WASHINGTON -- Brian Mitchell of the Washington Redskins cried tears of relief when Ian Howfield missed a 33-yard field-goal try at the end of regulation yesterday.
That's because it was Mitchell's fumble on a kickoff return afte the Houston Oilers had tied the game, 13-13, that set up Howfield's attempt.
"I was hoping he'd miss it," Mitchell said. "When he missed it, a lot of pressure went off. As soon as that happened, I kind of forgot about it. Hey, fumbles are going to happen."
Because the Redskins beat the Oilers, 16-13, in overtime, the fumble became an afterthought. If Howfield had made it, Mitchell would have remembered it a long time.
But Mitchell said he won't change his running style.
"I don't try to run scared," he said. "The type of runner I am, things are going to happen. There are going to be a lot of collisions."
Mitchell said he holds the ball with two hands in a crowd, but goes to one hand in open field.
"I saw a hole and I broke through it and I had the ball in one hand and he [Rick Graf] hit my hand and the ball came out," he said.
Mitchell went into the game leading the league in punt returns but he returned two for only 9 yards yesterday. He returned four kickoffs for 68 yards.
* On Darrell Green's diving interception that set up Chip Lohmiller's game-winner, the Oilers argued Green interfered with receiver Haywood Jeffires, but officials ruled Green and Jeffires had "the same and equal opportunity for a passed ball."
Jeffires said, "There's no doubt [Green interfered with him] Everyone saw it."
But Jeffires added: "He knocked me off, but whatever he did, it was a great play."
Green said: "I thought I had a great break on the ball. I knew i was a clean catch."
* The Redskins kept the Oilers guessing with defensive coach Richie Petitbon's schemes against the run-and-shoot offense.
They opened with their base 4-3-4 defense with only one change from their regular defense -- Kurt Gouveia replacing Matt Millen at linebacker. They often switched to a 3-3-5 defense with rookie Bobby Wilson and veteran Jumpy Geathers playing up front with Charles Mann while cornerbacks Anthony Johnson and Alvoid Mays joined the secondary.
"We ran three or four different defenses," linebacker Wilber Marshall said. "They were things they hadn't seen, and they just threw him off a little bit."
Houston quarterback Warren Moon said: "We moved the ball pretty well, but at times we did not execute. I think our performance today tells us we are a better team than people give us credit for being."
* Redskins cornerback Martin Mayhew, who figured to be a major target of Moon, held his own in man-to-man coverage and made back-to-back excellent plays in the fourth quarter covering Curtis Duncan.
On the second, Mayhew said he had an interception, although the replay official overturned it.
Although the ball appeared to touch the ground, Mayhew said: "I thought I caught it. I had my hand on the ground, and I felt the ball hit the top of my hand."
* Mark Adickes, who was waived at the start of the season, and Russ Grimm, who has all but announced he's considering
retiring at the end of this season, played well in the second half in place of offensive tackles Joe Jacoby and Jim Lachey, who went down with knee injuries. They had mild knee sprains.
Grimm rarely has played tackle, but had to fill in because Ed Simmons is on the injured reserve list.
About retiring, Grimm said with a smile: "I said it was a possibility. I always leave the door open."
* About a dozen American Indians, upset about Washington's use of the Redskins nickname, held a peaceful protest before the game. Among other things, they put a sign on the statue of team founder George Preston Marshall, "the last owner to hire a black man." The Redskins were the last NFL team to have blacks on their roster.
The group, which included members of the American Indian Movement and the Congress of American Indians, banged on drums and carried signs that read "The Team Has a Racist Nickname" and "If I'm a Redskin, [Redskins owner] Jack Kent Cooke is a Honkie."
* Oilers coach Jack Pardee wound up a close loser in his first game back at RFK Stadium since being fired as Washington coach at the end of the 1980 season.
"To come back here and play a good team was exciting," Pardee said. "It would have been great to walk out of here a three-point winner."
The Redskins have been involved in 12 regular-season overtime games, winning 9. Their record:
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... Winning
Year.. .. .. .. .. ...Result.. .. .. ..score
1975.. .. Wash 30,.. ..Dallas 24.. .. ... TD
1975.. St. Louis 20,... Wash. 17.. .. ... FG
1975.. Oak. 26,.. .. .. Wash. 23.. .. ... FG
1976... Wash. 20,.. .. Phila. 17.. .. ... FG
1978.. Wash. 16,.. .. Giants 13.. .. ... FG
1981....Wash. 30,.. .. Giants 27.. .. ... FG
Wash. 37,.. .. Phila. 34.. .. ... FG
1986... Wash. 44,.. .. Minn. 38.. .. .. ..TD
1987... Wash. 27,.. .. Minn. 24.. .. .. ..FG
1988.. ..Cin. 20,.. .. Wash. 17.. .. .. ..FG
1990....Wash. 41,.. ... Det. 38.. .. .. ..FG
Wash. 16,.. ..Houston 13.. .. .. .FG
Redskins results, schedule
Sept. 1 Detroit, 45-0
Sept. 9 at Dallas, 33-31
Sept. 15 Phoenix, 34-0
Sept. 22 at Cincinnati, 34-27
Sept. 30 Philadelphia, 23-0
Oct. 6 at Chicago, 20-7
Oct. 13 Cleveland, 42-17
Oct. 27 at N.Y. Giants, 17-13
Yesterday Houston, 16-13 (OT)
Nov. 10 Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Nov. 17 at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Nov. 24 Dallas, 1 p.m.
Dec. 1 at L.A. Rams, 4 p.m.
Dec. 8 at Phoenix, 4 p.m.
Dec. 15 New York Giants, 4 p.m.
Dec. 22 at Philadelphia, 4 p.m.