If defenses in the National Football League find it impossible to draw a bead on this little Charlie Brown who plays so big, how can anyone else? It took Redskins teammates Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby two months or so to realize all three lived in the same apartment complex. Very likely, he is the most harmless-looking No. 87 in his sport -- until he slips into overdrive and catches another touchdown pass.
Spectacularly ordinary fits; so does ordinarily spectacular, after Brown caught two more long-distance passes today -- against the bedeviled Saints -- and now has eight touchdowns in eight games. The defender jostled Brown illegally each time -- and Brown still ended up joy-spiking the ball in the end zone.
The second one, which tilted the game Washington's way for good, may have been premature. Television replays, from a poor angle, suggest Brown did a wonderful imitation of his hero, Lynn Swann, that he beat poor Johnnie Poe again and scored fair and square.
But the teeny-tiniest part of Brown's right heel might have been out of bounds when he caught Joe Theismann's lob at about the Saints' 40-yard line, which would have nullified the touchdown. Washingtonians know the Redskins usually get only field goals that close to the end zone; everyone in the NFL senses that the Redskins have been good AND lucky in near-equal measure this season.
So there was something inevitable about the call. No argument here about it. Pushed, Brown clearly was out of bounds an instant BEFORE the catch. That brought the flag for interference. He also seemed to have both feet in bounds when he controlled the ball officials said Poe already touched.
Brown is the first person to whom seekers of truth dashed. And the absolutely wrong one, he being the only person in the Superdome who didn't see himself land. His concentration is a gift only Swann and a few others have. Still, nobody can stay aloft longer than some punts, maneuver his body around a man who knows he might soon be unemployed if he blows another coverage, keep his eyes on a ball tipped off target, catch it AND THEN LOOK DOWN TO SEE IF BOTH FEET ARE IN BOUNDS.
"All I know is that the ball ended up in my hands," he said.
Brown was tossing the game ball, or a game ball, which may or may not have been the one he toted those controversial yards, as he talked. He had an apple in his pocket, a stylish cap on his head. And dreams of doing even better undoubtedly tucked in the back of his mind.
"He's always asking about guys who made all-pro," said Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs. "Charlie Joiner, say. People like that. He'll ask what it takes to make all-pro. You can see he's set his goals awfully high."
"Arrogant on the field," said General Manager Bobby Beathard, who chose the obscure receiver from South Carolina State on the eighth round of the 1981 draft.
Not shy off it, either.
"Don't have to work on my confidence," Brown admitted. It's always up. Yeah, I think that (second touchdown catch) was the turning point today. I thought it took something out of them."
"A leaper," Gibbs added. "Great concentration and balance, too. We coaches will fool around with the players during the offseason in basketball games (on a small court at Redskin Park) -- and when (5-foot-10) Charlie goes up his feet sometimes are at about my chin. And he falls like a cat.
"You never hear him hit the ground."
You'd have heard about him a year sooner, except for a knee injury suffered against the Colts in the third game last preseason.
"He seemed to take a mental dive after that, for some reason," Gibbs said. "But he really made his hay in the offseason. He hit the weights, and was one of the best in the 12-minute run (in training camp). You could tell he was ready."
Today, the Saints blitzed about 10 times; Theismann and Brown shot them down twice for touchdowns.
In NFL math, that's a decent percentage.
The first touchdown, the 57-yarder, that suggested this game would be easier than it in fact was, Theismann threw a textbook pass. Bumped slightly off stride earlier, Brown regained it and never broke it again, so accurate was the pass.
The second touchdown was Swann-like -- and swan-like.
"Sorta jumped over him," Brown said. "Sorta good timing."
Sorta similar to that diving catch he made a week ago, or a few others among the 25 he had before today. Today, the lesson such as the Giants already have learned hit the Saints: double Art Monk; see Charlie run into the end zone. He averaged nearly 40 yards with his four catches today.
"My third or fourth game ball," he said casually.
That was after Theismann pushed his way into the only people able to keep Brown in one place all afternoon, a herd of reporters near the valuables' box, and chirped: "Excuse me, hero, would you take all that gold (three necklaces) somewhere else and let a simple peon get his wallet."
Maybe that simple peon also will pass a few public-relations tips Brown's way. All he endorses now are the virtues of team play in the NFL. But when somebody asked whether he thought he was having an all-pro season, Brown said: "Yes."
He added: "Whatever the defense gives us we take."
Lately, defenders give Brown an inch and he takes a pass half the field. He's worked on everything but an image this season. Anybody got a handle for this CB?