Dan Henning entered the room smirking mischievously. But that didn't begin to mask the anger he had directed toward the officials just minutes earlier when his Atlanta Falcons failed to convert on a fourth-and-three play that effectively ended their chances against the Redskins.

With Atlanta at its 39-yard line and trailing by 13 points with less than four minutes remaining, Stacey Bailey had the ball knocked from his hands by defensive backs Curtis Jordan and Anthony Washington.

Henning was convinced Bailey had been interfered with. The coach ran down the sideline to one official and waved his arms up and down in a motion that seemed strong enough to carry him off into the night.

And now, here was Henning, after a 10-minute cooling-off period, and his cool gave way quickly.

"There was too much judgment in the game," he said. He searched for more words, scratched his chin and, after about 30 seconds of silence, said, "That's it. See you later."

Perhaps he was off to his office to contemplate another play that upset him: the fumble assessed to his quarterback, Mike Moroski, late in the third quarter on third and six with the score tied at 14.

Actually, that was a more important call than the fourth-down pass that failed. Moroski, who was replacing injured Steve Bartkowski (knee), dropped back and his arm appeared (from replays) to be coming forward when linebacker Mel Kaufman knocked the ball loose. Neal Olkewicz recovered at Atlanta's 32.

"It seemed like my arm was coming forward," Moroski said, meaning that the play should have been called an incompletion, which would have allowed the Falcons to punt. "I was getting ready to let go of the ball."

When asked if officials are consistent with calling incompletions or fumbles on that play, Moroski smiled and said, "They're consistent in Washington. Last year it happened and they ran it in for a touchdown. It's a tough call to make, though, especially if there are a lot of people around the ball, like there were in that play."

Bailey wasn't as upset as his coach, the former assistant head coach of the Redskins, about the fourth-down play, which occurred on the Atlanta sideline.

"The Redskins were double-covering me, and I was running a comeback route, in between the two," Bailey said. "They just came across swinging and knocked the ball out.

"Some people thought it was pass interference. I'd have to see the film to make a judgment."

Moroski, who scrambled just to get off the pass, said, "One guy hit him from the side and I'm told he made a clean play. But the guy from the back might have hit him before the ball arrived.

" . . . It sure would have been nice to have that fourth-down play. It would have kept us alive."

At least the Falcons looked alive last night. On Oct. 22, they lost, 24-10, to the Los Angeles Rams in an embarrassing Monday night performance.

"We stunk up the place," running back Gerald Riggs said. "We really played badly. This time we had to make some strides and I think we did. We're still making a lot of mistakes and that's kind of bad for this point in the season.

"But we looked better than we did the last couple of weeks. We showed people that we're not washed up. We're still gonna play people."