Redskin Coach Jack Pardee did not have a good view of Joe Theismann's retreat to the end zone and subsequent safety on the final, frantic play of Washington's stirring 9-5 victory over the Dallas Cowboys Monday night.
But, said Pardee, "If I'd seen it, I probably would have had a heart attack."
The safety was easier to watch on film yesterday at Redskin Park, though a lot of people were shaking their heads and wondering why Theismann had run around in the end zone, the football held high, with Cowboy safety Charlie Waters in desperate pursuit.
Had Waters hit Theismann and forced a fumblethe Cowboys could have recovered for a touchdown, then kicked an extra point to win the game.
That never happened because Theismann finally came to his senses when he saw Waters hearing down on him. The Redskin quarterback tucked away the ball an instant before contact and both players rolled out of the end zone. At that point, the safety was called and Theismann jumped back onto the field and spiked the ball.
The Redskin game film cuts away just as Washington guard Ron Saul steams over to give Waters a little tap and Cowboy defensive and Larry Cole is seen bumping Theismann before other players on both sides got into the end zone act.
But the final curtain is down now, and yesterday Pardee had nothing less than rare reviews for his players. He also amplified why Theismann was in the end zone in the first place.
Pardee said the decision to take the safety was made at the sideline when with 46 seconds left after John Riggins had gained a yard up the middle and the Redskins were faced with third and 11 at their 18.
"We made two decisions there," Pardee said, "thinking that the worst thing that could happen to us would be fourth down with as many as 15 seconds left on the clock.
"But with a change of possession, the clock automatically stops and we didn't want to give them the ball with one or two seconds left and let them have another shot at it. So we told Joe that after our third-down play (a two-yard Riggins gain) to let the whole 30 seconds go and take the (delay of game) penalty. Then we'd go ahead and take the safety.
"If the safety doesn't run out the clock, at least we could punt it away from our own 20 (on a free kick) and still not give them a play from scrimmage. They'd also have no chance to block the kick.
"Under no circumstances did we want them to have another scrimmage play on us."
And under no circumstances did Pardee want Theismann to run around in the end zone with the football held above his head.
"We told him rather than get tackled, just run out of the end zone," the coach said.
"No, I won't yell at him," Pardee added, smiling. "But he won't be doing that any more. I saw him on TV this morning, saying he was a little excited about it and that he made a mistake."
Theismann said last night, "I should have continued running out of the end zone. And I can tell you that from now on I will always run out of the end zone.
"After I took the snap, I was just concerned about killing the time. When I got into the end zone I was watching the clock. When it hit zero, it just went off in my mind that the game was over. That's the only reason I put the ball over my head. I wasn't hot-dogging.
"I have too much respect for the Cowboys to do that. I was just caught up in the moment and it was a combination of pure anxiety and excitement. It was a spontaneous thing."
Theismann said he knew at the time that Waters could knock the ball loose and cause a fumble. That is why he brought the ball back down when the Cowboy safety tackled him.
"He hit me and we were both out of bounds and I heard the whistle," Theismann said. "I dropped the ball because I knew it was all over.
"And believe me, I was the happiest man in the world."
There was no mistake about the euphoric mood that pervaded Redskin Park less than 24 hours after the Redskins had remained unbeaten in five games to take a two-game lead over the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants in the NFC East race.
"For us to have a two-game lead, Dallas has to be reacting a little differently now," Pardee said. "Instead of them being in the driver's seat and knowing we have to go down there and play, well, it puts some pressure on them.
"They still have to face the Eagles two more times. They're not a shoo-in to win the division like they figured before the season started . . . But don't write the Cowboys off yet. With two losses in a 16-game schedule, they're certainly not out of it."
Still, the Cowboys must be reeling now mostly because of a Redskin defense that is so-so statistically but so tough whenever an opponent has dared venture into scoring range the last three games.
While the lastest NFL statistics show the Redskins ranking 10th in the NFC in total defense, seventh against the rush and 12th against the pass, Washington has not allowed a touchdown in the last eight quarters and only one in the last 12. Only three other teams have yielded fewer than the 62 points the Redskins have allowed.
The Cowboys had never come away from RFK Stadium in 19 previous games without a touchdown. But Monday night they had 13 plays inside the Redskin 20 - six inside the seven-yard line on one memorable third-period goal-line stand - and could manage only a 19-yard field goal by Rafael Septien.
"When you do that," Pardee said of the goal-line stand, "the Cowboys have to come out with a lot more respect for us. They have to know the Redskins are for real. That's not luck; you have to have some pretty fair talent to do that."
Yet, Pardee insisted, "I still can't tell how good we are. I have to agree with Tom Landry. We're playing as good as anyone in the NFL. How long we do that we'll just have to wait and see."
The Redskins now face three games on the road, starting with a relatively weak Detroit team (1-4) Sunday in Pontiac, Mich., followed by games against the Eagles and Giants.
"We're riding high right now," Pardee said, "but we have to come down and get rested physically and mentally and get back up again. The team has been up every week. We'll be favored to beat Detroit, I'm sure, and you have to win the games you're supposed to win. We just can't have a letdown.