Thomas Henderson, the mouth that gores for the Dallas Cowboys, insisted today he is taking strictly a low-key approach to Saturday's NFC playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons (WDVM-TV-9, 4 p.m.).
"I called the Redskins turkeys because it was Thanksgiving Day and I was right," Henderson said. "But I'm not going to say anything derogatory about Atlanta. I'm no name-caller. The Redskins were just special.
"Anyway, the Falcons don't need anything said. They've got to be fired up, so why get them riled? They have nothing to lose and we have everything to lose. But I'm out of good slogans."
Still, Henderson could not resist one slight taunt.
"I think they have been a very lucky team and very fortunate to be where they are," he said. "Somebody's been looking out for those guys. But they'll need more than luck to beat us."
The odds makers say the Falcons, winners of five games in the final 10 seconds of play this year, will go bust Saturday. They rate the Cowboys 14-point favorites over an Atlanta team that finished the regular season 9-7 and won only two of eight games on the road.
The winner meets the survivor of Sunday's NFC game in Los Angeles between the Rams and the Minnesota Vikings. If Dallas and L.A. win, the game would be played in Los Angeles. A Cowboy-Viking game would take place in Dallas. The Falcons, being the NFC's wild-card team, cannot host any of the playoff games.
The Cowboys, aiming for an unprecedented third Super Bowl championship, are rested and relatively healthy. They go into the game with the NFC's No. 1 rushing offense and No. 2 defense.They lead the NFL in defense against the rush and in quarterback sacks, with 58.
That defense must contain a relatively impotent Falcon offense that ranked 12th in its conference and would seem to be terribly overmatched.
Atlanta will attempt to stop the Cowboys with the same gambling defense it has relied on all season, with a variety of stunts and blitzes.
"I hope they do blitz," said Cowboy receiver Tony Hill, "because that would leave one-on-one coverage against me and Drew (Pearson). The key to the whole thing is how well we're able to handle the blitz."
As always, quarterback Roger Staubach will be the key man in the Cowboy attack. Staubach missed the final regular-season game against the Jets, resting a sore foot and a jammed knuckle on the first joint of his right index finger. He says those injuries have healed sufficiently and he is not concerned about them.
"I like a situation which is very meaningful, which is a pressure situation," he said. "I hope my reflexes, my thinking, my everything is a little sharper going into that game. You're always going to be nervous going into a sudden-death situation. But it's a healthy type nervousness."
Staubach also knows he is not going to get much time to throw if the Falcons blitz as much as they have in the past. Still, none of the Cowboys are quaking in their spurs after winning their last six games to assure a 12th playoff appearance in the last 13 years.
"I'm comfortable," Cowboy Coach Tom Landry said earlier in the week. "We played well those last six games and did the things we had to do. The more playoff games you're in, the more relaxed you are in pressure situations.
"Experience is important. It's just the ability to get into a game and keep the pressure from carrying you away."
The Falcons, meanwhile, insist all the pressure will be on the Cowboys.
"They're the champions," said wide receiver Wallace Francis. "Nobody expects us to beat them. Nobody except us."