Although neither team will experience playoff football this season, a win in the regular-season finale could go a long way in helping Redskins first-year coach Jim Zorn keep his job. Or in 49ers interim coach Mike Singletary’s case, help him secure one.
Coming off a 20-13 loss at Cincinnati a week earlier, Washington (8-7) defeated Philadelphia 10-3 on Sunday with a goal-line stand in the final seconds to snap a three-game losing streak.
Although the Redskins scored only one touchdown - a 1-yard run from Clinton Portis - for the fourth consecutive week, it was the first time Washington held an opponent without a TD since a 27-6 win over Dallas on Dec. 30, 2007.
“I can say I don’t feel like the worst coach in America today,” said Zorn, who declared just the opposite following the loss to the Bengals.
Portis, the league’s third-leading rusher with 1,407 yards, left Sunday’s game in the second quarter with a bruised hand, but returned and finished with 70 yards on 22 carries.
He is averaging 105.5 yards rushing in his last two games versus San Francisco, and had three rushing touchdowns in his last contest against the 49ers - a 52-17 Washington victory on Oct. 23, 2005.
San Francisco (6-9), though, is allowing only 90.9 yards rushing per game and just three rushing touchdowns since Singletary was named interim coach on Oct. 21 for the fired Mike Nolan. The Niners have gone 4-4 under Singletary.
While Washington is scoring just 16.1 points per game - 28th in the league - the Redskins defense is ranked fourth in the NFL, allowing 284.1 yards per game.
“They’re walking around like a bunch of losers because everybody’s been beating on them,” Washington defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “I want them to realize, ‘You guys are pretty darn good.’ If we’re bad, God help the rest of the people in the league.”
It’s not all good news for the Redskins defense, though. Washington is 27th in the NFL with 23 sacks and second-to-last with seven forced fumbles, though Jason Taylor had one Sunday to set up Portis’ touchdown.
Washington had a chance, although slim, to reach the playoffs, but was eliminated from postseason contention when Atlanta defeated Minnesota on Sunday.
“If the guys here were going to quit on a coach, I guess this was the opportunity to do it,” guard Pete Kendall said. “We’re not going to quit on ‘Z’ or anybody.”
Some may have expected the 49ers to quit on Singletary following a postgame rant in which he criticized his players after their 34-13 loss to Seattle on Oct. 26. But that clearly has not happened.
Last Sunday was a perfect example as Shaun Hill threw two touchdown passes in the final 4:03 as San Francisco erased a 16-3 deficit and won for the fourth time in six games, defeating St. Louis 17-16.
Hill completed just eight of his first 19 passes and had three interceptions in the first three quarters.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever played that badly, especially for that long,” said Hill, one of several 49ers sporting mustaches this week as part of the team’s throwback tribute. “I can’t explain it. It goes like that sometimes, but everybody hung in there.”
Instead of replacing Hill with J.T. O’Sullivan, Singletary stuck with the third-year quarterback and the move paid off as Hill went 10-of-15 for 127 yards in the fourth.
“It shows what coach Singletary said, that we took another big step,” said rookie Josh Morgan, who caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Hill with 1:22 left.
Isaac Bruce took another step toward the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday as he became the fifth player in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes. His 3-yard touchdown reception with 4:03 left was the 1,000th of his 15-year career.
In his last game against Washington, Bruce had nine catches for 148 yards and a touchdown in a 37-31 St. Louis victory on Dec. 24, 2006.
Frank Gore could return to San Francisco’s lineup on Sunday after missing two games with a sprained ankle. With 22 rushing yards against the Redskins, Gore would become the franchise’s first player with three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Washington has won two of its last three games in San Francisco, most recently a 26-16 victory on Dec. 18, 2004.
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