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."
What the 49ers said
"By any means necessary. Our guys rose up to the challenge and got it done. Our defense got the pressure going. Washington has been the best fourth-quarter team that we've seen all year in the way they can put together points. We didn't want to let that happen tonight." -- Coach Jim Harbaugh.
What the Redskins said
"We won (the NFC East) last year. So what? ... You can't just line us up and say we're going to win it again. We have to go out there and work and earn it." -- WR Santana Moss.
What we learned about the 49ers
1. They can still ratchet up the suffocating defense once they have the lead. They held the Redskins to an absurd 1.4 yards per play after halftime as Washington managed just one first down and 30 total yards in the second half, including a paltry seven in the third quarter. The Redskins gained 160 yards in the first half. "We haven't gotten dominated like that since I've been here," said Redskins fourth-year coach Mike Shanahan.
2. They have a return game after all. San Francisco was ranked 26th on punt returns and 27th on kickoff returns through Week 11. However, LaMichael James averaged 14.4 yards on five punt returns and 26.5 yards on two kickoff returns against Washington.
What we learned about the Redskins
1. Josh Wilson really can't cover anyone. The 49ers targeted him time and time again with superb results. The seventh-year cornerback was beaten by 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin for 19, 24 and 32 yards, by tight end Vernon Davis for 20 and 40, and by backup tight end Vance McDonald for 23. Wilson is the heart of the Redskins' horrible secondary.
2. Three games back of both Dallas and Philadelphia in the NFC East and with a 0-3 record against the Cowboys and Eagles, they're done. The Monday night loss ensured Washington's fifth non-winning season in the last six years and moved coach Mike Shanahan closer to losing his job, given his 24-36 record with the Redskins.