It was a strange homecoming yesterday at RFK Stadium for Tony Zendejas, who lost out to Mark Moseley for the Washington Redskins' place kicking job. In direct contrast to his first Washington visit during the preseason, this time he was greeted by a thundering of boos, but left to a chorus of cheers.
Zendejas, who was traded to the Houston Oilers in late August, made his first two field goal attempts of 44 and 35 yards in Washington's 16-13 victory. In the fourth quarter, however, with two opportunities to tie the game, he missed a 42-yarder wide to the left and had a 33-yarder bounce off the right upright with 4:13 remaining.
"The bad thing with both of them was that I hit them too straight," said Zendejas, 25, a soccer-style kicker who counts on his kicks to hook from right to left. "I don't think there was any extra pressure kicking against the Redskins. Every game is pressure and every field goal is pressure. Sometimes, they just don't go in."
When Zendejas came on the field to attempt the 44-yard kick in the second quarter with Washington leading, 16-0, the Redskins fans booed.
"I heard them, but that is part of the game," said Zendejas, who kicked field goals of 35 and 46 yards without a miss in last week's 26-23 upset of Miami. "The fans just tried to distract me, that's all."
Zendejas responded by making the low, line-drive kick with a good 10 yards to spare.
But -- as in his preseason duel with Moseley, a 14-year veteran -- Zendejas did not finish as strongly as he started.
"The ones I missed today were kind of depressing, but they would have hurt as much against any other team," said Zendejas. "I always come through. This is the first time this has ever happened to me. Now I know how it feels."
Houston Coach Hugh Campbell did not blame the game's outcome on his kicker.
"Tony did a good job coming into this stadium with all of the hullabaloo that had been going on here, and he put some pressure kicks in for us," said Campbell. "It is not like he choked or something. He came in and kicked the ball."
Moseley, whose relationship during training camp with Zendejas was very cool, made a special effort to seek out the Houston kicker after the game.
"I went over to find him and told him to keep his head up," said Moseley, who was successful on his only field goal attempt of 34 yards, but had an extra point attempt blocked. "I would be lying if I said there wasn't any special pressure for me coming into this situation. Anytime Tony and I do anything together, to some people, it's been like the end of the world."
Moseley said he did feel a special empathy with Zendejas yesterday.
"The fans were giving him a hard time," said Moseley. "We kickers have to live with the ups and downs; that's part of the job. But we have to stick together because we are all we have in this game."