National Football League critics were challenging the league's playoff-qaulifying system following last weekend's games and asking whether the Baltimore Colts tried hard enough to beat the Detroit Lions Sunday.

In addition, the future of some coaches was in question, including that of Don Coryell of the St. Louis Cardinals.

New England sympathizers called the league office of complain that the Colts appeared to gain from their loss to the Lions, while the Patriots' playoff hopes were just about dashed despite a victory over Miami.

The Dolphins meet underdog Buffalo at Miami Saturday and the Patriots play the Colts Sunday at Baltimore.

Miami fans were complaining that if the Dolphins with Saturday, the Patriots will know they have no chance to make the playoffs, and will have lost incentive to beat the Colts.

Commissioner Pete Rozelle said he was aware of the accusations of hanky-panky at Baltimore and the flaps over this weekend's schedule.

But, he said, "We are not going to change the starting times and day of the games at this point."

Rozelle recalled that last year there was speculation that the Oakland Raiders would not try to beat Cincinnati late in the season, because the Raiders already had clinched the AFC West title and would rather meet Cincinnati in the playoffs than the Steelers.

"You saw what happened," Rozelle said, referring to the Raiders' victory.

The commissioner said of telephone calls and wires to the league office from New England fans unhappy with the playoff system. "They were upset by the Baltimore game; it's human nature.

"But I can jsut see coach Ted Marchibrods of the Colts saying to himself, 'I'd like to go into the New England game with the momentum of three straight losses. So I guess I'll call our old blocked-punt play with nine seconds left.'"

The play in question was a Colt punt with nine seconds left that was blocked, recovered and returned for a touchdown by the Lions' Leonard Thompson, giving Detroit a 13-10 win.

Asked why Colt punter David Lee had not retreated into the end zone for a safety, Marchibroda said."I didn't want go give them another play. Time would have run out if we had gotten the punt away."

The Colts' loss, coupled with the Patriots' 14-10 win over Miami created a three-way tie in the AFC East.

If Miami beats Buffalo Saturday and Baltimore takes New England Sunday, the Colts and Dlophins would be tied. But the Colts would win the division title by virtue of having a better conference record.

If Miami beats the Bills and the Pats beat the Colts. Miami and New England would be tied. But the Dolphins would take the title on a superior division mark.

Had the Colts beaten Detroit. New England could have won the division title next week in Baltimore, even if Miami wins Saturday. The resulting three-way tie would have given the title to New England because of its better record against the Colts and Dolphins. Thus, by losing, the Colts hurt New England but not themselves.

There was speculation yesterday tht Cleveland coach Forrest Gregg and Kansas City coach Tom Bettis may lose their jobs.

One of the Browns' veteran players, who ask to remain unidentified, said, "This is a pathetic mess. I've never see anything like it. It has become a cesspool."

"When it's all said and done, we the players are made out to be heroes or goats, and I'm tired of being the goat."

"Emotion and confidence helped us," said the player. "They are the reasons why we were 5-2 at one point. Gregg took the wind out of us. When you don't have the personnel to physically beat somebody, you've got to beat him with emotion.

"Gregg tore down our emotional edge after losses. How can you expect someone to die for you when you treat him like that? It wasn't just his screaming, but his name-calling and that sort of stuff.

"When we won, everything was fine. When we lost, he left the impression he didn't want anything to do with us. Instead of positive constructive criticism, we got dehumanizing criticism. It's not just one man's opinion, but the opinion of others on this team, too.

"I'd be disappointed if he was back next year. I can't see myself playing here if he is."

Coryell asked to be fired after the loss to Washington, but Cardinal owner Bill Bidwill refused to accept his resignation.

The coach who felt the worst was Hank Stram, whose Saints were the first to be beaten, 33-14, by previously winless Tampa Bay.

New Orleans owner John Mecom Jr. said afterward, "This is a poorly coaches team. There is dissension on the defensive team. I've told him (Stram) that and he doesn't belive me. Now it's infecting the offense. The Saints deserve better."

Stram said, "I would rather not comment. We are all very ashamed of what happened . . . It is my worst coaching experience."