After five nail-biting games to start the season, the Washington Redskins unloaded their psychological baggage on the hapless San Francisco 49ers. All that had gone wrong went right Sunday in a 52-17 victory over the NFC's worst team.
"We are a Rocky Balboa-type team, but it's good to get a young Mike Tyson-type win and knock someone out," linebacker Marcus Washington said.
The Redskins (4-2) led 35-7 at halftime, piled up 448 yards and scored on seven of their first nine possessions to snap a two-game losing streak. Mark Brunell completed 13 of 20 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Mike Sellers caught scoring passes of 2 and 19 yards. Santana Moss had a 32-yard TD reception and maintained his torrid start with five passes for 112 yards, his fourth 100-yard game in five weeks.
Portis ran 19 times for 101 yards and scored his first three touchdowns of the season, a huge relief to a player who put some self-effacing humor into a scoreless season at practice last week by donning a wig and glasses that made him resemble Doc Brown from Back to the Future. Portis did little jigs after his first and third TDs and performed two cartwheels after his 1-yard score that made it 21-7 late in the second quarter.
"I used to do gymnastics. I almost made it to the Olympics, back in '98, I think," Portis said with his typical bizarre humor -- there weren't any Summer Olympics in 1998.
There were equal -- if not greater -- cheers for Arrington, the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker whose benching created as much distraction as the quarterback controversy. Arrington didn't play a down on defense the past two weeks, but assistant coach Gregg Williams rewarded the popular player's recent improvement in practice by using him mostly in long-yardage situations. Arrington had a team-high nine tackles, including a 7-yard loss when he stopped receiver Rasheed Marshall on a reverse.
"You see it in my eyes? Red eyes?" said Arrington, whose tear ducts were close to welling up as he stood in front of his locker. "I was trying to get it done, man. I didn't care who was hitting me, what was happening. Fearless. I was just happy to be out there with the fellows. That was my biggest thing. It was just painful watching them out there fighting."
The points were the most for the Redskins since a 56-17 win over Atlanta on Nov. 10, 1991. They forced two turnovers, their first since the opening game of the season. They had five sacks -- doubling their number for the entire season.
All of this was possible because of the 49ers (1-5), who have lost five straight and didn't put up much of a challenge. Multiple injuries to linebackers and defensive backs have taken their toll, and the Redskins took advantage of missed tackles and blown coverages all game.
The rout made for a tough return to Washington for 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, the Redskins' defensive coordinator from 1997-99. There were too many mistakes for the coach to list, and his only optimistic spin came when he compared his team to the Houston Astros, who are playing in the World Series.
"The Astros were 15-30 in May and they seem to have made it to where they are today," Nolan said.
No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, making his second start, was 8-for-16 for 92 yards and committed both turnovers -- a fumble and an interception.
"It's something I hope to not ever go through again," Smith said. "This is a feeling that, it's nice that I get a taste of it, but it's not something that I enjoy."
Cornerback Shawntae Spencer also had a long day. He got burned several times and looked especially bad when he stopped giving chase on Moss' touchdown catch.
"I guess I lost focus," Spencer said.
Gibbs this week criticized anyone who suggested his team would have an easy time with the 49ers. Well, the Redskins did, and Gibbs as a bonus became the third active coach to win 150 games, behind Marty Schottenheimer (185) and Bill Parcells (167).
"I hope we didn't use them all up," Gibbs said of his team's 52 points. "Everything kind of went our way today."
- Redskins defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin strained a groin muscle. "Felt a little pop, but I'll be OK," he said.
- The 49ers listed fullback Fred Beasley (bruised hand), linebacker Derek Smith (strained hamstring), running back Kevin Barlow (bruised quad), guard David Baas (bruised shoulder) and Alex Smith (strained knee).
- The 49ers won the fourth quarter 10-7 -- after getting shut out 62-0 in the period in their first five games.