The Redskins came out of the gate with some fresh blood in the offensive lineup, and new starter Roy Helu was the focus in the opening quarter. The rookie rushed seven times for 29 yards, the only running back to carry the ball in the first, but he also dropped a pass on third down to kill a drive. Another Redskins possession ended when John Beck, who had appeared to be in something resembling a rhythm with completions to Leonard Hankerson and Darrel Young, made an ill-advised throw toward Fred Davis and saw it picked off as safety Dashon Goldson jumped the route. The good news for the home team was that the Redskins’ special teams and defense kept the 49ers in check. Ted Ginn was bottled up quickly on his return attempts, while Ryan Kerrigan led the way on defense — with a pressure on Alex Smith that forced an incompletion and stuff of Frank Gore in the backfield for a 4-yard loss.
The good news: Washington’s scoreless streak finally ended at 95 minutes, 2 seconds with Graham Gano’s franchise-record 59-yard field goal to end the half. The bad news: pretty much everything else. Of particular concern was the sequence late in the half that saw the Redskins go from a 3-0 deficit at the two-minute warning to a 13-0 hole 57 seconds later. Helu played the key role in the turnaround, coughing up the ball with 1:09 to play on a Patrick Willis strip. Smith then hit Bruce Miller for a 30-yard score on the first play after the turnover, with the fullback running unchecked by Rocky McIntosh for an easy score. Safety Reed Dougherty, meanwhile, could only look on from the defensive backfield; earlier in the quarter, his missed tackle of Gore at the line of scrimmage led to a 27-yard gain. Add in a drive-killing personal foul by Trent Williams earlier in the period and the news was not good for the Redskins.
Washington at least kept the 49ers off the board on the opening drive of the half, but the Redskins’ first play from scrimmage after the halftime pep talk saw fill-in tackle Sean Locklear beaten and Beck sacked as he held onto the ball for too long. Here they go again. Near the end of the quarter, the Redskins caught a break. Beck tried to go over the middle on third -and-3, but his pass was tipped at the line and plucked from the air by Helu, who picked up 17 yards for Washington’s longest gain of the game. The next play saw Ryan Torain stuffed for a 4-yard loss, with 15 more yards subtracted on an illegal crackback block by Terrence Austin. As was the case all game, even the faintest hint of positive momentum was always followed with some serious backpedaling. For most teams, a 13-point margin heading into the fourth wouldn’t be a huge issue. For the Redskins, forget about it.
On paper, the Redskins made a game of it in the final minutes. But don’t let the final margin fool you. San Francisco went to the prevent defense halfway through the final period, allowing Beck to spit-shine his final stat line as heled Washington down the field with minimal resistance. That drive ended with the Redskins’ first touchdown in eight quarters, with Beck hitting Jabar Gaffney in the end zone, but when they failed to recover the onside kick the 49ers ran out the clock. Washington, obviously, is a mess, and it’s not going to get better anytime soon. Beck’s playbook has been trimmed to handoffs and dumpoffs — darn near all of them, on this day, going
to Helu — and his attempts to go downfield generally show why the Shanahans believe that’s a good idea. The defense, at least, can hold its own, but that’s not going to be enough to salvage this season with eight games still to play.
Down 6-0 late in the second quarter, the Redskins faced a second and 12 thanks in part to Trent Williams‘ latest penalty (a false start) when John Beck dumped the ball to Roy Helu out of the backfield. As the rookie fought to set up a third-and-short, Patrick Willis stripped the ball from him and it fell to Donte Whitner to set the 49ers up at the Washington 30 with 1:09 remaining in the half. On the next play, Alex Smith hit Bruce Miller for San Francisco’s lone TD of the day.
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Marc Lancaster has covered Major League Baseball for the Tampa Tribune and the Cincinnati Post and served as an editor at FanHouse.com and SportsIllustrated.com. A University of Georgia graduate, he began his career as a sportswriter at the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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