Dan in the Box

* Even when the Redskins' prospects against the Dallas Cowboys still looked bright, Boy Wonder Dan Snyder was preparing for the worst. "I'm very disappointed," the grim-looking 34-year-old told us at halftime, when the Skins were behind by a mere point. In his splendorous owner's box Sunday afternoon, he was brooding over two touchdown-thwarting fumbles inside the 5-yard line. "We lost some big scoring opportunities," he said disconsolately.

Here at ground zero in the stadium formerly known as Jack Kent Cooke, it seemed some careers were about to explode. Snyder is nothing if not tough. A few weeks ago against the New England Patriots, when tackle Joe Patton's wrong move resulted in the sacking of quarterback Brad Johnson, "Snyder fired him on the spot," Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening reminded us. "But, believe me, compared to the Other Guy, Dan Snyder is an angel."

Glendening, who generally watches from the State of Maryland suite, dropped by to schmooze and stuck around to see the home team overtake the Cowboys. Snyder, America Online CEO Steve Case and minority team owner Fred Drasner (managing not to include their womenfolk) high-fived one another in reaction to a third-quarter touchdown. But then came humiliation. "What we need is more touchdowns," Case told us. Also on hand were Black Entertainment Television CEO Robert Johnson, hotel mogul Bill Marriott, establishment lawyer Lloyd Cutler, and various producers and actors (but not Gene Hackman or Keanu Reeves) from "The Replacements," a football movie being shot in the area. We discreetly departed before the world came crashing down.

THIS JUST IN . . .

* Finally, a firm, taut denial of New York press reports that there's a face lift in Senate hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton's future. "This is not true," the first lady's spokeswoman, Marsha Berry, told us yesterday.

* The battling Newt and Marianne Gingrich have put off their Thursday court date, but the ex-speaker's girlfriend, House staffer Callista Bisek, is still scheduled to be deposed in Washington on Sept. 29. "The temporary issues"--meaning who pays whom what while the divorce is being finalized--"have been temporarily resolved," said Marianne's attorney, John Mayoue.

* While President Clinton dined last night with the other Hillary, Sir Edmund Hillary, The Post's John Harris reports, White House press assistant Julia Payne and travel office stalwart Denver Peacock made plans to bungee-jump in Queenstown, New Zealand, the reputed birthplace of the nutbag pastime.

The AOL Man Gets Flamed

If you think Redskins owner Dan Snyder had a bad day, consider Caps owner Ted Leonsis's tale of woe. He attended the Dallas debacle with wife Lynn and their young son and daughter. "I left my house in Great Falls around 11:15 a.m. and traffic was bad all the way," the 43-year-old America Online mogul told us yesterday. "I was literally locked in traffic like you couldn't believe, and I couldn't get into the Gold parking lot. So I went into the Red lot and my car"--a green 1998 Land Rover with 9,000 miles on it--"overheated. . . . I went to the game." Big mistake.

"I left the game with eight minutes to go, and I knew I had some car problems. I got two exits down the highway and the car started to smoke. I pulled into a gas station in Forestville and then the car burst into flames, right there at the pumps. They had to evacuate the gas station and my car was totaled." Leonsis laughed merrily, as only a guy with $950 million can afford to do. No one was hurt, everyone was very nice, and a chauffeured limousine brought them home. "I guess," he mused, "it was a fluke of nature."

Happy to Blige

* At 28, Mary J. Blige is the so-called "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul." Her latest CD, "Mary," is topping the charts. Fashion designers vie for her to wear their creations. And today at a National Press Club lunch, she picks up Sister-2-Sister's "You're My Sis" award, along with Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, at the magazine's first Intergenerational Celebration.

"I'm excited," the platinum-selling star told us yesterday. "Sometimes people in my generation don't know what's going on out there in the big corporate places. . . . Maybe it will help people my age know what's going on."

Blige, who grew up in the projects of Yonkers, N.Y., had some tough teenage years before she buckled down to music. The turning point, she says, was when her mother found her "high on alcohol and reefer" and told her, "I'm not impressed." She was 16. "That made my heart just drop out of my chest." Now Blige runs her own music empire and is studying for her high school diploma.

To hear a free Sound Bite from Blige's music, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 4646.

CAPTION: A disappointed Dan: Snyder, second from right, watches the Redskins' loss to the Cowboys unfold. From left to right: Fred Drasner; a guest; Snyder's wife, Tanya; and Vinny Cerrato, director of player personnel, feel his pain.

CAPTION: Could it get much worse? Ted Leonsis, dealing with the Redskins' loss AND explosive car trouble.

CAPTION: Mary J. Blige, award winner.