Washington Redskins, meet Son of Washington Redskins.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, the Redskins and the Atlanta Falcons, two teams with the same football blood pounding in their veins, meet at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

They both believe in the one-back, possession-passing, 40-Gut style of football personified by Coach Joe Gibbs and his former understudy, Atlanta Coach Dan Henning.

But almost all similarities end there. You see, something got lost between generations.


The Redskins are 4-4 and expected to be doing better. The Atlanta Falcons are 1-7 and doing about the best they can. Naturally, few expect this to be a close game.

Gibbs, who has weathered a week that included defensive end Dexter Manley's car accident and more back troubles for running back John Riggins, is doing everything possible to guard against overconfidence.

It would be easy for the Redskins to overlook the Falcons, with home games against Dallas and the New York Giants coming up in the next two weeks.

So Gibbs has devised a snappy little strategy for this game:

"How important is this one? I've been telling them that this one is important to make the next two important.

"It would kind of take a miracle to (win the division) if we lose this one."

Today, before they left Redskin Park, the Redskins activated defensive end Steve Hamilton and officially placed defensive tackle Darryl Grant on the injured reserve list after surgery to repair ligament damage in his left knee.

If Hamilton plays -- and it's likely he will in a reserve role behind Manley and Charles Mann -- it would be his first regular-season game as a professional.

Last year, he spent his rookie season on injured reserve.

During a light workout today, Riggins watched and George Rogers had all the carries. Although no decision has been made, Rogers is likely to make his first start as a Redskin.

In seven games against the Falcons when he was with New Orleans, Rogers gained an average of 4.3 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns.

But the Redskins' No. 1 concern is passing, not running. If quarterback Joe Theismann and the receivers are to finally get untracked, it would seem Sunday would be the day.

Whereas the Redskins have the worst passing offense in the league (averaging 147.8 yards per game), the Falcons have the worst pass defense in the league (276.8). It figures one of these two units would have to break from mediocrity Sunday.

Gibbs said last week, in the 14-7 victory over Cleveland, the passing game "had a pretty solid performance." He went on: "I think all of our parts are there. Art (Monk, who had an injured shoulder) is healthy again . . . Gary (Clark) and Joe feel very comfortable . . . Clint (Didier, who had an injured kneecap) has rested and is feeling well.

"We've got everything in place to have a great game. Up until now, though, it hasn't happened."

Theismann has completed 56.4 percent of his passes, but his average gain per pass is just 5.72 yards, lowest in the NFL. Jim McMahon of Chicago, who leads the league in the complicated quarterback rating system, has an 8.08-yard gain per pass.

The good news for the Redskins is that when Henning is asked what's wrong with his team, he points to the secondary, where injuries have sidelined Kenny Johnson, James Britt and John Ayres.

If it's any consolation for the Redskins, David Archer, the Falcons' second-year quarterback, ranks nearly as low as Theismann.

Archer, who has replaced Steve Bartkowski (on injured reserve that could be permanent), ranks second-worst among NFC quarterbacks. Archer has completed 70 of the 125 passes he has thrown for 834 yards, only three touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Wide receiver Charlie Brown, obtained from the Redskins in an August trade, missed three games with broken ribs but is expected to start, Henning said.

Another former Redskin, running back Joe Washington, will play on third downs.

Gerald Riggs, Atlanta's one-back, leads the NFC with 759 yards rushing in 178 attempts, a 4.3-yard average.

Henning said he basically runs the Redskins offense, and the Redskins like that.

"They have different personnel and different numbers, but it's the same basic idea," said Washington's Tony Peters. But, he added, Atlanta tends to take chances early, for obvious reasons.

"They may use three receivers to one side," he said. "It's a desperation-type thing, but they'll use it any time. We use it only at the end of the game."

The Falcons led Dallas, 10-0, last week before losing, 24-10, and beat the Saints the week before, 31-24. Steady improvement, yes, but not a steam-rolling trend.

"What we need to do is grow up," Henning said of his young team. "Time will take this team where it wants to go.