For history to repeat -- and not "three-peat" -- itself, the key for the Redskins in Saturday's divisional playoff game against San Francisco is threefold: mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. Don't make any, and force the 49ers into plenty. Then pray for rain.

Winners of two straight Super Bowls, the 49ers have lost three games among their last 28 regular season contests. The elements in those defeats -- all at Candlestick Park -- involved one or more of the following: costly turnovers, careless penalties, mysterious injuries and nasty weather.

Dec. 23, 1990: New Orleans 13, 49ers 10. Quarterback Joe Montana was sidelined with a "strained abdominal muscle." Running back Roger Craig and safety Ronnie Lott also were absent as the 49ers lost four fumbles -- the last with 47 seconds left to thwart a possible game-winning drive.

Nov. 25, 1990: Los Angeles Rams 28, 49ers 17. San Francisco's 18-game winning streak was broken a week before the titanic clash with the once-beaten New York Giants. The 49ers committed six turnovers in a rainstorm. Montana threw three interceptions.

Nov. 19, 1989: Green Bay 21, 49ers 17: San Francisco finished with a season-high nine penalties. An offside infraction on defensive end Daniel Stubbs negated a 96-yard interception return by Chet Brooks. The Packers recovered three fumbles in first half.

Mistake-free football involves consistency and patience, says Rams offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese, whose team has knocked off the 49ers at Candlestick in each of the last three seasons.

"I think the Redskins have the best chance of all, because they match up well and have the ability to score," Zampese said.

Despite the spectacular receiving numbers posted by the "Posse," Zampese insists the Redskins cannot rely on the big play to wide receivers Art Monk, Gary Clark or Ricky Sanders to stun the 49ers. In the Rams' 1990 victory, the hard-driving Cleveland Gary pounded out three touchdowns on the ground; fleet wideouts Henry Ellard and Willie "Flipper" Anderson were conspicuous by their silence.

"You have to make successful plays in succession," Zampese said. "Plus, if you keep the ball on the ground with {Earnest} Byner, it keeps their offense off the field. Our game-winning drive that day {90 yards in 17 plays that lasted 10:37} prevented them from getting another shot."

From a defensive standpoint, taking away the 49ers' primary weapon -- the passing game -- was paramount in the Saints' December victory, even though Montana was out of action.

"You have to disrupt their timing through a good pass rush and collisions with their wideouts," said Vic Fangio, Saints outside linebackers coach. "You can't give up the big play to {Jerry} Rice or {John} Taylor, or to anybody for that matter. Good tackling is of the utmost importance, so they don't break short gains into long ones."

The Packers, however, could not repeat their 1989 success against San Francisco this season, falling Nov. 4 in Green Bay. Coach Lindy Infante said the reason for this year's defeat was simple: "We didn't score as many points as them this year.

"Things happen that you can't predict," Infante added. "One team makes one too many mistakes, the other team doesn't. In general terms, {the Redskins and 49ers} are just two very good football teams."