Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said he watched Chicago's 16-6 victory over New Orleans "not knowing who to root for." All that rode on the game was whether the Redskins would play the New York Giants or San Francisco 49ers next weekend, and last night Gibbs said the difference was a small one.

A New Orleans victory would have meant a shorter trip and a more familiar opponent -- the Giants, who've beaten the Redskins six in a row and nine of 10.

Was that better than a trip to Candlestick Park? That's what Chicago's victory brought the Redskins, a long plane ride to San Francisco to play the defending champions at 4 p.m. EST Saturday in the second round of the NFC playoffs.

The Redskins advanced by defeating Philadelphia, 20-6, at Veterans Stadium on Saturday, and after Gibbs celebrated with his family yesterday, he and his coaches met at Redskin Park at night to start preparing for the 49ers.

"Like I said, I didn't like either one of those options," Gibbs said. "But we'll have to tee it up and do the best we can. We didn't do real well last time . . . "

He said watching the Bears and Saints "was the first time in a long time I've sat there and watched a game and really didn't know what I wanted. I just waited it out and got in here to go to work."

The Redskins have been to Candlestick Park once this season, losing, 26-13, to the 49ers in Week 2. Joe Montana passed for 390 yards that September day -- the fifth-best total of his marvelous career -- and John Taylor and Jerry Rice caught 14 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. But the Redskins gained 328 yards themselves despite what Mark Rypien called "a real bad day for me. There were people open."

Rypien completed 17 of 37 for 241 yards and a touchdown, but missed some open receivers and had some throws dropped. Still, the Redskins should have made it closer.

They trailed 20-10 at halftime and opened the third quarter by driving to the 15, where Charles Haley blocked Chip Lohmiller's 33-yard field goal try -- the only block of Lohmiller's career.

On their next possession, they drove to the San Francisco 1 but had to settle for a field goal after Ronnie Lott and Matt Millen dumped Rypien for a two-yard loss on third down.

The 49ers finished the season 14-2, second in the NFL in total offense and third in total defense. Overall, they've won 38 of their last 43 games and are trying to become the first team to win three straight Super Bowls.

"We don't really know them," Gibbs said. "We know the basics, but it has been a long time and lots of things change. I think our personality has changed, and theirs probably has too. We know generally what we're going to see, but there'll be a lot to get ready for because they do a lot."

Asked if perhaps the odds shouldn't be on the Redskins' side since the 49ers must lose sometime, Gibbs smiled.

"They've been so good you can't rely on that," he said. "You just know you're going in as the underdog and you take your shot. Let it all hang out. They've got a great, great offense that everyone knows about, and their defense is really good, quick and good. We had some yards, but we didn't get many points.

"I don't know if anyone else has ever gone on a streak like that. This league is geared to parity and they've kept winning. They've done a great job. They keep defying the odds."

The lone consolation for the Redskins -- and it's a small one -- is that the 49ers' last four losses have come at Candlestick Park. They've won 19 in a row on the road.

Forty-Niners Coach George Seifert watched the Redskins eliminate the Eagles and said: "That's another example of the Redskins' ability to do well in the playoffs. They showed great tenacity on defense, and the ability to move the ball. Their staff has done a good job over the years in preparing the team, and it was evident in that game."

But the 49ers are on such a roll that even they think something odd would have to happen for them to lose.

"I don't know if it matters who we play," defensive end Kevin Fagan said. "If we play the type football we can, I don't see any team in the thing beating us. I know we're capable of beating ourselves. If we come out flat like we have the last two weeks, we're capable of losing."

The Redskins have several things going, including a defense that has allowed one touchdown or less in four of its last six games. That defense stuffed the Eagles, sacking Randall Cunningham five times and forcing three turnovers.

The Redskins entered that game saying that controlling Cunningham and protecting Rypien were the keys. They did both. Cunningham didn't hurt them and the Eagles touched Rypien only a couple of times -- and didn't get a sack.

"We came into this game and we knew all of America was watching," cornerback Darrell Green said. "One thing you get in a game like this is an attitude like, 'I'm not going to be the one to make a big mistake.' I don't know if it keeps your concentration up the entire game or what, but it's definitely a factor. Maybe it's just me, I'm not sure."

Rypien had a solid day, playing and winning his first playoff game. He faced up to one of the game's best blitzes, hanging in the pocket and consistently finding Earnest Byner, whom the Eagles left uncovered in the flat while worrying more about rattling Rypien.

"Obviously, we played with a lot of emotion because of some things that were said about us this week," he said. "We wanted this one badly. But we didn't want emotion so high that we'd lose the context of what we were trying to do."

Byner added: "We felt we had something to prove. The Eagles felt pretty good about themselves after that Monday night game {Nov. 12}. That probably was the turning point for our season. We just had to look at ourselves and say, 'Are we going to take this, or are we going to make something of this season?' One thing we decided is to run the ball no matter what. That establishes a physical tone for games and guys feel good about it. It was a pride thing."