Turner finds Redskins' loss questionable

September 26, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Atlanta Falcons have one more victory at RFK Stadium than new coach Norv Turner does.

The Falcons, who had not won in Washington in 10 previous tries, finally did it yesterday when they rallied to score 20 points in the second half and beat the Redskins, 27-20, before 53,238 fans.

The loss left the Redskins 1-3 overall and 0-2 at home under Turner, who questioned the work of the officials, his quarterback and his kicker.

"I'm not supposed to be critical of the officiating . . . but I'm confused as to why they're so confused," Turner said of the officials, who held lengthy huddles before they wiped out two critical end-zone calls -- a pass interference penalty on the Falcons and an interception by the Redskins.

Turner also yanked quarterback John Friesz, who was intercepted three times, for rookie Heath Shuler in the fourth quarter. Afterward, the coach said he will consider giving Shuler his first start against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Turner also said he'll hold an audition for several kickers tomorrow at Redskin Park, but he hasn't decided whether to replace Chip Lohmiller, who missed an extra-point try and a 47-yard field-goal attempt.

Those misses helped boost the Falcons, whose first-year coach, June Jones, didn't think his team played that well, either.

"For the most part, I felt it was an ugly game," Jones said. "We did make the plays when we needed to."

His players were more enthusiastic.

"It was a big game," said quarterback Jeff George, who passed for 270 yards and two touchdowns. "We haven't won here in a long time. It was a big win for our organization."

Rookie wide receiver Bert Emanuel, who made a one-handed, 31-yard touchdown catch down the right sideline in the third quarter, said, "This win really means a lot, especially to some of the older guys who have never won here."

The Redskins, meanwhile, are just trying to win anywhere. They are 5-15 since coach Joe Gibbs resigned in March 1993.

Turner, though, said the team is improving.

"We're a lot better than we were a month ago," he said. "It's hard to win in this league. There's no question the bottom line is you have to win. No one's happy if you don't, but I'm not going to take away from some guys who are playing their hearts out and are really improving.

"You can't feel good after a loss, but I think when we look at those guys [on defense], we're going to say, 'We're getting better.' "

The Redskins led at halftime for the second straight week as Henry Ellard caught a 73-yard pass from Friesz midway through the second quarter for a 13-7 edge.

But Lohmiller missed the extra-point try, and things went downhill from there. He missed a field-goal attempt from 47 yards on the last play of the half, and Atlanta scored 17 points in the third quarter to take a 24-13 lead.

Lohmiller has missed three of seven field-goal attempts this season, and he knows his job status is shaky.

"I rushed a little bit too much, but I've got to look at it positively," said Lohmiller, who was a second-round pick in 1988. "I kicked off real well today. . . . I want to be here and I'll work my hardest to be on the team."

He didn't seem surprised that the Redskins will look at a few kickers. "I'm not performing," he said.

The game's pivotal play came early in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons' Darnell Walker intercepted Friesz on a freak play -- the ball bounced off tight end Ethan Horton's back -- and returned it 25 yards to the Redskins' 7. Two plays later, the Redskins' Martin Bayless appeared to get it back with an interception in the back of the end zone.

But the officials huddled and ruled it wasn't an interception because Emanuel, who had gone out of bounds beyond the end zone, touched the ball before getting both feet back in bounds, making it a dead ball when he touched it.

Bayless disputed the call.

"That's impossible. There's no way he could have touched it because I tipped it and he was on my backside," he said. "That took a lot of momentum away from us. We were starving for a big play and I think that would have pushed us over the top."

Instead, the Falcons kept the ball and Norm Johnson kicked a 22-yard field goal to make it 27-13.

Shuler was warming up on the sidelines, but Turner decided to stick with Friesz. He completed passes of 20 and 26 yards to Ellard, but then threw a pass behind Ellard that D. J. Johnson intercepted.

Friesz, who then was pulled, said, "I made the decision easy for him. I didn't have a good game. I'm not disappointed I was pulled. I'm disappointed I didn't play better."

Friesz took all the blame for the final interception.

"I feel that once I make a good decision and the receiver runs a good route, the rest of it is easy. But I just missed it," he said.

Shuler, who predicted Friesz will start against the Cowboys, ended his first series with an incomplete fourth-down pass at the Atlanta 14 with 4:37 left.

Although the Redskins were still only two touchdowns behind -- and did get one on a 50-yard drive that Shuler engineered -- the majority of the fans had left.

Veteran linebacker Monte Coleman said the fans didn't cheer the way they did in past years when the team was winning Super Bowls.

"It probably goes both ways," Coleman said. "We're a little spoiled and they're a little spoiled."

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