LANDOVER, Md. -- The defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers found the cure for their two-game losing streak Monday night: the struggling Washington Redskins.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw three touchdown passes, two of them to wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and the 49ers cruised to a 27-6 victory over the Redskins.
"He was being exactly perfect leadership and demeanor-wise, a combination of loose (and) focused (in practice last week)," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of second-year starter Kaepernick, who completed 15 of 24 passes for 235 yards, 17 more yards than he had totaled in the losses to the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints the previous two weeks.
Kaepernick's 134.5 passer rating was a career high.
San Francisco (7-4) moved ahead of the division rival Arizona Cardinals for the conference's second wild-card spot, three games behind the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks.
"It was important," Boldin said. "We didn't sugar-coat it this week. We knew it was one we had to have."
Washington, which won the NFC East in 2012, suffered its third consecutive defeat. The Redskins (3-8) remain alone in the division basement.
"We haven't gotten dominated like that since I've been here," said Redskins fourth-year coach Mike Shanahan, whose team managed just one first down and 30 yards in the second half.
Kaepernick clearly won the battle of young quarterbacks with Washington's Robert Griffin III (17-for-27, 127 yards, one interception, four sacks). Griffin couldn't get his team into the end zone even though Washington twice crossed the San Francisco 20-yard line.
"I think we're all frustrated," Griffin said. "We're all tired of losing. (But) we're not quitters."
On the third play of the second half, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis was fighting for a first down when Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall knocked the ball loose. Safety Brandon Meriweather recovered at the San Francisco 49. After failing to pick up a first down, Washington gave the 49ers the ball right back.
Boldin ignited the ensuing possession with a 32-yard grab against Josh Wilson before Davis abused the cornerback for 20 yards to the Washington 6. On the next play, Boldin (five catches, 94 yards) beat Hall on a slant for the touchdown to increase the 49ers' advantage to 17-6 with 5:25 gone in the third quarter.
LaMichael James' 40-yard punt return gave the 49ers a first down at the Washington 39. Reserve tight end Vance McDonald was wide-open for 23 yards on the first play of a series that ended four plays later with Davis all by himself in the end zone for the 1-yard touchdown catch that put the game away with 1:05 remaining in the quarter.
After punts on the first five series, the 49ers took a 7-0 lead with 2:54 left in the first quarter on a 19-yard pass from Kaepernick to Boldin. The 49ers wide receiver beat Wilson one play after he leaped over the cornerback for a 24-yard catch.
When Washington finally registered consecutive first downs on runs of 11 and 12 yards by Griffin and reserve back Roy Helu Jr., respectively, Griffin threw the ball directly to 49ers safety Donte Whitner on the next play as the first quarter ended.
Kaepernick found Davis for 40 yards with Wilson covering at the Washington 18 as the second quarter began. Four plays later, kicker Phil Dawson's 29-yard field goal made it 10-0.
The Redskins responded by marching to the San Francisco 19 before the series stalled. Kicker Kai Forbath kicked a 36-yard field goal to bring Washington within a touchdown with 5:16 to go in the half.
Forbath ended the half with a 35-yard field goal. Washington drove 62 yards to the San Francisco 18 with 41 seconds left but again couldn't get closer to the end zone.
NOTES: TE Jordan Reed (concussion), FB Darrel Young (knee) and DE Stephen Bowen (knee) were inactive for Washington. Former starter Fred Davis, active for the first time in six games, took Reed's place. Niles Paul replaced Young, and Chris Baker started in place of Bowen. ... Pro Bowl G Mike Iupati (knee) was inactive for San Francisco, ending a two-season streak in which the 49ers started the same offensive line. Adam Snyder started in Iupati's place. Tramaine Brock started for CB Tarell Brown (ribs), and Demarcus Dobbs filled in for DT Ray McDonald (ankle). ... Former 49ers WR Josh Morgan returned to the Redskins lineup in place of Leonard Hankerson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 11 against the Eagles in Philadelphia. ... LB Brian Orakpo's sack gave him 36, fifth in Redskins history, passing Dave Butz. ... Harbaugh said that receiver Michael Crabtree will be activated from the physically unable to perform list in time for Sunday's game against St. Louis.