You may not be familiar with Martin Fetridge, though his was the most inspired pass of an otherwise predictable Redskins-Falcons 44-10 mismatch. His pitch was on the scoreboard, and in letters Clint Didier tall and Russ Grimm wide:


Like the Falcons trying a fake punt deep in their territory early in the second quarter, Martin Fetridge was spitting in a gale; like the Redskins, his well-conceived daring turned out to be wildly wonderful.

Katie Dowd said "YES."

May their life be no sadder than watching the Falcons go one-for-the-season.

The rest of the lovey-dovey day belonged to the Redskins. Most of the fans, or at least those who yelled loudest, were pro- Washington. Joe Theismann said he'd never gotten such a warm reception on the road.

"Like a home away from home," he said.

Aglow, Theismann proceeded to rekindle what he hopes will be a long and torrid football affair with Art Monk. Were he more like Martin Fetridge, the quiet Monk long ago might have paid for billboard space to plead to his quarterback:

"Can we hug soon in the end zone?"

Monk had gone half the season without a touchdown catch, a fact almost as startling as a politician reaching mid-campaign without saying anything nasty about his opponent.

Happily, Theismann lofted a pass that Monk grabbed on the run late in the first half and carried over previously foreign territory: the goal line. Sure enough, Theismann soon was embracing him.

In all, Monk caught six passes for 106 yards, all of them over or under poor Bobby Butler. Shortly after halftime, Butler limped off the field, Monk having added injury to insult during a first-down catch.

The Redskins' first play from scrimmage proved the coaches had been extraordinarily diligent with the game plan. Theismann said the offense was prepared for absolutely anything former friend Dan Henning might devise.

That opening play was a new one, called "40 Belly," and had tight end Don Warren as the up-back in an I formation featuring George Rogers.

Rogers dashed toward the right side of the line and, to the Falcons' surprise, couldn't be brought to earth until 35 yards later.

"After that," said Grimm, "we said, 'It's gonna work; let's get it.' "

And the Falcons were supposed to be decent against the run. All the Redskins did Sunday was muster the second-best rushing total in their history: 307 yards.

Which suggests a fourth great lie. Along with lies, damned lies and statistics, add game films. Had John Riggins chosen to play, he could have gained the nine yards necessary to pass O.J. Simpson in career rushing -- and the 1,084 needed to catch Jim Brown.

There had been few hints before Sunday that the Redskins' offense was more than a rumor. Rogers had 106 yards rushing the first half; Monk and Gary Clark had five catches and 104 yards between them.

As usual, Washington's defense was stingy. It also helped that Falcons starter Dave Archer was as wild as some other birds, those Cardinals pitchers in the seventh game of the World Series.

The only question worth considering, even before game's end, was: will this blowout be useful in preparation for the Cowboys Sunday in RFK Stadium?

Yes and no.

Usually, the Redskins have two or three days to savor success; this week, they had two or three seconds. Theismann hadn't even wiped off the black goo from under his eyes before someone poked a microphone under his chin and blurted:

"How 'bout Dallas?"

Well, Dallas' defense only resembles the Falcons' defense in that each uses 11 men. So, as a clinic, Sunday was rather wasted.

Mentally, whipping up on the Falcons was candy-apple sweet. Even the proudest heavyweight can use a punch-drunk sparring partner now and then -- and Washington's offense often has been more wimpy than wicked.

"I got carried away (before his nightmarish opener against Dallas)," Theismann admitted, "and they nearly carried me away.

"We're better mentally," he added, meaning more humble. "We realize we're just a hard-workin' group of guys."

Mostly, teams figure 110 percent effort will overcome any opponent. For dreaded Dallas, Theismann said "150 percent" is required.

The defense surely seems ready; the special teams are thumbs-up, with Greg Williams especially crushing Sunday and Steve Cox often assuring no long kickoff returns by launching the ball deep into the end zone.

Although Sunday's rompers, Rogers and Griffin, may not be major factors, the ground game seems Dallas-sharp.

Passing remains a mystery.

"As long as we have Art Monk," said Clark, "we'll be okay."

The acrobatic and gutty Clark surely will cause the Cowboys to direct a bit less attention toward Monk. Maybe only a half-dozen of those silver-helmeted rascals.

"Seems like we've been chasing those guys (in the regular-season standings) since 1981," Theismann said. "I hope history repeats itself (and the Redskins go farther in the playoffs)."

"You'd like a great start and then coast," Grimm added, "but we can't seem to do that. We have to be down. We have to be kicked a bit and get pushed against a wall before we respond."

At 5-4, their collective spine is caressing concrete. The lovefests are over.