From the time Carl Monroe took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, the San Francisco 49ers were in control.
And big plays continued to cost the Washington Redskins, who have not been able to rally from behind often in recent years. After yesterday's 35-8 loss, they are 28-2 when they have scored first, 5-13 when they haven't.
Although the Redskins had more total offense (398 yards to 224) and first downs (21 to 15), and longer time of possession (34:14 to 25:16), the 49ers' opportunistic play, including the forcing of five turnovers, told the real story.
"These are both very good football teams," said the 49ers' coach, Bill Walsh. "We just got the majority of the breaks and it made for a lopsided football game."
The Redskins seemed to be building momentum after tackle Dean Hamel pressured the 49ers' Joe Montana into intentionally grounding a pass from his end zone; the safety cut the 49ers' lead to 7-5. But three plays after San Francisco's free kick, Dwight Hicks intercepted Jay Schroeder's pass and gave the 49ers a first down at Washington's 42.
A 39-yard pass from Montana to Freddie Solomon set up Wendell Tyler's one-yard touchdown with 7:19 to go in the half. Then blitzing safety Jeff Fuller sacked Schroeder to cause a fumble that linebacker Keena Turner returned 65 yards for a touchdown.
"Jeff made a great play and I saw the ball coming down toward me," said Turner. "I didn't think about falling on it. I just tried to pick it up and get going. The only thing I saw in front of me was the goal line, but I didn't know if I could make it that far. I only knew I could after I got there."
Trailing by 21-5, the Redskins had to abandon their time-consuming running game.
By the time the fourth period started, the 49ers led, 28-8. They did not figure to fall apart: they have won an NFL-best 23 straight games when taking a lead into that quarter.
Early in the second half, the 49ers, who have not allowed a touchdown in 14 consecutive quarters, set up Tyler's four-yard touchdown run when nose tackle Michael Carter jarred the ball from Schroeder and Jeff Stover recovered.
Schroeder finished with Washington season highs in several passing categories, but linebacker Riki Ellison, who recovered Art Monk's fumble on the first play of the second half, said the 49ers accomplished all of their defensive goals.
"The No. 1 thing we had to do was shut down their running game," he said. "We did that and then we went after Schroeder and disguised a lot of coverages. He could throw short passes all day if he wanted to; all it was going to do was use up their time. I think we did a better job on him than even we expected."
Despite a succession of heart-wrenching plays, the Redskins never fell apart, Turner said. But the 49ers grew more confident, he said.
"I don't think Washington is the type of team you can scare," he said, "but our defense is getting better and better and making big plays. It is an attitude. I don't know what Carl Monroe's touchdown did to them, but I know it sure had a big impact on me."