As if the Redskins needed another frustrating day, they now have a long offseason of what-ifs. Not only about this game, but about their 2008 season. After losing to San Francisco, 27-24, the Redskins ended as a .500 team. They had a 6-2 start and a 2-6 finish. And they are what their record states: an average team capable of beating, or losing, to anyone.
This season, they beat Philadelphia twice and won at Dallas. But they also lost to St. Louis and Cincinnati, two defeats that kept them from the playoffs.
Sunday, the Redskins jumped to a 17-7 lead in the first half and had the momentum on their side. But once the momentum changed, the Redskins only halted it once, never getting it fully back.
It culminated in Joe Nedney's game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired. Quarterback Shaun Hill, who struggled in the beginning, completed 12 of 16 passes for 163 yards in the fourth quarter and was accurate on the winning series.
Hill drove the Niners into field goal position after the Redskins had tied it with one minute, nine seconds remaining on Jason Campbell's two-yard touchdown run on fourth down. It was the third time Washington had converted in the red zone, where it had struggled for most of the season.
Campbell played a smart game, completing 18 of 30 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. He connected with Antwaan Randle El for a six-yard score in the second quarter.
But Campbell and the Redskins were again unable to mount any threats downfield – that's something that must be addressed this offseason. Campbell attempted just one long pass, an incompletion to Randle El. It's not just the 40-yard passes that are the problem; the Redskins' longest completion was 17 yards.
Still, they scored 17 straight points in the first half to grab a 10-point lead. But the momentum evaporated when Clinton Portis fumbled deep in Redskins territory to open the third quarter.
Five plays later, DeShaun Foster scored from the 1 and the game had turned.
San Francisco took a 21-17 lead on a Hill pass to Jason Hill in the fourth quarter. Nedney made it 24-17 with a 33-yard field goal.
But that's when Campbell led a 10-play, 55-yard drive to tie the game. The defense, as has been its wont, then allowed a team to drive downfield for the winning points. It has failed in the second half of the season to stop teams when it needed to most in the fourth quarter.
They didn't stop the Niners on their first drive, either. Quarterback Hill ended a 65-yard drive with a three-yard scramble around right end, when end Demetric Evans lost contain thinking the play had gone inside.
The rest of the first half belonged to Washington.
The Redskins tied the game at 7 on a four-yard Portis run. But Campbell's legs helped them out on this drive. He ran for 14 yards on third and six to the Niners' 20. For the day, he ran four times for 39 yards.
A Carlos Rogers interception set up a Shaun Suisham 41-yard field goal, though it was a wasted possession as the Redskins managed no yards on the drive. Campbell missed a wide-open Santana Moss, trying to be too fine with his throw and nearly having it picked off.
But he connected with Randle El later in the second quarter for a 10-point lead.
A little strategic planning by Jim Zorn could have led to a Redskins win on Sunday…