Mark Moseley picked a good afternoon to snap out of his season-long kicking slump, from the Washington Redskins' point of view. If he had not connected on five field goals yesterday, tying a club record, the Redskins probably would have spent this weekend explaining how they were embarrassed by an opponent as inept as the New Orleans Saints.
Moseley, who missed eight of his first 10 field goal attempts this year, bucked a gusty wind and his growing self-doubts to convert from 50, 28, 35, 52 and 38 yards and Ricky Thompson caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Joe Theismann to bail out Washington, 22-14, at RFK Stadium.
It was one of those scrambling victories (the Redskins are now 3-5) that brought a robust sigh of relief from Coach Jack Pardee, who is enough of a realist to admit his team played just poorly enough to give the Saints every opportunity to win their first game of the season.
A second-quarter goal-line stand by the Washington defense stopped New Orleans inches short of both a touchdown and a first down. It also saved the Redskins. They got another break when offsetting penalties in the third quarter wiped out an Archie Manning scamper to the Washington 10 with Washington leading, 9-7.
Pardee was shaking his head afterward over a number of dropped passes that stopped drives and put the game squarely on the previously erratic toe of Moseley, who had kicked so poorly in pregame warmups that Theismann, his holder, said, "Mark couldn't have hit the broad side of a barn."
But and adjustment by Thiesmann on the way he held the ball -- he tilted it farther back -- and the first kick, from 50 yards, put Moseley in the game-saving position he had occupied for most of his six years in Washington.
"That first one, it was headed about two feet outside the left goal post, just like the one he missed (at the end of the game) against Denver," Theismann said. "But about halfway there, it changed direction. Knowing Mark is so religious, maybe something else besides the wind helped it out."
Chalk it up to divine intervention, or a matter of the odds finally evening out. Whatever, the Redskins were more than grateful for his contributions. Curt Knight twice kicked five field goals in a game for Washington, but Moseley's high was four. And, going into this game, he was just four for 14 in 1980, including zero of four from outside 49 yards.
And what would the Redskins have done if Moseley kept missing early in the game?
"Well," said Pardee, "we would have had adjusted our forth down strategy or find some receivers who could come through. You just have to be glad Mark picked today to come through. He had great timing."
Pardee might have even considered putting the glue on the hands of many of those receivers, especially Bobby Hammond, who dropped passes that would have gained first downs for Washington deep in New Orleans territory. Add a muff by Clarence Harmon, and Washington made the game much closer than it had to be. Another mistake, John McDaniel's drop of a sure touchdown pass from Theismann, proved meaningless; Thompson's touchdown followed on the next play.
Not that the Saints showed up merely to collect their paychecks. New Orleans averaged only 58 yards a game rushing while losing its first seven contests, but yesterday, free agent Jim Rogers took advantage of his first NFL start by doing what Jim Jodat and Otis Armstrong had already done against Washington this season.He gained more than 100 yards.
Rogers rushed for 114 yards -- New Orleans had accumulated only 410 yards on the ground before yesterday -- as the Saints crossed up the Redskins and ran the ball effectively instead of relying on Archie Manning's passes.
Pardee thought Manning would try as many as 45 passes, but he threw just 24. But as linebacker Brad Dusek put it, "Running all that much didn't really do them much good since we shut off (receiver) Wes Chandler." Still, a touchdown by the Saints in the second or third quarter could have easily changed the complexion of the game.
The Redskins were determined to control Chandler, New Orleans' big-play receiver, even if it meant surrendering rushing yardage. Chandler, thanks to the excellent coverage of cornerback Lemar Parrish, didn't have and catches. But Pardee admitted, "We were a little too soft on the run. We didn't want to give up that many yards to them (220). They really took advantage when we were in our nickel coverages. That's when they gained most of their yards."
Moseley's 50-yarder on the Redskins' first possession, and his 28-yard kick that opened the second quarter (after Hammond dropped a pass that would have been a first down on the New Orleans eight), staked Washington to a 6-0 lead before New Orleans got its offense untracked.
Passes of 20 and 13 yards and a 16-yard sweep by Rogers, a University of Oklahoma product who couldn't make it in Canada, had the Saints at the Redskin 22. Washington's shuffle-people-on-every-play defense consistently missed tackles and overran plays. When Rogers plowed to the three, things looked bleak for the Redskins, but New Orleans was called for holding. On the next play, from the 17, halfback Wayne Wilson shot up the middle for 15, stopping at the two.
On third down, a motion penalty cost the Saints five yards, but Rogers got it all back with a sweep to the two. Coach Dick Nolan never hesitated in going for either the touchdown or a first down at the goal line. Fullback Tony Galbreath tried to leap over right guard but middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz blitzed on the play, got him by the ankles and pulled him down short of the end zone.
Still, a first down remained a possibility. The officials measured and the ball was no more than an inch short. The Saints cried foul, but the Redskins got possession. Minutes later, Rich Milot picked off the first of his two passes at the New Orleans 37 and Moseley again came on for a field goal, this time from 35 yards, after Hammond lost a pass at the 12.
New Orleans narrowed the lead to 9-7 at intermission when a 24-yard scramble by Manning, a 14-yard pass to Henry Childs and a 10-yard run by Rogers had the Saints in the end zone with 57 seconds left in the half.
Faced with heading into a strong wind during the third quarter, the Saints again elected to stay on the ground. "They really had me scared," Pardee said. "They were controlling the clock and if they got ahead, they'd have the wind in the fourth and it would have been a big lift for them."
Using nine running plays and one seven-yard pass, Manning had his club at the Washington 39 on its first possession of the second half. On third down, Manning pulled off a quarterback draw to the 10, but a holding penalty on New Orleans and unnecessary roughness on Redskin linebacker Monte Coleman wiped out the play. A third down pass then fell incomplete.
A 32-yard run by Wilbur Jackson, who had 87 of Washington's 368 total yards, set up a 52-yard Moseley boot. Two plays later, Milot dashed from his middle linebacker post to the far sideline and grabbed a pass intended for Rogers at the Saint 27.
"I thought I had only one arm out there but somehow I had two," said a slightly surprised Milot.
Washington then thought it had a quick touchdown when Theismann's toss to McDaniel led the receiver perfectly at the goal line. No one touched McDaniel, but he still dropped the ball after two steps.
But on the next down, the Redskins scored. In the first half, Thompson had tried an out pattern "that the New Orleans guy ran better than I did." At intermission, Washington decided to have Thompson cut inside when he ran the pattern again. When he did, he was wide open. Theismann three a bullet and Thompson spun away from one tackler and slid under another -- "to protect my body" -- for six points. Moseley added the extra point and the Redskins led, 19-7, to ease Pardee's concern.
Manning had to start throwing more in the fourth and wound up being sacked five times -- he also tossed three interceptions -- before adding a meaningless touchdown in the final 44 seconds.Theismann, who was decked seven times last season by New Orleans, escaped without a sack this time. He completed 15 of 29 passes for 185 yards, including five for 75 to the improving Art Monk.
"To win a game like this, even when we weren't getting many exceptional performances, is something we need," Pardee said. "This is typical of what we need to get done. We need people like Rich Milot and Ricky Thompson to keep playing their right roles."
But, he added quickly, "When we get that close so many times, we need more touchdowns. Field goals are nice, but they sure pile up slowly. Too slowly."
The Redskins came out of this game with few injuries. only guard Jeff Williams (pinched nerve in neck) was on the injury list. Tackle Terry Hermeling (thumb) got in for a play, but otherwise Fred Dean took his place. h