Houston Oilers wide receiver Drew Hill stripped his football equipment off like a man who had just been put through the ringer, but the confident tone in his voice sounded nothing like a defeated man.
"I know they're at home and playing at RFK Stadium but we played damn good -- and we beat 'em," he said. "We beat 'em, just not on the scoreboard."
The Oilers, 3-13 last season, were good enough to beat the Super Bowl finalist Miami Dolphins last Sunday and good enough to control the final 30 minutes of yesterday's game. But Houston's attempt at a second straight upset fell short as two touchdowns were called back because of penalties.
Late in the third period, an illegal block nullified a 23-yard interception return for an apparent touchdown by Steve Brown that would have put the Oilers ahead, 19-13. About five minutes later, an illegal motion call against Mike Rozier voided an 11-yard pass from quarterback Warren Moon to Tim Smith that would have been a touchdown.
On the next play, following the five-yard motion penalty, Moon hit Hill in the corner of the end zone for what looked to be another score, but the receiver was ruled to have only one foot in bounds.
There was more: a 51-yard Moon-to-Hill pass deep into Redskins territory was recalled because of a holding penalty. And when the Oilers needed a call they didn't get it; an apparent fumble after a reception by Art Monk was ruled a dead ball.
Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann saw it as the Oilers, who had 12 penalties to the Redskins' six, lacking "a little luck." The Oilers saw it differently.
"It's funny how all those calls seemed to come in crucial situations," said Oilers offensive lineman Harvey Salem.
Offensive tackle Bruce Matthews said, "It looked like we had gotten to the point where we had finally overcome all our mishaps . . . but apparently not to the refs. They're the final judges. I guess it has to be left at that."
The Redskins are certainly glad to do that. "Sure we got a few breaks," said free safety Curtis Jordan. "I wasn't gonna argue with the officials."
The first break came with 32 seconds remaining in the third period. Theismann, passing from his own 23, tried to hit Don Warren only to have Brown intercept and head down the left sideline and into the end zone. The runback was nullified when fellow defensive back Keith Bostic was called for illegal use of hands -- on Theismann.
Of the call, Theismann said he was hit from behind but wasn't sure if that was the reason for the flag. The Oilers weren't placated.
"On that play, Theismann deliberately turned his back and he gets a penalty," Hill said.
Hill was much closer for the Oilers' next bad break. Scrambling on second and 10 from his own 40-yard line early in the final quarter, Moon threw a pass to Hill, who raced to the Washington nine.
The call: holding, No. 76 for Houston, offensive tackle Eric Moran.
Said Matthews, "From my point of view it's hard to tell what's going on on the other side of the line, but the frequency of those calls wasn't very pleasant."
On third and goal from the Washington 11, Smith caught a pass from Moon in the corner of the end zone only to have it brought back because Rozier was judged to have illegally shifted just prior to the snap. "I've never seen so many potential touchdowns turned the other way," Smith said.
On the following play, Hill, running the same pattern as Smith, made a diving catch in the corner of the end zone but was ruled to be out of bounds.
"I guess they saw that we were playing to the inside so they tried to go outside," said Washington defensive back Barry Wilburn. "We were strictly in a man to man and we wanted to keep them from going to the inside. He faked in and then went to the flag. I tried to reach for it but couldn't get to it."
"I'm sure glad they called it back, but it looked like both feet were in to me," Jordan said.
Of course, Hill didn't disagree. "I've got too much experience to not get both feet in bounds," he said. "All day long, it was one thing or another, but they were all against us."
"How the calls go is beyond our control," said Smith. "But we took it to them. That we spotted them 13 points (actually 16) and to be able to come back means something."