The questions kept whizzing by the ears of Johnnie Poe, New Orleans Saints cornerback. Late yesterday, Poe became known as the guy who got beat by Charlie Brown.

After the Redskins defeated the Saints, 27-10, in the Superdome, it seemed memory spotlighted only one play: Joe Theismann's 58-yard touchdown pass to Brown, a wide receiver, in the second quarter.

It made Washington's lead 14-7 and it made controversy; it made Saints Coach Bum Phillips charge onto the field in disagreement with the referees. "I thought Brown was out of bounds when he caught it," said Phillips.

Poe -- called for pass interference on the play -- give this solemn description of a play gone wrong:

"When Charlie Brown made his move, I jammed him. He tried to turn the corner. All I know, I hit him. I have that right, coming off the line.

"I jumped for the ball. The next thing I felt was Charlie Brown's hands. The ball never hit my hands even though that's what the official said. I didn't feel it hit my shoulder, either, like some people said they saw on the replay. I thought Brown was out of bounds when he caught it.

"One official called pass interference, though he didn't say whether it was against me or Charlie Brown. I thought he interfered with me. Somehow or another, I got bumped forward.

"Another official said we were both out of bounds. After the refs huddled, I was surprised they gave them the touchdown."

Brown caught the ball on the 40, then sprinted into the end zone and Poe saw Brown spike the ball. He shouldn't have watched.

Long after it happened, Poe, 22, was quietly in control.

"When it happened, though, Johnnie was really mad," said Saints linebacker Jim Kovach. "We just tried to calm him down."

None of the Saints thought Brown caught the ball in bounds. As 48,667 fans snarled, anger set in on the New Orleans sideline. "I've never seen Bum so mad," said Bobby Scott, Saints reserve quarterback. "Not ever."

"It was depressing. Demoralizing," said quarterback Guido Merkens.

That typifies the Saints' season. Only a home game against the Atlanta Falcons remains. It's unlikely the Saints will make the playoffs. This, however, is nothing new. In a 16-year existence, the Saints have never made the playoffs.

Archie Manning, as much a New Orleans fixture as Bourbon Street, may have been traded this season, but some things never change with these Saints. "At least we've had a couple highlights this year," said Scott, an 11-season survivor of the Saints.

New Orleans played without George Rogers today, the conference's leading running back who pulled a hamstring racing a teammate in a sprint after practice.

"It was a little letdown without George," said tight end Hoby Brenner.

The Saints also played without quarterback Ken Stabler, whose left throwing arm was hurt against Dallas last week. Merkens started in his place.

One must note, this was Merkens' first professional start at quarterback. Last season, he was the team's leading receiver. Before today, he had thrown three pro passes. He said, "I hope I looked better today than (former running back) Tom Matte looked when he quarterbacked the Colts that game way back when."

Merkens completed nine of 24 for 104 yards, one interception, zero touchdowns. He was under pressure all afternoon. "He rushed himself a little . . . but he'll profit from it," said Phillips.

"I overthrew some receivers. I don't think I was nervous," said Merkens, last a quarterback at Sam Houston State in 1978, where running was almost the only thing. He called 70 percent of the plays yesterday, he said. "I made mistakes calling plays at the end. It was just so tough to throw on the Redskins on first down."