NEW ORLEANS -- Scott Case can't figure out whether to thank the Washington Redskins or curse them for what they did to the Atlanta Falcons seven weeks ago at RFK Stadium.
The score, 56-17, tends to make the safety choose the latter. The net result, however, makes him thankful.
"It really hurt after that game, but I believe it was the turning point to our entire season," Case said. "I mean, they just totally demolished us, and we hadn't been beaten like that in a long time."
And they haven't been beaten like that since, which Case believes is no accident. The Falcons have won six of their last seven games since the Nov. 10 rout, including Saturday's 27-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the NFC playoffs. The Falcons earned the right to a rematch against the Redskins in Saturday's divisional playoff game in Washington.
"I remember right after that game, Jerry [Glanville] didn't freak out or anything," Case said. "It was just silent, like everybody just knew what was going on. Nothing needed to be said. We knew we were a better team than that."
Now the Falcons can find out just how much better at the scene of their most humiliating moment of the season, when Mark Rypien pulled off the ultimate fantasy football performance with six touchdown passes and a rushing TD. It's also where the Falcons decided enough was enough.
"It galvanized this team," cornerback Tim McKyer said. "We just said to ourselves, 'We're not going to let that happen again.' It was embarrassing. Washington's a very good team, but we're definitely better than what we showed there."
Defensive end Tim Green agreed.
"When we were there the last time, they rubbed our faces in the dirt," he said. "We've had our faces rubbed in the dirt a lot over the years, but after that, we just said, 'That's it.' We're not that kind of team any more. Bring 'em on."
McKyer added, "Revenge is the name of the game for us. There's no doubt we're going there with a big chip on our shoulders."
The Falcons are considerably healthier going into this game than in the previous meeting at RFK. Quarterback Chris Miller, cornerback Deion Sanders and left tackle Mike Kenn missed the game because of injuries, and guard Bill Fralic was injured in the firsthalf. All are expected to start Saturday.
"All that matters now is that we have a chance," said Miller, who threw for three touchdowns against the Saints. "We lost the game [at RFK], but we didn't let the score kill us. We knew we were undermanned when we went in there."
After beating New Orleans, Glanville said his players would prefer to play the Redskins than any other playoff opponent.
"The team talked about where they would like to go back to," he said, "and Washington was the place they would like to play."
Case loves the idea of the rematch.
"We're really looking forward to it," he said. "There's no doubt we used that game as a motivator. We were hoping it would come full circle from that game."