"We are beginning to dominate people a bit," Ken Houston has noticed -- and there was no more appropriate place for the Redskins to make that obvious than in Atlanta today.

Nearly 10 months ago here, a sidewinding former bartender kicked the Falcons into the playoffs and the Redskins out with a controversial final-second field goal. In theory, Atlanta should have been better this season and the Redskins worse.

The bottom-line number today: Washington 17-6.

But what emphasized Houston's comment was not a number, though there were several dazzling ones: Joe Theismann completing 19 of 26 passes, the Redskins gaining nearly 2 1/2 times as much yardage as Atlanta and controlling the ball a staggering 13 more minutes.

The Redskins' dominance, their beating the feathers off birds unaccustomed to that happening, was underlined -- boldly -- when 261-pound Mike Lewis of the Falcons flattened the 190-pound car salesman-bank pitchman-television personality-restaurauteur and quarterback Joe Theismann.

It happened with just under two minutes left in the game, on a running play. Everyone was watching Clarence Harmon wiggle 14 yards for a first down when all of a sudden Theismann was flat on his back, arms outstretched like a child trying to make an angel in snow.

There was nothing angelic about how he got there.

"I went over to help him up," Theismann said, "and he knocked me upside the head. If he hit Larry Holmes like that, I guarantee he wouldn't have been standing, either."

Even the officials missed it, though the Washington offensive line coach, Ray Callahan, said it was a right uppercut. Whatever, it was more loud than lethal.

"I heard it," said reserve linebacker Pete Wysocki. That got my attention. I looked back and saw Joe down like a cold mackerel and said: 'Way to play-act, Joe.'"

It was no act. Or it fooled Ron Saul, Theismann's unofficial after-the-whistle bodyguard who has a pugilistic look, a fellow who has taken his share of punishment over the years and given out as much. He went flailing at Lewis.

"As flagrant as I've ever seen," Saul said. "I can't let 'em hurt our quarterback. Joe's playing great and the guy takes a cheap shot and nails him good."

How come neither he nor Lewis was ejected?

"I was," Saul said.

But for the rematch with Lewis, perhaps 90 seconds later.

"The second time he gave Bobby Kuziel a right to the chin," said Saul, the left guard. "And Joe said something. Lewis kinda pushed him and I went after him again.I said: 'Oh, Mike, there you go again.'"

They were scolded and sent off the field. Although none of the officials saw the punch that nailed Theismann -- no penalty was called -- a camera probably did. If so, Lewis is eligible for a fine by Commissioner Pete Rozelle that could have a comma in it.

"Remember when Joe Greene (of the Steelers) hit that guy in the stomach awhile back?" Houston said. "That cost him $5,000. Getting kicked out is $150."

"Hope the team pays my fine," said Saul.

Perhaps an hour after the game, Lewis entered the nearly empty Redskin locker room and sought out Theismann again. Embarrassed, Lewis said: "It was a cheap shot; it was bush. I shouldn't have done it."

Theismann took Lewis' extended hand and replied: "You're a helluva man for comin' here."

During the legal mayhem the Redskins played about as well as anyone could hope. This was one of those games when nearly every move offensively and defensively went as planned, although Falcon quarterback Steve Bartkowski threw badly at times.

Even though it would appear otherwise, with Danny Buggs catching 10 balls and John McDaniel two, one of the Redskin offensive minds, Fred O'Connor, said it was quite conservative.

"Those were high-percentage passes," he said. "They limit you offensively with all those blitzes. But conversely, they limit themselves with the same thing."


"By forcing single coverage. Their selection of coverage is minimized. They rush seven, so they have four to cover maybe five of our receivers. They've got to go man-for-man."

Simply put, the Falcons tried and failed with much of what the Redskins tried and executed a week ago against the Cardinals. The difference: Washington has better cornerbacks on defense and kept the blitzes off Theismann on offense.

"This game was designed years ago as a hitting game," O'connor said. "And it always will be a hitting game. The team that hits always has a chance. You don't hit, you don't have a chance.

"It's a simple game."