Sunday, January 10, 1993


Associated Press

It wasn't pretty and it wasn't Joe Montana. It was Steve Young, looking slick and sometimes sloppy. He was good. He was bad. He was ugly.

But the result was the same. The San Francisco 49ers won another playoff game that left them just two victories from becoming the first team to win five Super Bowls.

The 49ers beat the Washington Redskins 20-13 on Saturday in a battle of teams that between them have won four of the last five and seven of the last 11 Super Bowls.

That put San Francisco, an NFL-best 14-2 in the regular season, in the National Football Conference title game next Sunday here against the winner of Sunday's Philadelphia-Dallas game.

Young was 20 of 30 for 227 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 73 yards in seven carries. But he also had three fumbles and an interception, and each cost the 49ers. Three of them set up Washington's scores, and the other miscue took a scoring chance away from the 49ers.

Young saw the bright side.

"We overcame four turnovers in a playoff game against the Washington Redskins, It must mean we're playing pretty good football," said the National Football League's most valuable player in the regular season.

Actually, neither side played very well on a field that had groundskeepers running out to replace turf during every stoppage in play. The 'Skins also had four turnovers and quarterback Mark Rypien, 19 of 40 for 270 yards, seemed to be forever trying to find his footing.

The game finally turned when Rypien and running back Brian Mitchell fumbled a muddy ball on a handoff at the San Francisco 28. It came just as the 'Skins seemed to be ready to go ahead after cutting a 17-3 deficit to 17-13 - largely because of Young's turnovers.

Washington's turnover allowed the 49ers to eat up 7 minutes and led to Mike Cofer's second field goal, a 33-yarder that made it 20-13 with 2:22 left.

San Francisco coach George Seifert said the field, soaked by weeklong rains, was "as bad as I've ever seen."

Washington coach Joe Gibbs said: "That's the worst I've ever played on. I think it hurt both teams."

Washington, which sneaked into the playoffs at 9-7 and then won at Minnesota last week, finished a typical post-Super Bowl season - one game up, the next down.

The 'Skins were stymied for most of the game by the soggy field and by a San Francisco defense led by Pierce Holt, who had three of the five sacks, and defensive backs Eric Davis and David Whitmore.

Davis and Whitmore, members of a maligned secondary that was third from the bottom statistically in the NFL this year, each had two interceptions and Whitmore also had a fumble recovery and several big tackles.

But Young wasn't all bad either, even under the shadow of Montana, who led the 49ers to four Super Bowl titles in the '80s and is on the bench after missing most of the past two seasons with an elbow injury. After Young fumbled twice, Montana warmed up briefly.

"I turned to Joe and said, `Get warmed up, in case he takes another shot like that,' " Seifert said.

Young, meanwhile, ran or passed for all 83 yards on an opening drive that ended with a 5-yard TD pass to John Taylor. He also threw a 16-yard TD pass to Brent Jones with 24 seconds left in the half that gave San Francisco a 17-3 lead.

Ricky Watters gained 83 yards in 18 carries in his first full game since a shoulder injury a month ago.

As they did last week, the Redskins allowed a touchdown on their opponents' first possession. This one came after the opening kickoff as San Francisco marched 83 yards in six plays and Young accounted for all the yardage, completing all four passes for 68 yards and running for the 15 other yards.

Young's first fumble set up a 61-yard Washington drive that led to Chip Lohmiller's 19-yard field goal that cut it to 7-3.

San Francisco squandered its next chance when Johnson intercepted Young's pass at his 5 after the 49ers had driven from their half-yard line to the Washington 29.

But the 49ers got it back when Mitchell fumbled at the 35 with 1:09 left as he was trying to dive for a first down, and Whitmore recovered. Four plays later, Young threw over the middle to Jones, who fumbled at the 1 when hit by Brad Edwards but regained the ball in the end zone.

Whitmore's third-quarter interception set up a drive that looked as if it might put the game away for San Francisco.

But Young, scrambling, slipped at the Redskins' 16 and fumbled. Monte Coleman recovered for Washington, setting the 'Skins off on a 71-yard drive capped by Lohmiller's second field goal, a 32-yarder.

On the next series, Young tried to pass with Fred Stokes in his face and the ball slipped out of his hand. Charles Mann recovered for Washington at the San Francisco 16 and three plays later Rypien sneaked in from a yard out to make it 17-3.