Flat on offense, 'Skins are run over by 49ers

20-10 defeat leads Spurrier to consider Ramsey for start

September 23, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO - The Washington Redskins' quest for answers yielded only more questions.

After a shortened week during which many Washington players agreed that they had put their 30-point drubbing to the Philadelphia Eagles behind them, the Redskins forged another clunker in falling, 20-10, to the San Francisco 49ers yesterday in front of 67,541 at Candlestick Park.

The offense was so sluggish that coach Steve Spurrier said he and the rest of the coaching staff would use the bye week to see whether first-round draft pick Patrick Ramsey is ready to make his first NFL start at quarterback.

"We'll coach Patrick up, and if we think he can play as well as the other guys, he'll go in there," Spurrier said.

The defense continued to have problems, too. After getting blitzed by Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb for 292 yards through the air, Washington turned the other cheek for the 49ers, who gained 252 yards on the ground.

The amount - the most San Francisco had compiled since picking up 261 against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 24, 2000 - alarmed Spurrier, who couldn't pinpoint one specific problem area for his club.

"That's a concern," he said of his team's generous rushing defense. "Everything is a concern for the Redskins right now."

The No. 1 priority may be trying to find the Washington offense that gained 442 yards of total offense in a 31-23, season-opening victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Yesterday, the Redskins picked up just 217.

Quarterback Shane Matthews continued to struggle, completing 17 of 28 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. He was only three of 11 for 19 yards in the third quarter, when Washington moved only 31 yards.

That prompted Spurrier to send in Danny Wuerffel at the 11:50 mark of the fourth quarter. Wuerffel, who threw for three touchdowns in a 38-7 preseason rout of San Francisco on Aug. 3 in Osaka, Japan, completed only one pass in two attempts for 14 yards and an interception.

Matthews seemed inclined to believe that his days as the starting quarterback are numbered.

"I tried everything I could to help my team win," he said. "Patrick is their future. I will be supportive about whatever their decision is."

Stephen Davis gained only 59 yards on 13 carries, and the Redskins' embattled offensive line continued to draw attention by allowing three sacks against a 49ers pass rush that seemed to be in the backfield on nearly every passing situation.

The defensive performance was nearly as dismal, as Washington registered just two sacks and lodged one turnover - an interception by cornerback Champ Bailey in the third quarter - against a San Francisco offense that didn't remind anyone of the unit that ranked No. 3 in the league last season.

"We're not where we wanted to be," Bailey said. "We've got to find out what the problem is. I don't know if it's one particular person. I think it's just the whole team."

Washington failed to take advantage of a 49ers squad that had 17 players and three coaches - including head coach Steve Mariucci - come down with a stomach virus Saturday night.

Garcia completed only 10 of 19 passes for 84 yards and threw an interception before he was replaced late in the third quarter by Tim Rattay.

"One-third of the team was feeling like they should be in bed," said Mariucci, whose club compiled 366 yards of total offense without a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver. "Our ground game was superb today. We stayed on the ground because of the fact that Jeff wasn't feeling so good, and it was successful for us."

The Redskins, who committed four turnovers in their first two games, had three yesterday, and the first one proved costly.

On their first possession and second play of the game, Davis lost the football after getting hit by linebacker Julian Peterson, and strong safety Tony Parrish recovered at Washington's 14.

Two plays later, running back Kevan Barlow rumbled 7 yards through the left side to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead.

The Redskins came back with a field goal but punted on their next possession, giving San Francisco the ball at Washington's 38.

On first down, wide receiver Terrell Owens ran into the backfield from the left side to take a handoff from Garcia and cocked his arm back to pass.

Unable to find an open player, Owens slipped out of the grasp of linebacker LaVar Arrington and defensive end Renaldo Wynn, cut across the field from the right to the left sideline, and used a tremendous block from Garcia on strong safety Sam Shade at the 5 to walk into the end zone for a 14-3 San Francisco advantage.

Washington scored on its next possession on a 19-yard pass from Matthews to tight end Zeron Flemister, but San Francisco closed the first-half scoring with a 33-yard field goal by Jose Cortez for a seven-point lead. Cortez scored the only points of the second half on a 35-yard kick.

Redskins linebacker Jessie Armstead said the bye week will be useful.

"It comes at the right time," he said. "It's a time to come together - the coaches and everybody - and see what the problem is and try to solve it."

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