'Skins are hoping to positively erase negative memories

Team gearing for 49ers, intent on rebounding from thrashing against Eagles

NFL Week 3

September 22, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO - The San Francisco 49ers are about to meet the league's latest Jekyll and Hyde operation, the Washington Redskins.

Will it be the same Washington team that racked up 442 yards of total offense against the Arizona Cardinals in the first week and boasted a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher, and 100-yard receiver in the same game for the first time since 1999?

Or will San Francisco see the Redskins unit that could muster only 179 yards Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, who didn't give up an offensive touchdown and knocked out quarterback Shane Matthews?

Coach Steve Mariucci of the 49ers isn't entirely sure, but he has an inkling that he won't see Monday's version when Washington visits San Francisco at 4:15 p.m. today.

"I think Washington's a fine team," Mariucci said during a conference call last week. "They're well-coached, and I think they have a lot of talent. They have experience, leadership and speed. I just think Monday night's game got away from them a little bit."

San Francisco (1-1) had a close-up view of what the Redskins can do when it was pummeled by Washington, 38-7, in a preseason game in Osaka, Japan, on Aug. 3.

But if Washington (1-1) wants to entertain thoughts of another big offensive performance, the team's Fun 'N' Gun offense must reload in almost every facet of the game.

Coach Steve Spurrier didn't pull any punches after Monday's debacle, blaming the quarterbacks, wide receivers, offensive line and even himself for failing to march past Philadelphia's 35-yard line in 11 possessions.

Matthews, who was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opening 31-23 victory over Arizona, wasn't nearly as sharp against the Eagles.

Several of his passes were off the mark, and Spurrier acknowledged that he pulled Matthews - who injured his left shoulder when Philadelphia safety Brain Dawkins drove him into the ground on a blitz - at halftime to shake up the offense and create a spark.

But backup Danny Wuerffel was sacked four times and threw an interception, forcing Spurrier to work with first-round draft pick Patrick Ramsey during and after practice last week.

"We're going to have interceptions," said Matthews, who is expected to start today. "That's going to happen, and you've got to keep firing. We're going to throw it down there. We're going to take chances. We're not going to stop."

Wide receiver Rod Gardner has been Matthews' favorite target and Derrius Thompson is the other starter, but Spurrier said Thursday that Jacquez Green would get more playing time.

The offensive line has been a question mark, and reserve lineman Kipp Vickers could be inactive for the second consecutive week with cartilage damage in his knee.

Right tackle Jon Jansen said the line must do a better job of protecting the quarterback - whether it's Matthews, Wuerffel or Ramsey.

"We didn't give him the time he needed, and it doesn't matter to me if they called the perfect coverage," Jansen said. "We've got to give the quarterback time to do what he needs to do."

After gaining 104 yards against the Cardinals, running back Stephen Davis gained only 53 on 12 carries against Philadelphia. He will get a chance to improve those numbers against a 49ers defense that is ranked 15th overall and is tied for 20th against the run.

Despite the head-shaking and lip-vibrating that viewers saw Monday night, Spurrier isn't hysterical just yet. His Florida Gators team opened the 1992 season 1-2, then rebounded and played eventual national champion Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game.

"We're 1-1," Spurrier said. "We're not in panic mode yet. But the way we played the other night, yeah, we'll be in panic mode. We better play better than that."

Today's game

Washington (1-1) at San Francisco (1-1)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 5/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM).

Line: 49ers by 9.

Key stat: Washington's offense is ranked No. 19 in the NFL. San Francisco's is No. 28.

Worth watching: Tight end Eric Johnson leads the 49ers with 10 catches. Stephen Davis leads the Redskins with 13, but has only 5.3 yards per reception.

Outlook: Redskins coach Steve Spurrier has been in the NFL less than a year and already has enemies. San Francisco believes he ran up the score in a preseason game, giving the 49ers a reason to be angry.

- Chicago Tribune

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