- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 1999

SAN FRANCISCO The Washington Redskins are back in the playoffs and as the NFC East champions. Washington trailed San Francisco by 10 points as the fourth quarter began at 3Com Park, but rallied to tie the game and then beat the 49ers, 26-20, on Brad Johnson's 33-yard pass to fullback Larry Centers 2:00 into overtime.

After six seasons on the postseason sideline, the Redskins (9-6) had clinched a berth before kickoff last night because of losses by Green Bay and Carolina earlier in the day. The Redskins, as the NFC East champions, will play host to a playoff game at FedEx Field. If Washington finishes ahead of Tampa Bay and Minnesota, it will have a bye and the game will be on the weekend of Jan. 15-16. If the Redskins finish behind the Buccaneers or Vikings, the game will be played Jan. 8 or 9.

The Redskins tied the game on Brett Conway's 34-yard field goal and then Johnson's 1-yard dive. However the 49ers (4-11) seemed to be driving for the upset. Receiver Jerry Rice made a 9-yard catch, fullback Fred Beasley ran for 14, quarterback Jeff Garcia scrambled for six and then dashed for 25 on third-and-4 to the Washington 24. But two plays later, linebacker Shawn Barber knocked the ball from halfback Terry Jackson's grip and end Anthony Cook recovered.

Johnson, who broke Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh's team record with 471 passing yards, threw 10 yards to wideout Michael Westbrook for a first down. After two incompletions, third receiver Irving Fryar beat cornerback Darnell Walker for 27 yards to the San Francisco 41 with 46 seconds left. After two short passes to tight end Stephen Alexander, Johnson was sacked by Bryant Young on third-and-3 at the 34. Rather than try a 56-yard field goal or go for it, coach Norv Turner punted to force overtime.

The Redskins won the overtime coin toss and took the kickoff. Johnson passed to halfback Skip Hicks for 25 and then eight yards. Centers ran for 12 before the fullback got wide open on the right side and scooted into the end zone.

The 49ers led 13-7 at halftime thanks to Charlie Garner's 4-yard touchdown run and field goals of 25 and 29 yards by Wade Richey. The Redskins playing without injured NFL rushing leader Stephen Davis closed within 13-10 on their first possession of the second half thanks to Johnson's 47-yard bomb to wideout Albert Connell, an 11-yard toss to Hicks on the next play and Brett Conway's 42-yard field goal four plays after that.

However, Washington's defense faltered when it went back on the field. Ex-49er Mark McMillian was penalized for holding receiver J.J. Stokes on third down. Garner, who terrorized Washington when he played for Philadelphia, burst 40 yards before Darrell Green chased him down at the Redskins' 32. A pair of runs picked up the next first down and a 10-yard toss from Garcia to tight end Greg Clark gained the one after that. Another two runs made it third-and-3 at the 4. Garcia evaded passrusher Kenard Lang and hit Stokes in the back of the end zone with strong safety Leomont Evans covering. San Francisco led 20-10 with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter.

Westbrook caught three passes for 31 yards to propel Washington to the San Francisco 40, but the drive then headed backwards although Johnson broke Joe Theismann's 18-year team record with his 294th completion of the season. Safety Matt Stevens, subbing for Sam Shade who had strained a hamstring made his team-high sixth interception of the season two plays later and returned the ball 10 yards to the San Francisco 30. Johnson found fullback Larry Centers for 11 yards on the next play, but the Redskins settled for Conway's 34-yarder which drew them within 20-13 with 12:06 to go.

Johnson passed 29 yards to Connell to start Washington's next drive, but it ended when a third-down toss bounced off Connell's hands into those of 49ers cornerback Ramos McDonald at the San Francisco 43.

When the Redskins got the ball back Johnson went right back to Connell for 25 yards with 7:01 to play. An 11-yard completion to Westbrook put Washington on the San Francisco 31 and then Fryar made a diving catch at the 11. Johnson found Centers for 9. Hicks leaped for the first down at the 1 and from there Johnson took it over two plays later. The game was tied, 20-20, with 3:28 remaining.

San Francisco seemed to be going nowhere on its first series, but 37-year-old receiver Jerry Rice beat 39-year-old cornerback Darrell Green on a crossing route for 11 yards on third-and-10 at the 49ers' 20. Given the reprieve, the 49ers took off.

Charlie Garner, a Washington-killer while with Philadelphia, ran for 10. Rice beat Green for 13. On second-and-9, Rice got position on Green again and hauled in a 10-yard throw from Jeff Garcia. On the subsequent third-and-9 from the Washington 31, tight end Greg Clark beat strong safety Sam Shade for a 13-yard catch. Backup corner Tim Denton dragged Garner down by the facemask on the next play. San Francisco had first-and-goal at the 9. Garner then followed fullback Fred Beasley's 5-yard burst with a 4-yard touchdown up the middle to cap a 13-play, 80-yard march.

Washington picked up a pair of first downs when on a pair of short passes to receivers Irving Fryar and Michael Westbrook, but on third-and-3 from midfield, linebacker Lee Woodall blitzed up the middle untouched and sacked Johnson.

But after the 49ers went three-and-out, it took the Redskins just four plays to tie the score. Fryar picked up 10 on a third-and-5 crossing pattern and then Westbrook blew by Pro Bowl safety Lance Schulters, hauled in Johnson's bomb at the San Francisco 25 and dashed the rest of the way to the end zone for the 65-yard score. It was 7-7 with 11:30 to go in the first half. Westbrook's nine touchdown catches are the most by a Redskin since receiver Gary Clark grabbed 10 in 1991.

The 49ers seemed to be end zone-bound again on their next series after Garner picked up 10 yards on yet another crossing route on third-and-4 at the San Francisco 31. Garner ran for 12 to pick up the next first down and then got in front of Shade to complete a 26-yard broken play as Garcia had plenty of time before he got rid of the ball. The 49ers had a first down at the Washington 15, but the defense stiffened. Rookie corner Champ Bailey broke up an end zone pass for wideout Terrell Owens. And after Garner gained four, nickel end Ndukwe Kalu hurried Garcia into an incompletion. Wade Richey's 29-yard field goal put the 49ers back on top, 10-7, with 6:35 left in the half.

Much-maligned San Francisco corners Pierson Proileau and Darnell Walker broke up passes to thwart Washington's next drive. And Garner then left the Washington defense grasping at air again.

First, he raced 37 yards before Bailey pushed him out of bounds. Then, after a 12-yard pass to Clark and a 2-yard run by Beasley, Garner skittered for 17 to the Washington 7 to give him 85 yards on just 11 carries. However, the Redskins stepped up in the red zone again. End Marco Coleman dumped Garner for a 1-yard loss. Barber and linebacker Greg Jones hurried Garcia into an incompletion and then middle backer Derek Smith knocked away a goal-line pass to Clark. Richey's 25-yarder pushed the 49ers' margin to 13-7 with 98 seconds remaining in the half.

Mitchell gave the Redskins a shot at scoring before intermission when he took a screen pass 36 yards to the San Francisco 41. However, after an incompletion, Woodall dropped Mitchell for a 3-yard loss. Mitchell then made a 9-yard catch, but Johnson couldn't connect with double-covered wideout James Thrash on fourth-and-4 as coach Norv Turner passed on a 53-yard field goal try by Brett Conway.

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