And now into the already-vast vocabulary of inside football phrases comes "matchup blitz." It was the major reason the Redskins upset the Cardinals here today, the tactic that allowed much of America to realize what Washington already knows, that Ken Houston is the best safety alive.

"Surprise," said the defensive backfield coach, Richie Petibon, whose signals from the sidelines sent Houston deep into the Cardinal offense time and again. "The element of surprise. You say the Cardinals invented the safety blitz? Wonderful. Give'em a little of their own medicine."

The maneuver was devised in the early '60s to maximize the speed and headhunting instincts of Larry Wilson, now the Cardinal director of pro personnel. The way the Redskins used it is not quite like trying to draw an inside straight, but still it was a considerable gamble.

"I'm really only as good as my cornerbacks," Houston said, "because they're man for man when I head in there. I've never done it for seven years -- and I doubt if any team ever did it this often. But I had fun out there today. I don't usually te-l anyone I had a good game, even if I believe I did.

"Today I was pretty good."

Surprisingly, at least to minds not entirely obsessed with Xs and Os, the safety blitz is even more effective against runs than passes. That is mainly why the Redskins used it, although Houston managed to wreck every phase of the Cardinal offense at various times.

Houston made 10 tackles, sacked quarterback Jim Hart once and kept Ottis Anderson in reasonable check on draw plays. And in one glorious moment such as defensive backs rarely consider in their giddiest dreams, he tackled two men and caused a fumble the Redskins recovered.

The play came on second and nine from the Washington 30; it was supposed to resemble a reverse, but in fact would end with Hart throwing a long pass downfield. It is called a "flea flicker" but the flea never got the chance to flicker.

As the halfback, Anderson, was about to hand the ball to the wide receiver, Mel Gray, coming toward him, Houston had his arms wrapped around Anderson.

"Just a lucky play," Houston said. "I saw the play and assumed it would be a sweep (by Anderson). I saw him about to hand the ball off, so I just kept pullin' him away. And he wasn't able to complete the handoff."

In truth, the handoff did seem completed for an instant, or until Houston's legs got tangled with Gray's. Then the ball floated free and Karl Lorch smothered it for the Redskins.

All by himself, Houston caused more havoc than three defenders usually managed on one play. But the Redskins could not muster any points from it.

Ironically, they did score after a Houston-caused fumble. But the fumble came after Houston made one of his few errors of the game, letting Dave Stief get by him with a pass.

The Cards had gift-wrapped Washington's first touchdown and seemed just ready to atone for it as Stief grabbed the ball with Houston and no one else near him at the Redskin 20 and dashed toward the goal line.

But at about the 10 Houston arrived from behind and grabbed his arms. And the big Stief dropped the ball. Redskin Mark Murphy, who was near most of the important bounces, recovered it at the one and hustled out to the 23.

In a few minutes, the Cards showed they could be just as offensive on defense. On third-and-eight, Buddy Hardeman was open by an acre after catching a six-yard pass and nobody touched him in the remaining 35 yards to the end zone.

It was a 14-point turnaround, seven the Cards should have scored and seven they should not have allowed -- or at least not that easily.

"Yeah, this is a pleasant surprise," Houston admitted of the Redskin 3-1 record. "It's been a matter of getting breaks at times."

Part of the fascination this season has been watching the Redskins attack teams they were not supposed to beat, the Oilers in the opener and the Cards today. In both games, they used their their strongest defensive area -- the safeties and cornerbacks -- to best advantage.

Coach Jack Pardee had Houston play a linebacker position against the Polers to counter Earl Campbell -- and the Redskins nearly won. Today, he had Houston as a one-man querilla force and the Cards never found a consistently successful way to stop him.

"We must have blitzed at least 10 times," Petitbon said. "We felt we had to change the tempo of the game because they ran so well. Timing was so important. We won't do something like it again for 10 years.

"What we really wanted to stop was the draw. Their lineman get set real quick in pass protection, our linemen go to the outside and it creates natural cavities. We wanted to counter that."

But there is counter to that counter. The simplest is for one of the outside receivers to anticipate the blitz and immediately slant over the middle for a quick pass. Hart completed two such passes to Pat Tilley.

If somebody clobbers Houston before he gets to the quarterback, the Redskin cornerbacks are in even more danger than usual, alone with two exceptionally swift and nimble receivers. But Washington's cornerbacks, Lemar Parrish and Joe Lavender, were exceptional themselves today.

"I have to disguise it (Houston's blitz)," Lavender said. "I have to take away the inside, but I don't want the receiver to know it before the play. If he does, he just goes over the top (straight down the field and sets up a potential long touchdown pass)."

Pardee calls it a matchup blitz "because it's not really a crazy sort of thing. We have pretty sound coverage. It's a way to counter draws and screens."

"We're not sitting back and waiting," Houston added. "We want to make things happen. In four games, we've got 16 turnovers. Today we just got that rhythm. We got that good feeling.