The Washington Redskins withstood a couple of missed field goals, a quarterback they traded away a year ago and a fourth-quarter Atlanta rally to win their National Football League preseason opener tonight, 17-14, over the Falcons.
The Redskins built a 17-0 lead with 14:55 remaining behind the play of quarterbacks Joe Theismann and Jay Schroeder, then watched Bob Holly, whom they traded to Philadelphia last season, lead the Falcons to two late touchdowns before 30,574 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
The game ended with a last-ditch Atlanta incompletion at the Washington 30-yard line, leaving the Redskins to ponder an unconvincing victory.
When they went to the locker room with a 7-0 halftime lead, the Redskins might have been more perplexed than pleased.
Certainly, there were bright moments, none more sparkling than running back Keith Griffin's twisting, darting, 15-yard touchdown on a pass from Theismann with 11:32 remaining in the half.
But the Redskins, who played most of their first-stringers well into the second quarter, had to be confused when Mark Moseley and Tony Zendejas refused to outdo each other in their kicking battle. Each missed field goal attempts, Moseley's from 39 yards and Zendejas' from 43.
And although starting running back George Rogers gained 47 yards in nine carries, he also fumbled on the third play, which Coach Joe Gibbs considers an unpardonable sin.
The fumble, after a seven-yard gain, gave the Falcons the ball at Washington's 31. But, they, too, have a kicker whose leg needed a jump-start tonight.
Danny Miller -- remember him? -- missed a 44-yard attempt with five minutes gone. The Falcons made one first down, to the Redskins' 18, only to have a reverse go sour in the arms of linebacker Rich Milot for a six-yard loss.
Miller came on two plays later and missed wide right. In 1982, Miller pressed Moseley until the end of preseason before Gibbs decided to stick with his veteran. Moseley went on to be named the NFL's most valuable player; Miller has bounced around both professional leagues the last three seasons.
Moseley, the second-oldest kicker in the league, perhaps is facing a tougher battle this preseason, although it would have been hard to tell in the first half tonight.
After Miller's miss, the Redskins drove from their 26 to Atlanta's 21, sparked by Theismann's two run-and-slide scrambles, one 11 yards and the other 13.
Rogers, playing well as a replacement for John Riggins in the one-back formation, gained 12 yards on three carries. For old times' sake, Theismann threw once to Charlie Brown for 10 yards and once to Art Monk for seven.
When the drive stalled, Moseley, as planned, received the first chance to kick. He had taken most of the week off to allow his injured right thigh to heal, but drove the ball wide right.
Advantage, Mr. Zendejas.
But Zendejas, who kicked the extra point after Griffin's touchdown, also failed, his 43-yard attempt fluttering left with 4:55 remaining in the half.
The Redskins began their touchdown drive with two completions by Theismann, one to Otis Wonsley for five yards, the other to Monk for 16. Rogers gained 15 yards in two carries before a completion to Brown for eight.
Griffin, working with Wonsley in the backfield behind Theismann, gained four to Atlanta's 15 before an incompletion to Monk, double-covered in the end zone.
On second down, Theismann passed to Griffin, inside the 10, near the left sideline. He dodged cornerback James Britt, then safety Tom Pridemore, and, finally, twisted away from safety Scott Case to reach the end zone.
Theismann ended his evening nicely with eight completions in 11 attempts for 71 yards and the touchdown. Griffin accounted for 43 yards in the half (19 rushing on three carries, 24 receiving on three catches).
The team's emerging No. 2 quarterback, Schroeder, also looked sharp, completing seven of 11 passes for 72 yards in the half. He led the Redskins across midfield twice, to no avail.
The shotgun formation, last used against Chicago in the playoffs, returned in the Redskins' final series of the half. But time ran out after three straight completions took the ball to the Falcons' 45.
Schroeder, playing the third quarter and into the fourth, led the Redskins to 10 more points. First, Moseley kicked a 35-yard field goal with 5:01 remaining in the third quarter to give them a 10-0 lead.
Then, Schroeder and rookie Vincent Hall teamed for an eight-yard touchdown with five seconds gone in the fourth quarter for a 17-0 advantage.
Holly had a hand in the touchdown. Holly, replacing Atlanta starter David Archer, was sacked by defensive end Steve Hamilton at the Falcons' 10 in the last minute of the third quarter.
As Holly went down, the ball popped loose, rolling away from Hamilton until it was chased down by defensive end Charles Mann at the Falcons' six.
The Redskins went backward 10 yards when rookie receiver Joe Phillips was called for pass interference, but immediately gained eight yards back on a Schroeder-to-Danzell Lee pass.
On second and eight, beginning the fourth quarter, Hall dashed out of the backfield and into the end zone, where Schroeder's pass awaited him. Moseley kicked the extra point.
The Falcons finally answered on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Holly to rookie Emile Harry, who beat rookie cornerback Garry Kimble and dashed into the end zone with 13 minutes to play.
The Falcons scored again on an 82-yard drive that ended with running back Cliff Austin's two-yard dive with 3:47 remaining, cutting the Redskins' lead to three.
Three Redskins veterans were hurt tonight. Starting left guard Russ Grimm suffered a strain and contusion of his left calf and is expected to miss a few days of practice.
Reserve free safety Greg Williams suffered a sprained neck, which meant that rookie Raphel Cherry received quite a bit of work at that position. Williams also may miss several days of practice.
And starting strong safety Ken Coffey was helped off the field early in the third quarter with an injured left knee. It was uncertain how serious the injury is.