WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins were good and lucky yesterday.
The Redskins were good enough to hold the Houston Oilers' high-powered run-and-shoot offense to one touchdown and to overcome the loss of both starting offensive tackles, but they were also lucky enough to have Ian Howfield kicking for the Oilers.
"I'd rather be lucky than good, but a little bit of both always helps," offensive guard Russ Grimm said yesterday after the unbeaten Redskins escaped with their ninth straight victory, 16-13, in overtime over the Oilers at RFK Stadium.
After second-half fumbles by Ricky Ervins, Mark Rypien (on a botched handoff) and Brian Mitchell (on a kickoff return) helped undermine the Redskins, all Howfield had to do was kick a 33-yard field goal with four seconds left to hand the Redskins their first loss of the season.
"You're sitting there looking at the field goal, and it looks bleak," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "All your emotions, I'm not sure what they are, but you stand over there and hope somebody misses a field goal is what happens. We did enough things in there to lose."
But Howfield was wide left on the field-goal attempt, and the Redskins got a second chance and won it in overtime on Chip Lohmiller's 41-yard field goal after Darrell Green made a diving interception of a pass by Warren Moon.
The result is that the Redskins are the 18th team in NFL history -- 12th since the end of World War II -- to start 9-0.
Only three of them -- the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 1934 and 1942 Chicago Bears -- won all their regular-season games. Only the Dolphins won the championship.
The Redskins also have a shot at becoming the first team to win all its games since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.
The Redskins are indoctrinated by Gibbs to think only of their next game. But they will admit thoughts of a perfect season (19-0 including the Super Bowl) have crossed their minds.
"Well, it's in the back of your mind, probably," quarterback Mark Rypien said.
They also remained the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Even Gibbs admitted that when he met Oilers coach Jack Pardee -- he was fired as Redskins coach at the end of the 1980 season before Gibbs was hired -- at midfield after the game. Gibbs mentioned the possibility of a rematch, which would have to be in Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis in January.
"I said: 'Great job. It'd be great for us to play again,' but we don't know if that'll ever happen. That would mean we'd both get there. I'd take that right now," Gibbs said.
If luck is a factor, the Redskins seem to have that covered. Rypien conceded good teams need it.
"Good things seem to happen to those teams [that get fast starts]. They get the breaks. I'm thankful we're one of the ones this year that are playing well enough to get those breaks," Rypien said.
Gibbs, though, said he didn't believe in luck.
"I don't believe in luck. Take me out of the luck department," Gibbs said.
OC Green and Charles Mann also scoffed at the luck factor. The Red
skins said they still thought they had a chance when Howfield lined up to attempt the winning field goal. Signed during training camp after Teddy Garcia was cut, Howfield, the son of former kicker Bobby Howfield, had missed four extra-point tries this season, three last week.
"I honestly didn't think he was going to make it," said offensive lineman Mark Adickes. Howfield barely made the extra point when the Oilers tied the game, 13-13, with 1:42 left in regulation.
Linebacker Matt Millen said, "He hasn't been having a banner year."
Mann said, "We were trying to talk to him a little bit and just get him rattled a little bit."
Although Howfield had a new holder, punter Greg Montgomery, who didn't appear to get the laces down perfectly, Howfield said: "It was my fault. I let everyone down, especially myself. It's a sick feeling."
Even before Howfield's miss, it was an exciting, if somewhat sloppily played, game that included seven turnovers.
Using a combination of defenses devised by assistant coach Richie Petitbon, the Redskins held Houston's run-and-shoot to two field goals until the final period. But they needed the help of an instant-replay reversal in the first quarter after Moon ducked under Andre Collins and threw a 13-yard pass to the Redskins' 30.
The replay showed Moon's knee touched the ground before he threw the pass, but the Redskins had to call timeout to stop the Oilers from running the next play so the officials would review it.
"Everybody [coaches] upstairs was screaming, 'Hey, the guy was down,' " Gibbs said of why he called the timeout.
The Oilers were forced to punt, but still held a 6-3 halftime lead on a pair of Howfield field goals of 24 and 23 yards.
The Redskins also had to overcome the loss of tackles Joe Jacoby (late in the second period) and Jim Lachey (early in the third period) with knee injuries. Grimm and Adickes played well as replacements.
In the third quarter, after Ervins fumbled to kill their first drive, the Redskins tied it, 6-6, on Lohmiller's 20-yard field goal and went ahead, 13-6, when Fred Stokes' recovery of Lorenzo White's fumble set up Earnest Byner's 23-yard touchdown run early in the fourth period.
After Brad Edwards intercepted a pass by Moon and returned it 27 yards to the Houston 40, the Redskins could have put away the game, but Rypien fumbled a snap and Ray Childress recovered it on the Houston 14.
The teams then traded punts before Moon put together the team's only touchdown drive -- a 79-yard, 10-play drive that was capped by White's 1-yard plunge.
When Mitchell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Oilers had a chance to win, but Howfield's miss saved the Redskins.
In the overtime, Green's diving interception -- the Oilers complained Green was guilty of pass interference -- set the stage for Lohmiller's game-winner.
For the Redskins, it's nine down and seven to go.