WASHINGTON -- It was his brash and ever-confident style of leadership that gave the Atlanta Falcons an identity and helped the team into the NFL playoffs for the first time since 1982, but yesterday's 24-7 loss to the Washington Redskins produced a different Jerry Glanville.
"Your all-time high is when you win a playoff game," the subdued Falcons coach said. "And your all-time low is when you lose playoff games -- because there's no tomorrow."
There's usually no tomorrow when you can't score, and that's exactly what happened to the Falcons yesterday, as the league's No. 5 scoring team was held to fewer than 10 points for the first time since the fourth game and for just the third time this season. It didn't help that a steady rain made playing conditions miserable -- and the run-and-shoot offense ineffective.
"It was like playing on a Slip-and-Slide," said Atlanta quarterback Chris Miller. "The wind didn't bother me. Not being able to stand up bothered me. I'd throw the ball and not know where they were going."
The Redskins apparently knew where he was throwing, as they picked off four passes (Atlanta also lost two fumbles).
Miller entered the game as one of the playoffs' hottest quarterbacks. In his second full season as a starter, he had the lowest interception percentage in the league. But the Pro Bowl-bound Miller found himself falling while dropping back to pass, and barely could keep his footing against a steady Redskins rush that recorded four sacks.
"I had time to throw the ball, but, as soon as I tried to get something going, I'd fall on my [butt], or slipped and got sacked," said Miller, who completed 17 of 32 passes for 178 yards. "The defense played their butts off, so I feel real bad for them, because I couldn't move the football."
Especially in the first half, when the Falcons committed four turnovers and when just one of their eight drives lasted more than five plays. Despite the start, the Falcons said they felt good at halftime, when they were down by just 14-7.
"We thought we were sitting right where we wanted to," Glanville said.
But Atlanta was limited to four second-half possessions, and the last three resulted in a missed field goal, a fumble and an interception. And with Atlanta's defense sitting back in a conservative zone, instead of the aggressive, gambling style of the 56-17 loss here Nov. 10, the Falcons were unable to generate a spark from either side of the ball.
"It was frustrating with the footing and playing in the zone," Atlanta cornerback Deion Sanders said. "But we did what we wanted to do -- we didn't give up anything deep. We came out and got some good hits, and I think we intimidated them a little bit."
Added cornerback Tim McKyer: "A zone forces you to be less aggressive. But I don't care about how it is outside, [Washington's receivers] are tough to defend.
"We just didn't get it done today," said McKyer, who had a fumble recovery. "On a team like this, we can learn from this."
And look forward to next season, which, to a man, the Falcons were talking about after the game. Instead of long faces and bad feelings, the Falcons locker room -- with Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit" among the songs blaring in the background -- reflected confidence.
"We're not upset. Look around here, and we're acting like we just won -- the only thing is we're not playing next week," Sanders said.
Added Miller: "We had a good year, it's just unfortunate we had this type of finish.
"I'm not going to let this game get me down," he added. "Washington has a heck of a team, and we need to use this year as a building block. We'll come back next year. Now we realize what it means to have a home-field advantage, and we'll be shooting for that."