Crisis? That was a week ago.

"It's not the end of the world, men," said Diron Talbert, "but let me tell you it's pretty damn close."

Indeed, the countdown on the Redskins' playoff hopes has reached nine - and the only thing delaying the "you're out," is the rest of the wild-card contenders playing rather poorly themselves. The Redskins were dismissed too early a year ago, but they at least were healthy at most positions then.

Yesterday's loss to the Giants was not unexpected by at least a few Redskin watchers, some of whom constructed a large sign with a black background that hung ominously above one RFK Stadium end zone and said:

"The Future is HOW?"

The largest sporting mystery in the area after the Dallas debacle had been why the Redskins were favored at all, let alone by nine points. The fans were the quietest in memory, as though the Cowboys had ripped their spirit even more than the team's.

And when the 17-6 defeat had ended, the Redskins were correctly kicking themselves for the sort of sins George Allen would not tolerate if he had any healthy options. Simply, there are too many special-terms players trying to replace too many injured regulars - and not enough uninjured regulars rising up to compensate. Brown at free safety and Danny [WORLD ILLEGIBLE]

The Redskins entered the game with Gerard Williams at left cornerback, their defensive mind - Chris Hanburger - on the sideline and Clarence Harmon at fullback. They ended it with Eddie Brown at free safety and Danny Buggs in place of wide receiver Charley Taylor.

With that sort of advantage, only a team like the Giants could fail to assure victory before the final quarter, especially when the Redskins were heaping adversity upon adversity.

There are understandable mistakes - fumbles and dropped passes - and there are the sort of mind-jolting mistakes the Redskins also offered yesterday. Such as:

Ron Saul getting caught holding on a running play, on second and goal from the 10 that turned a probable touchdown into a 35-yard field goal on the game's first possession.

A motion penalty by Frank Grant that nullified a touchdown.

A clip on another of Brown's fine kick returns.

Twelve men on the field on a Giant extra point attempt.

Not enough men on the field with 3:30 left in the game, an error that cost a time-out.

In fact, the defense played well enough for the Redskins to win. And in other years, when Billy Kilmer was more mobile, the blocking was more consistent and Mike Thomas was not fumbling at critical moments, the Redskins would have won by three touchdowns.

Sadly, yesterday the longest Redskin run from scrimmage was a 10-yard stagger by Kilmer that brought the only thing resembling an ovation from the customers. Significantly, no one started the "We want Joe" chants that so often greet Kilmer when the offense sags.

And the offense is sagging like an aging line-man's tummy. The team night need a court order from its president, Edward Bennett Williams, to get into the end zone.

The Redskin defense yesterday recovered a Giant fumble on the three-yard line at one point and stopped a fourth-and-inches play from the five later. New York once completed an 82-yard pass play - and got no points out of it, though the Washington, defense finally looked disorganized on the final touchdown push after an interception by Ray Rhodes.

"When you beat yourself, that's a bad loss," George Allen muttered. His face was even more drawn than usual in defeat and he could not muster the energy to climb onto the table reserved for his postgame sermons.

Is part of the answer Joe Theismann?

"I wish I had the answer," Allen said. "There's 101 reasons we're not scoring." Probably, the number is not that inflated - and Kilmer seemed to throw well enough at times to hardly be No. 1 on the must-correct list.

At times such as these, no possible remedy for the offense should be overlooked. And since Brown is doing so well on kick returns, why not replace the offensive players with the special teamers, let everyone line up in punt-return formation each down and have Ted Fritsch snap the ball 25 yards? A punt return on every play?

Just trying to be helpful, George.

"What we have to do," said middle linebacker Harold McLinton, "is reach down and seek our own soul. We have to get touger. It isn't that people aren't trying."

We're going to find out real quick what kind of team we are," said Brundige.

The suspicion here is that the Redskins have as much character as ever, that the spirit remains strong but the flesh disastrously weak.