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San Francisco at Washington

NFL.com wire reports


LANDOVER, Md. (Oct. 19, 2005) -- An inability to force turnovers has plagued the Washington Redskins during their losing streak. Alex Smith's inability to keep the ball is one reason the San Francisco 49ers ' skid continues.

The Redskins, who haven't forced a turnover in four contests, will look to snap a two-game losing streak when they play host to the Niners and their rookie quarterback.

Washington has lost the turnover battle in all five of its games this season, posting a minus-8 differential that's ranked next-to-last in the NFL. More than anything, it's why the Redskins have a two-game losing streak -- and why they are fortunate to be 3-2.

"We're kind of frustrated right now," Washington coach Joe Gibbs said after a 28-21 loss at Kansas City on Oct. 16. "We're willing to try anything to solve this."

The turnover problem has undermined the Redskins' strong play on both offense and defense. Washington has the No. 6 offense and the fifth-ranked defense in the league, but is scoring only 16.6 points per game. The Redskins are outgaining opponents by an average of 93 yards, but the offense has too far to go when it gets the ball because the defense can't take it away.

With LaVar Arrington benched, the Redskins defense doesn't seem to have anyone besides safety Sean Taylor who can create turnover possibilities.

Arrington didn't play on defense again last week, although the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker got on the field for some special-teams plays. Coaches maintain that the players they are using are better -- even if they aren't creating sacks and turnovers.

"It's the same that I said last week," Gibbs said. "We've got probably one of the most senior and knowledgeable defensive staffs in all of football, and it's their responsibility to play the people they think will do the best for us. And I think at whatever point LaVar is in that situation, he'll play."

Smith no longer has to worry about competition from a veteran quarterback, but he'll have to find a way to take better care of the ball if the Niners hope to end a four-game losing streak.

San Francisco, coming off a bye week, traded Tim Rattay to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 18 for an undisclosed draft choice.

The deal puts the Niners' future even more squarely on the shoulders of Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft who committed five turnovers in losing 28-3 to Indianapolis in his first NFL start two weeks ago. Smith was intercepted four times, lost one of his two fumbles and was sacked five times.

Rattay started nine games last season and beat out Smith in training camp this year. But he struggled behind San Francisco's terrible offensive line after a Week 1 victory against St. Louis, and coach Mike Nolan decided to put his highly touted rookie into the lineup.

"It wasn't so much that he didn't fit in," Nolan said of Rattay. "It was just that Alex was the guy that we drafted."

Ken Dorsey, who started seven games last season while San Francisco went a league-worst 2-14, will be Smith's backup.

Injuries on defense have hindered the Niners' progress and frustrated Nolan, a longtime NFL defensive coordinator for four teams, including the Redskins. San Francisco has allowed 160 points -- more than twice as many as the offense has scored.

Linebacker Saleem Rasheed had left knee surgery Oct. 18 and could be out five weeks. Rasheed was expected to start Oct. 23 in place of Jeff Ulbrich, who's out for the season with a biceps injury.

Brandon Moore will join the starting lineup in yet another shuffle for the Niners, who have endured plenty of turnover in their linebacking corps. Julian Peterson has been hobbled by a hamstring injury, while Jamie Winborn was traded to Jacksonville shortly before Ulbrich's injury.

San Francisco is last in the NFL in total defense, allowing opponents 451.8 yards per game.

"For this defense to become special, we need to eliminate little mistakes here and there," linebacker Derek Smith said. "Until that happens, I think we'll just be a good defense. Every game, there's a handful of things that can be a little bit more exact."

STANDINGS: 49ers -- 3rd place (tied), NFC West. Redskins -- 2nd place (tied), NFC East.

49ERS LEADERS: Offense -- Smith, 108 passing yards; Kevan Barlow, 265 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD; Brandon Lloyd, 17 receptions, 326 receiving yards and 3 receiving TDs. Defense -- Bryant Young, 6 sacks; Tony Parrish, 2 INTs.

REDSKINS LEADERS: Offense -- Mark Brunell, 1,240 passing yards and 9 passing TDs; Clinton Portis, 443 rushing yards; Santana Moss, 33 receptions, 631 receiving yards and 4 receiving TDs. Defense -- Cornelius Griffin, 2 sacks; Lemar Marshall, 1 INT.

49ERS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense -- 80.0 yards per game (26th in NFL); Passing Offense -- 138.8 ypg (29th); Total Offense -- 218.8 ypg (31st). Rushing Defense -- 108.2 ypg (18th); Passing Defense -- 343.6 ypg (32nd); Total Defense -- 451.8 ypg (32nd).

REDSKINS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense -- 127.0 ypg (8th); Passing Offense -- 246.2 ypg (8th); Total Offense -- 373.2 ypg (6th). Rushing Defense -- 102.2 ypg (14th); Passing Defense -- 178.2 ypg (7th); Total Defense -- 280.4 ypg (5th).

LAST MEETING: Dec. 18; Redskins, 26-16. At San Francisco, Patrick Ramsey passed for 214 yards and a TD, and Portis rushed for 110 yards to lead the Redskins.

STREAKS AND NOTES: 49ers -- San Francisco has been outscored 73-17 in its two road games this season. ... WR Lloyd has 11 receptions for 244 yards and two TDs in his past two games. ... The Niners have converted an NFC-worst 17 of their 57 third-down attempts. Redskins -- Washington has a league-low five sacks. ... WR Moss is tied for first in the NFC with 15 receptions on third down. ... The Redskins have allowed a 100-yard rusher once in their past nine games.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: 49ers -- 0-2 on the road; Redskins -- 2-0 at home.

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Odds seem to be in our favor. But, I appreciate Gibbs respect for the niners. They are coming off a bye week and we're coming off a brutal two game stretch. This game could be a lot closer than people think. Its comforting to know Gibbs is making sure the team takes this game seriously despite the lopsided statistics.

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