For a while, it looked as if the Washington Commandos could even stop and take a deep breath. With a little more than one quarter left in their game against the Chicago Bruisers last night before 10,122 at Capital Centre, they led, 52-37.

The Commandos appeared in line for a victory and a chance to stay in contention for a chance to play in the Arena Football league championship game. However, it was not to be. Chicago rallied for a 64-61 victory.

Washington quarterback Rich Ingold completed 29 of 46 passes for 346 yards and seven touchdowns and Dwayne Dixon made 20 receptions for 264 yards.

But things weren't all that rosy once Ingold was intercepted by Chicago's Durwood Roquemore late in the third quarter. The interception set up a leaping, one-handed, 30-yard touchdown catch by 5-foot-6 Reggie Smith of Oxon Hill that cut Washington's lead to 52-44.

Primarily because of mistakes made by the Commandos' inexperienced secondary, the rest of the game was a blur. It looked something like this:

The kickoff after Smith's score goes a bit wild off the net. Chicago's Daryl Hart grabs it. Touchdown Bruisers. Washington leads, 52-50.

Fourth quarter: Smith hauls in a 29-yarder to set up a two-yard run by William Stone. Chicago leads, 57-52.

Interruption: Washington kicker Dale Castro, who has been struggling with extra point conversions, kicks a 42-yard field goal. Chicago leads, 57-55, with 10:32 left.

A series of running plays -- yes, running plays -- gets Chicago to the end zone from 35 yards away. Chicago now leads, 64-55, with only a minute left.

With 11 seconds to play, Ingold passes to Dixon for an 18-yard touchdown that makes it 64-61. The conversion and onside kick both fail.

Though the game provided several possible turning points, Washington Coach Bob Harrison called the net mishap the "devastating blow." He also blamed the kicking game and his defensive secondary, which started several players who still aren't comfortable on that side of the ball. For example, Mike Calhoun was the starting quarterback earlier this year, but he started at safety last night. The last time he started there was in high school.

While the defensive front was able to put adequate pressure on Chicago quarterback Mike Hold, the secondary didn't follow up. Harrison called the resulting defense "inconsistent."

"I've always felt we can score points, but we have problems stopping them," Harrison said.

"It's just so hard to come up losers after so much work," Dixon said. "We worked real hard all week and we executed tonight, but we just came up short."