Originally created 08/17/97

Falcons let lead get away



ATLANTA -- An impressive showing by the Atlanta Falcons' first units Saturday night gave way to frustration, as the Washington Redskins rallied for a 35-31 preseason victory and reserve quarterback Tommy Maddox had to be restrained from going into the stands to confront a heckler.

Maddox, who is competing with Billy Joe Tolliver for the No. 2 quarterback job, said a spectator threw an unidentified object at him as he entered the tunnel that leads to the Falcons' locker room after the game. Maddox was stopped by security personnel after he re-emerged from the tunnel and tried to climb a railing, according to witnesses.

"I don't mind people booing - they pay their money, and that's their right," Maddox said. "But when they start throwing things and calling me things, that's personal. I'm a man and I'm going to stand up for myself."

The Falcons (1-2) had a chance to pull out the game late when they started a possession at the Redskins' 39 with 2:35 remaining. But Maddox' pass up the left sideline was intercepted by Scott

Turner.

Neither Tolliver nor Maddox fared well. Tolliver played the third quarter and completed one of four passes for four yards. Maddox was four for 11 for 35 yards with an interception.

"The (backup) quarterback position is a major concern," Falcons coach Dan Reeves conceded. "We haven't gotten any indication that we can do the job right now."

The Falcons' first units, led by Chris Chandler's three first-half touchdown passes, played well for a second consecutive week.

Chandler completed 10 of 14 passes for 197 yards and touchdown passes of one yard to rookie tight end O.J. Santiago, seven yards to Michael Haynes and 26 yards to Terance Mathis, as the Falcons pulled out to a 28-6 second quarter lead.

But Gus Frerotte brought the Redskins (3-0) back with scoring passes of 26 yards to Michael Westbrook late in the second quarter, 31 yards to Leslie Shepherd in the third and four yards to James Jenkins early in the fourth quarter. The latter two scores came against Atlanta's No. 2 defense.

Washington's winning touchdown was a 10-yard pass from Mark Hartsell to Christopher Sanders with 7:48 remaining. A 43-yard pass interference penalty against cornerback Lenny McGill set up the score. McGill also was beaten by Shepherd on his touchdown catch and may not survive Monday's roster cut down to 60 players.

The Redskins added a 20-yard field goal by Peter Elezovik after punter Dan Stryzinski fumbled a snap from Paschall Davis that bounced off the turf.

Chandler, acquired in a trade with Houston last winter, hit Mathis on an 85-yard bomb to set up a first-quarter touchdown that put his team ahead 7-3 and completed a 23-yard pass to Santiago on a second-quarter scoring drive.

Mathis, who caught 258 passes over the last three years in the run-and-shoot, had three catches for 126 yards. Santiago, a 6-7, 267-pound third-round pick out of Kent State, totaled 37 yards on three receptions with the No. 1 offense and added a 26-yard catch from Tommy Maddox in the fourth quarter.

Jamal Anderson led the Falcons in rushing with 66 yards on 13 carries, but he had a first-quarter fumble that set up a 45-yard field goal by Scott Blanton.

Rookie safety Chris Bayne intercepted a Frerotte pass in the third quarter to set up a 34-yard field goal by Morten Andersen.

The Falcons played without starting guard Robbie Tobeck, who probably won't be available until the season opener in two weeks at Detroit. Washington rested running back Terry Allen, who has a shoulder injury, and didn't have two starting offensive linemen and hold-out defensive tackle Sean Gilbert.

Atlanta finishes the preseason Friday at Jacksonville.