SAN FRANCISCO, JAN. 12 -- The Washington Redskins were getting back in the game after having all but been blown away in the first half. Trailing by 21-10, they'd driven from their 27-yard line to the San Francisco 7.

On first down, Larry Roberts dumped Gerald Riggs in the backfield for a loss of two. On second down, Riggs gained those two back.

Then on third and goal from the 7, Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien looked for wide receiver Art Monk in the left corner of the end zone. The ball was underthrown and safety Johnny Jackson stepped in front of Monk and intercepted it.

Jackson had made the biggest play on a day the Redskins would three times drive inside the San Francisco 20 in the second half but not score. But this was the biggest because it came with 6:47 left in the third quarter.

The Redskins seemingly had figured out how to defense Joe Montana by going to a scheme similar to the one they used against Randall Cunningham last week. Their front four and five put constant pressure on Montana, but in the first half, they'd flushed him out and let him throw the ball on the run.

In the second, they kept him in the pocket, sacked him twice and kept the 49ers from scoring on offense.

"I was in a curl zone," Jackson said. "Washington was trying to go with a sprint-out pass and I just happened to read the play. I went to the corner, caught up with Monk and the ball was right there for me."

Rypien threw three interceptions, but this was the unpardonable one. The other two were both flukish. He'd been leveled once while throwing and Charles Haley tipped the last one into Michael Carter's hands. This was the backbreaker, the one the Redskins would remember.

"That was a bad play on my part," Rypien said. "I know I've got to throw that ball deep. I've got to get that ball in the back of the end zone. On that route, Art is either going to make the catch at the back of the end zone, or it's going to be out of bounds."

The Redskins flew home tonight with several other flash points. On the next possession, Rypien was hit as he threw and Darryl Pollard intercepted. On the next one, cornerback Eric Davis knocked Gary Clark down in the end zone while the ball was in the air. No flag was thrown, although Clark and others complained bitterly.

"We had enough opportunities and didn't capitalize," wide receiver Ricky Sanders said. "The refs just weren't calling them. But you're going to lose anyway if you don't punch it in when you're inside the 20. Their defense was outstanding in the red zone."

Rypien refused to alibi for any part of his day. He'd taken medication for a sprained ankle all week and played the week only after having a pain-killing injection. Coach Joe Gibbs saluted him for his toughness but couldn't compliment him for much else.

"It's unfortunate it turned out like this," Rypien said. "The score isn't indicative of how close the game was. I thought we gave it our best shot, but we didn't get it done. When you're inside the 20, you've got to be precise and I'd like to have some passes back."