By Rich Tandler
Although they had struggled offensively, the Redskins defense still had them in the game late in the first half. A 34-yard David Akers field goal just after the two-minute warning gave the 49ers a 6-0 lead. After the kickoff, the Redskins had the ball at their own 19 with 1:41 left. They had plenty of time to move in for a score, in theory anyway. Or at least they could burn some clock, let Sav Rocca push San Francisco back deep into their own territory and go into the locker room trailing by just six.
However, less than a minute later, the game turned in the Niners’ favor.
On first down, after a false start penalty, John Beck scrambled for three yards. On second and 12, Beck flipped a screen pass to Roy Helu, who appeared to have some running room on the right side.
Helu had a memorable debut as a starter. The rookie rushed for 41 yards and caught a team-record 14 passes for 105 yards. But he also had a low point here.
The running room disappeared in a hurry thanks inside linebacker Patrick Willis. Guard Chris Chester appeared to be in position to block the Pro Bowl performer but Willis shot over from the outside and knocked the ball out of Helu’s arm. Safety Donte Whitner recovered the fumble at returned it three yards to the Washington 30.
After the game, Helu wasn’t sure what happened on the play. “I’m going to have to look in film, but the ball came out,” Helu said. "I’m not sure where I got hit.”
It was the Redskins’ defense that took a hit on the very next play.
San Francisco lined up in an I-formation with Bruce Miller at fullback. Just before the snap, Miller took a few lateral steps to the left. At the snap the took off on a wheel route, running past linebacker Rocky McIntosh in the process. The rookie, a converted defensive end, caught Alex Smith’s pass in stride (pictured).
After the sudden change, it was 13-0 and the situation went from dubious to nearly hopeless. At that point, the Redskins had fewer than 100 yards to total offense. Although they broke the century mark for the half with a 32-yard drive to a team-record 59-yard field goal by Graham Gano, the Redskins were essentially done when the went into the locker room. All they could muster in the second half was a garbage-time touchdown to make the final 19-11.