- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO | With their lead at 10 points at halftime, the Washington Redskins had a second consecutive winning season in its grasp.

When it became clear Dallas would be blown out by Philadelphia, a third-place finish in the NFC East was there for the taking.

But in a second half meltdown that proved to be a microcosm of the Redskins‘ last two months, Washington could capture neither, losing to the San Francisco 49ers 27-24 to finish 8-8 and in the division cellar.

When Jason Campbell scrambled for a 2-yard touchdown with 1:09 remaining, the game appeared headed for overtime. But the 49ers quickly moved 51 yards and Joe Nedney’s 39-yard field goal won it as time expired.

On the 49ers’ winning drive, Maryland alum Shaun Hill threw 19 yards to Michael Robinson and 24 yards to Bryant Johnson.

“We have a long trip back,” Redskins coach Jim Zorn said after the loss, the team’s sixth in the last eight games. “We have a lot to think about for our group.”

The Redskins followed an efficient first half - two long scoring drives, one takeaway and a 17-7 lead - with an equally inefficient second half. The offense started with a fumble and didn’t get going again until it was desperation time.

Down 24-17 with less than six minutes remaining, the Redskins started at their own 47 thanks to Rock Cartwright’s 43-yard kickoff return. Twelve-yard passes to Chris Cooley and Santana Moss was followed by a 23-yard Campbell scramble down to the 49ers 10-yard line.

Clinton Portis gained a yard before the two-minute warning and Campbell threw 4 yards to Cooley. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Campbell looked for Cooley before running for the 3-yard touchdown with 1:09 remaining. It was Campbell’s second career rushing score.

San Francisco started at its winning drive at its own 27.

Leading 17-7 at halftime, the Redskins again allowed their opponent back in the game. On the fourth play of the third quarter, Portis fumbled in Washington territory. The 49ers, whose previous four drives ended missed field goal, interception, punt and halftime, ran five straight times for 38 yards to score on DeShaun Foster’s 1-yard play to cut the lead to 17-14.

“We gave them the ball in the start of the third quarter, that’s the sudden change,” Zorn said. “It’s a letdown. It really was a letdown. When you’re playing football, there is no letdown.”

Clinging to a 3-point lead did nothing to the Redskins’ execution - they punted on their next four possessions. After the fourth kick, the 49ers took a 21-17 lead with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Jason Hill with 9:53 remaining.

For the third time in four games, the Redskins defense allowed an opening-drive touchdown. The 49ers made it look easy, driving 65 yards on 10 plays. Hill threw 29 yards to tight end Billy Bajema, who sprung free when safety Chris Horton bit on the play fake. Three plays later, on third-and-6 from the 11, Hill found Josh Morgan for an 8-yard gain.

The touchdown came on a broken play. Hill appeared to be looking to make a shovel pass but the Redskins front clogged that up, so Hill scrambled untouched around the right side for the 2-yard score.

Following a Redskins three-and-out, the 49ers were in position to extend the lead. But cornerback DeAngelo Hall threw Isaac Bruce down for a 1-yard loss and Nedney was wide right on a 48-yard field goal attempt.

That gave the Redskins a boost. Staring at a seven-point deficit instead of another double-digit hole, the offense responded with a 10-play, 62-yard drive that bridged the first and second quarters. Campbell went 3 of 3 for 29 yards and kept the drive alive with a 9-yard scramble on third-and-6. Four players later, after the quarter change, Portis scored a 4-yard touchdown.

The Redskins finished the season scoreless in six consecutive first quarters.

Carlos Rogers’ interception and 31-yard return, to the 49ers 23, set up the Redskins go-ahead score: A 41-yard Shaun Suisham field goal. The 0-yard scoring drive was the second-shortest of the season.

The Redskins’ next drive was their longest scoring march of the season (9:10) and sent them into halftime with a 17-7 lead. The 16-play possession (tied for longest scoring drive of year) featured four third-down conversions: An 15-yard pass to Moss, a 5-yard holding penalty by linebacker Takeo Spikes, a 12-yard pass to Cooley and a 5-yard scramble by Campbell.

The highlights were Zorn’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 39 (Portis gained 3 yards) and Campbell’s scramble. Blitzing safety Michael Lewis went unblocked but bounced off Campbell, who kept his balance before Patrick Willis leveled him.

Antwaan Randle El, who caught the scoring pass pass in the right flat, juked Nate Clements and dived over the goal line. It was Randle El’s fourth touchdown catch of the year, a career high.

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