Washington Redskins at San Francisco 49ers
When: Today, 8:20 p.m., 3Com Park. Line: Redskins by 7.
TV/Radio: WJLA-7, ESPN; WJFK-FM-106.7, WBQB-FM-101.5, WPLC-FM-94.3,WKIK-FM-102.9, WAGE-1200, WNAV-1430, WFMD-930.
THE REDSKINS' KEYS TO VICTORY
1.Run the Ball.
The 49ers' Achilles' heel is their pass defense, which is ranked 28th in the NFL. But the Redskins' passing offense is most effective when balanced by a reliable running game. With Stephen Davis (1,405 yards rushing) questionable because of a sprained ankle, Skip Hicks and Brian Mitchell likely need to get in gear.
2.Pressure QB Jeff Garcia.
The potentially explosive aspect of the 49ers' offense is the passing game, with big-play WRs Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens. But Garcia can be rattled. He has thrown eight TD passes and 10 interceptions, for a 72.6 rating.
3.Play With Emotion.
The Redskins' most formidable foe may be overconfidence, given the Niners' 4-10 record. Washington has played poorly against some weak opponents this season, then rebounded to give tougher opponents a fight. Today is not a day for a letdown.
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
The offensive line expects to have G Keith Sims back, which should bolster the protection of QB Brad Johnson. RB Stephen Davis (sprained ankle) is questionable, but it will be critical to establish the running game nonetheless, with Skip Hicks carrying the load and Brian Mitchell stepping in. Given the 49ers' erratic play in the defensive backfield, it should be a big day for WRs Albert Connell and Michael Westbrook. The pair was held to five catches in last week's loss to the Colts, but Johnson should have more time to find them tonight.
Redskins RG Tre Johnson vs. 49ers LDT Bryant Young
Two 1999 Pro Bowl selections face off. The 6-foot-2, 276-pound Young has made a heroic return from a devastating leg injury that ended his 1998 season. He has a team-high nine sacks. But the 6-2, 326-pound Johnson has been a key factor in RB Stephen Davis's NFL-leading 1,405 yards rushing.
WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL
San Francisco had a devastating loss in Game 3, when QB Steve Young suffered another in a series of concussions. Jeff Garcia has had eight starts since, winning just two. WRs Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens have been reliable targets. At 187 pounds, RB Charlie Garner is nearly 50 pounds lighter than Davis or Hicks. But he's averaging 5 yards per carry and is the team's third-leading receiver, with 53 catches. The 3Com Park crowd will be a factor, too, for what could be Rice's home finale.
49ers WRs Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens vs. Redskins CBs Darrell Green and Champ Bailey
Green and Bailey struggled last week against the Colts' Marvin Harrison, who caught nine passes for 117 yards. Rice and Owens can be just as tough. QB Jeff Garcia threw for 303 yards, including a 48-yard strike to Rice, in last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The Redskins' unit accounted for some dramatic plays last week against the Colts -- from allowing a blocked field goal to recovering an onside kick that gave Washington one last chance for the win. James Thrash fumbled a kickoff return, but redeemed himself by seizing the onside kick. P Matt Turk is netting 35.4 yards per kick.