Turnovers sweet for Redskins


WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins were looking for a spark at quarterback yesterday, and Bobby Hebert gave it to them.

The Redskins lost the battle of statistics, but beat Hebert and the Atlanta Falcons, 30-17, before 50,192 at RFK Stadium, as Hebert was intercepted four times, fumbled twice and was sacked seven times.

The Redskins, trying to find a winning combination, put Mark Rypien back in at quarterback and even tried a no-huddle offense, but the difference was that Hebert had a nightmarish game.

"I was really disappointed in the way I played," Hebert said. "I made a couple of really bad decisions that really cost us. I know it's a team game, but the quarterback does take part in every play. And, today, I made a few plays that really cost us. And that's really frustrating to let your teammates down this way."

Washington coach Richie Petitbon said: "We knew going in we had to harass Hebert because he was really having a great year. If we let him sit back there and do what he wanted to do, he could be very tough, but we had good pressure, and I think that's a big reason why we won."

The Redskins (4-10) scored 23 of their points off Atlanta's six turnovers, including a pair of defensive touchdowns -- A. J. Johnson's 69-yard interception return and Monte Coleman's 29-yard run after he picked up a fumble by Hebert.

"I'm old, but I'm not dead," said Coleman, 36, who blacked out in the end zone for a few seconds after he was mobbed by his teammates when he scored his touchdown with 2:11 left in the game.

It wrapped up virtually a perfect day for Coleman, who made eight tackles, two sacks, forced a fumble, recovered one, intercepted a pass and scored a touchdown. His only misplay came when he lost a possible second fumble recovery by trying to pick it up instead of falling on it.

Lauding Coleman, who started because Carl Banks was sidelined with a groin injury, Rypien said: "He looked like he was 20 years old."

The loss was a devastating one for the Falcons, dropping them to 6-8 and all but knocking them out of playoff contention.

Deion Sanders, who intercepted one pass and caught two passes, said: "I can't believe we lost that game today. It's frustrating. I'm sick of losing."

The loss left the Falcons 0-9 in Washington in regular-season games (they also lost a playoff game here two years ago), but coach Jerry Glanville was quick to note the edge the Falcons had in penalties.

"It doesn't matter where you are. Ten penalties to zero and give them 14 points [on defensive touchdowns] and location doesn't matter a lot," he said.

The most costly penalty was a face-mask call on Jessie Tuggle when he stuffed Brian Mitchell on the Atlanta 1 on fourth down in the second quarter.

The penalty gave the Redskins a second chance, and Rypien scored on a bootleg to give the team a 9-7 lead during a 16-point second quarter. The quarter included a safety when long snapper Harper Le Bel centered the ball over the head of punter Harold Alexander, who fell on it in the end zone.

The Redskins won with defense. They trailed in first downs, 22-8, total yardage, 378-167, and time of possession, 40:40 to 19:20. They were even 0-for-10 on third downs. But they had the edge on the scoreboard and in turnovers, 6-2.

"It's a great feeling for us," said Petitbon, whose shot at returning next season was given a boost by the Redskins' second victory in three weeks.

Owner Jack Kent Cooke, who was berating general manager Charley Casserly when the Redskins were misfiring earlier in the game, was hugging his wife at the end of the game as if the Redskins just had won a playoff game.

Coleman, for one, gave Petitbon a vote of confidence.

"I think Mr. Cooke is going to be very patient with Richie. He's a good coach. If his job was in jeopardy, I didn't know anything about it. I'm all for Richie, because he's been around as long as I've been around," Coleman said.

Besides Coleman, three other players who've been in the background this year -- Earnest Byner, Al Noga and Desmond Howard -- played critical roles.

Byner scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 8-yard run when he had to put one hand to the ground to keep his balance, Noga had two sacks and Howard made an important 33-yard kickoff return, caught three passes and drew a pass-interference penalty that helped set up a touchdown.

"We've got guys who could be walking around pouting because they're not playing," Coleman said. "Most of all, the team didn't quit. We're not a quitting team."

Petitbon noted the return of Bobby Wilson and Shane Collins in the defensive line helped the pass rush.

"Our guys just did a heck of a job. I've been telling you all season long what injuries can do to you. You get your regulars back, and it's amazing, you play better," Petitbon said.

It also helped that they were playing Atlanta, a team that has a reputation for gloating when it wins.

"It's a team you don't want to lose to. They'll remember it, and they'll keep reminding you of it," Rypien said.

When Rypien was asked if the Falcons do it more than other teams, he said: "I don't know. They haven't beat us yet."

The frustrating thing for the Redskins was that they couldn't run the ball. Reggie Brooks, who missed practice last week while visiting his ill father, played little. They didn't want to use Brooks in the no-huddle because he'd missed practice.

The Redskins got only 38 yards in 19 carries -- Ricky Ervins got 16 yards in 10 carries -- and the Falcons ran 35 times for 182 yards, including Steve Broussard's 26 carries for 162 yards.

"I think that was disappointing for us, to run the ball the way we did today," Rypien said.

But trailing 17-16, they put together a six-play, 52-yard touchdown drive after Howard returned a kickoff 33 yards to take the lead, 23-17.

"We didn't want to be outscored by our defense again," Rypien said.

On the next series, rookie Sterling Palmer sacked Hebert to cause the fumble that Coleman returned for the clinching touchdown.

Coleman said: "It was a big day. We really didn't have much to play for as far as team standings. It just shows you the character of this team."

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