiver, Montana was called for intentional grounding from the end zone, which is a safety.
The 7-5 score was the closest the Redskins got, although Moseley did return (to boos on a fourth-and-goal decision at the five) to kick a 21-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half.
It never was a contest after two more Washington fumbles helped the 49ers to Tyler's four-yard run in the third quarter.
Finally, Russ Francis scored on an eight-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter to end it all.