LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Capitalize when the other team messes up. Hit the occasional big play. Give the ball to Frank Gore a lot.
There’s nothing fancy about the way the San Francisco 49ers are running away with the NFC West, and it was more of the same Sunday when they won their sixth straight game by putting away the offensively inept Washington Redskins 19-11.
Gore had 107 yards on 19 carries for his fifth straight 100-yard game and Alex Smith connected with rookie fullback Bruce Miller for the seventh-round draft pick’s first career touchdown. David Akers kicked four field goals, and the defense forced three turnovers.
The Redskins have lost four straight and their only points before the final two minutes came on Graham Gano’s franchise-record 59-yard field goal on the last play of the first half.
First-year coach Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers (7-1) have their longest winning streak since 1997 and are 4-0 on the road for the first time since 1992 — with all four coming on those 1 p.m. Eastern time zone kickoffs which are supposed to drag down West Coast teams.
The 49ers already had the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL— a league-low 107 points coming into the game. And it wasn’t especially taxing to retain that reputation against the injury-riddled and talent-challenged Redskins (3-5), whose 23-0 embarrassment against Buffalo last week was the first shutout in Mike Shanahan’s career as either a head coach or offensive coordinator.
Shanahan tried to shake things up by giving debut starts to three rookies—running back Roy Helu, receiver Leonard Hankerson and left guard Maurice Hurt—but the offense continued to explore new depths of futility.
John Beck again had trouble finding open receivers, completing 30 of 47 passes for 254 yards with one touchdown and one interception. And the Redskins were on the verge of going eight quarters without scoring a touchdown until Beck found Jabar Gaffney with 1:10 remaining.
San Francisco’s defense, tops in the league against the run entering the weekend, gave up just 52 yards on the ground. The 49ers haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown this season.
An indication of the Redskins’ struggles: Their leading receiver was Helu, who caught a franchise-record 14 passes for 105 yards coming out of the backfield. His longest reception was 17 yards.
By contrast, Smith managed the game efficiently, hitting 17 of 24 passes for 197 yards.
Turnovers led to 10 of the 49ers’ points. Dashon Goldson’s interception near midfield set up a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter by Akers, who has made all four attempts from 50-plus yards this season.
Then, after another field goal by Akers, Helu caught a pass and was stripped by linebacker Patrick Willis. Donte Whitner recovered, and Smith hit Miller for a 30-yard score on the next play to give the 49ers a 13-0 lead late in the first half.
Willis created another takeaway in the fourth quarter, forcing receiver Terrence Austin to fumble as the Redskins were trying to play catch-up.
The Redskins found all sorts of ways to kill drives, including a 15-yard personal foul penalty for a late hit by left tackle Trent Williams that negated a third-down conversion into 49ers territory in the second quarter.