Calm and cool on a muggy summer night in Georgia, Mick Luckhurst kicked a 29-yard field goal in overtime to lead the Atlanta Falcons to a 13-10 victory over the Washington Redskins before 46,052 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. It was the opening preseason game for both teams.
Luckhurst's game-winner came with 10:04 left in overtime, two plays after Washington kicker Mark Moseley's 50-yard attempt fell about 10 yards short of victory.
On Atlanta's first play after Moseley's miss, reserve quarterback Mike Moroski, harmless since inheriting the 10-10 halftime tie left him by starter Steve Bartkowski, heaved a 55-yard pass to Willie Curran. Curran swept left past a mixup among young reserves in the secondary and was tackled at the Washington 12.
The Falcons did not even attempt another play. Luckhurst, the English-born, left-footed kicker who used to wear outlandish green pin-striped suits while a kicker at Cal-Berkeley three years ago, then kicked the definitive game-winner.
That seemed mostly an act of mercy, ending a typical preseason game that began with some flair and competence when both teams played their starters, but finished with reserves, penalties, sacks and departing fans. In one aborted third-quarter play, game officals provided a new rendition of six flags over Georgia.
To further the Redskins' frustration, Jeff Hayes and Dave Smigelsky each got off nine-yard punts. Late in the second quarter, the Redskins had first and goal from the four and did not score.
"There were a lot of mistakes out there," Washington Coach Joe Gibbs said.
In the first quarter, however, came one of those gems made for highlight films. Cornerback Darrell Green, the Redskins' top draft pick from Texas A&I, returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown, giving Washington a 7-0 lead.
The Redskins had hoped for immediate impact from Green in his rookie season. It couldn't have been any more so: Green dashed untouched through the blocking wedge to score 1:42 into the game.
There was also immediate impact for the Redskins tonight from Ken Coffey, the 23-year-old strong safety who was making his first start. Coffey played in place of Tony Peters, arrested this week on a cocaine trafficking charge, and played the entire game. He made several tackles and intercepted a pass by Moroski in the fourth quarter, diving to the ground to do so.
After Green's touchdown return, Bartkowski kept challenging left cornerback LeCharls McDaniel, starting in place of holdout Jeris White. For the most part, this strategy worked. Although Atlanta's Gerald Riggs ran 35 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, it was nullifed when Alfred Jenkins was caught holding.
So the Falcons settled for Luckhurst's 48-yard field goal that closed Atlanta within 7-3 with 6:05 left in the quarter.
Bartkowski kept sending running back William Andrews (10 carries for 48 first-half yards) to the right side, challenging defensive end Mat Mendenhall and tackle Dave Butz. Then Bartkowski completed two passes against McDaniel.
The second completion was a 16-yard touchdown pass to Alfred Jackson. He ran past McDaniel into the right back corner of the end zone, then dived to make the catch that gave Atlanta a 10-7 lead with 4:53 left in the quarter.
While the Falcons dominated the first quarter, the Redskins' offense took charge in the second, possessing the ball for nearly 12 minutes. Moseley kicked a 28-yard field goal, ending a lengthy drive and tying the score, 10-10, with 10:17 left in the half.
The Redskins might have scored a touchdown on this drive, but quarterback Joe Theismann, who completed nine of 15 passes for 79 yards in his half, overthrew tight end Don Warren, who was open in the end zone on third down.
Later in the second quarter, the Redskins had a first and goal from the four. Reserve running back Reggie Evans ran three straight times into the line, gaining two yards. Moseley's 19-yard field goal attempt, which might have given the Redskins a 13-10 lead, hit the right upright and bounced away with 2:53 left in the half.
Thesimann then led a drive starting from the Washington 39 with 1:07 left in the half. He drove the Redskins to the Atlanta 31 before his pass was intercepted by cornerback Bobby Butler, who stepped in front of Alvin Garrett at the Atlanta three with eight seconds left.
Theismann cursed himself. In the second half, second-year quarterback Bob Holly probably wanted to curse his young offensive line. Holly was sacked five times and completed nine of 21 passes for 117 yards.
Holly's offensive line was filled with the same reserves who seemingly betrayed him in the scrimmage against Baltimore a week ago. They included rookies Nathan Newton, Bob Winckler and Jay Bequette and Darryl Grant, a third-year player moved from starting defensive tackle to the offensive line when starter Mark May suffered a partial tear of his right triceps.
"There was just no continuity back there," Gibbs said of Holly's line troubles.
Holly's one productive drive came in overtime, when he drove the Redskins from their eight to the Atlanta 33. A 35-yard chunk of those yards came on a pass to wide receiver Mark McGrath, taking the ball to the Atlanta 32. Then Moseley missed the 50-yarder.
Then Luckhurst ended a game that began when defensive tackle Perry Brooks led the defending Super Bowl champions out of the locker room, waving the No. 1 sign.
"It wasn't pretty and it took a long time, but we'll take it," said Dan Henning after his first game as Atlanta head coach since leaving his assistant's role with the Redskins. Atlanta will play at Washington in Week 14 of the regular season.
"I think Coach Gibbs is the same as me: we didn't want to show too much tonight," said Henning.
Or as Bartkowski, who completed five of 12 for 56 yards in the first half, said, "When we play Chicago (in the season opener), we will not have any holds barred. Tonight, we barred some holds."
Redskins running back Joe Washington did not play tonight. "No particular reason. He was ready. I just wanted to look at the other guys," Gibbs said . . . John Riggins played the first half, gaining 28 yards on six carries . . . Offensive tackle Joe Jacoby felt pain in his sprained lower back and guard Russ Grimm bruised his knee. Neither injury is believed serious.