Redskins-49ers playoff a showcase of NFL pride

January 04, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

When coach Joe Gibbs agreed to take the Washington Redskins to London last summer after opposing the trip for several years, the NFL wanted to match them against one team: the San Francisco 49ers.

The NFL was so intent on matching the winners of seven of the past 11 Super Bowls overseas that they overcame a problem: the two teams weren't scheduled to play each other during the preseason.

They took the two teams they were scheduled to play the weekend of Aug. 16 -- the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos -- and shipped them to Berlin to clear the decks for the Redskins-49ers game in London.

The teams put on an entertaining show with the 49ers winning, 17-15, on Mike Cofer's 48-yard field goal on the final play.

Now the NFL has a better showcase for the Redskins-49ers: the second round of the playoffs at Candlestick Park on Saturday. The Redskins set it up by upsetting the Minnesota Vikings, 24-7, Saturday in the first round in Minneapolis.

The 49ers will be heavily favored. They're at home, they finished 14-2 and they've beaten the Redskins five of the past six meetings. The Redskins, meanwhile, were 9-7 in the regular season and lost their last two and four of their last seven.

Don't tell any of that to wide receiver Gary Clark, even though he's expecting to hear it.

After the Redskins beat the Vikings, he was complaining about all of the talk about how the Redskins backed into the playoffs. Then he looked ahead to the 49ers game.

"Now we've won the first round, and we've got to go to [play] a great San Francisco football team, [and] everybody is going to pick us to lose again. That's fine. Everybody is going to say we snuck by this one [against the Vikings]. That's fine. We'll enjoy reading it again and seeing it again on television. But the Redskins are going to play as hard as they can, and you never know. We think we're a pretty good football team, and if we play hard like we did [against the Vikings], we'll give San Francisco a run for their money.

They've got great quarterbacks, and they've got great depth, [but] we're the Washington Redskins, and it's our title to defend."

Clark added that the team wants to repeat so it'll have a chance to threepeat in 1993.

Clark was wrong about one thing. Nobody will suggest they snuck by the Vikings. They thrashed them in every phase of the game.

But it will be noted that the Vikings' quarterback was Sean fTC Salisbury, who was starting his fifth NFL game. Salisbury also didn't have much of a wide receiving corps.

The 49ers have the league's MVP, Steve Young, at quarterback. They also have Jerry Rice and John Taylor at wide receiver. Then there's their backup quarterback. No. 16. The one and only, Joe Montana.

This will be the Redskins' first chance to face Young, but they're just as happy to have Montana on the bench. He's 6-2 against them. One defeat of the 49ers by a 14-6 margin came when he returned from back surgery in 1986. In the other one, the 1983 NFC title game, the Redskins won, 24-21.

As far as "repeating" goes, the only thing the Redskins have done so far is "repeat" the 1990 playoffs. They were a wild-card team that year and won their first game on the road at Philadelphia, 20-6. They then went to San Francisco and lost, 28-10. They've never won two straight road playoff games.

But the Redskins have a few things going for them. There's Gibbs' 16-4 playoff mark, his 16-3 record in January and his knack for always coming up with a motivational tool. The night before the Vikings game, it was the showing of a memorable scene in the movie, "Patton."

When the Redskins return to practice today, the first order will be to check on cornerback Darrell Green. He didn't make the trip to Minneapolis because of his bruised heel. They'll need him to guard Rice.

Rice and the 49ers aren't going to underestimate the Redskins.

"No one is really expecting Washington to go all the way, so there's no pressure on them," Rice said. "That's the type of team you've got to watch out for because they can slip in the back door. These guys really know what it takes to get the job done."

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