It is an exercise in foolishness to say this play or that made the difference in winning or losing a football game. A thousand things happen. But even fools need exercise, so let's walk around the block with the idea that Sunday's hero was Ron McDole, the Redskins' wise old defensive end.

Dave Butz did a nice thing in causing that fumble, and Brad Dusek was gorgeous on his half-gainer into the end zone. Naturally, they draw all the ink and air time; their work was obvious and stunning in its impact. One second a loser, the Redskins suddenly were a winner.

Victory was unexpected, save by those financial geniuses who bet the grocery money on football teams that have revenge on their side. (Barely a year ago, the Redskins lost to this New England Team in a preseason game, 45-7.) So the Butz Dusek act that provided the final points in a 16-14 victory was dramatic.

But without Ron McDole, it never could have happened.

The game seemed over. The Patriots led, 14-9, with about 3 minutes to go. They were driving. They had made two first downs, the second ominous because Horace Ivory ran 14 yards by breaking tackles.The Patriots were at the Redskins' 42-yard line, and the Redskins seemed too tired to resist.

On the next play, Don Calhoun, trapped going right, came back to the left and outran the lagging Redskins for 12 yards. Now the Patriots were only 30 yards from a touchdown with barely three minutes to play.

But wait.

On Calhoun's run, the Patriots were called for clipping.

The television announcers correctly named the offender, quarterback Steve Grogan, and they made a big deal out of a quarterback getting a clipping penalty.

THey never mentioned the best part.

The man clipped was Ron McDole.

Because of that clip, the Patriots were moved back to their 45-yard line - a net loss of 25 yards.

Two plays later, Butz and Dusek did their thing.

Redskins win.

All because McDole was clipped.

So, you may ask, why is a guy a hero for that?

Because McDole made the clip happen.

Grogan did not intend to clip anybody.

But McDole, far behind Calhoun, saw he had no chance at the tackle.

And he saw somebody running at him, intending to block him.

So as Grogan started his block, McDole simply turned his back on the quarterback.

As he was knocked down, McDole threw his arms into the air.

That was to help the zebras see Grogan's foul deed.

Clipping.

As it is foolish to say a wise old end's crafty work produced victory, so is it foolish to say victory in a season opener is meaningful. By December, a thousand things can happen. But as long as we're getting all this exercise today, we might as well take an extra trip around the block with the idea that these Redskins are a playoff team.

Don't ask why the fool typist says that.

But it has something to do with the kind of guy Jack Pardee is.

After each Redskin touchdown Sunday, the new coach joined in the end-zone celebrations, leaping around like one of the boys.

So someone asked the coach yesterday if he always did that.

"It was spontaneous," Pardee said. "I got a little bit excited about then."

Pardee is no con man, no manipulators of emotion. He deals in truth, preferring to understake a case rather than risk distortion of what he means. When he said he was "a little excited," his eyes, atwinkle, told the fuller story: After those touchdowns, he was in heaven.

In short, the fool typist believes every word this coach says.

And after one game, Pardee is saying positive things about every part of his team.

The offensive line, in the last year, has gone more holding than a teen-ager at the drive-in. The running game has suffered because of the line's weaknesses, and the quarterbacks have asked for hazard pay.

So what happens in Sunday's opener against a New England defense that was supposed to humiliate the Redskins' offensive line?

"The line did a great job," Pardee said. "They handled a mobile line pretty good."

On the defensive line, McDole and Diron Talbert are known quantities, but Butz, a tackle, and the new end, Coy Bacon, had to prove something.

"Butz worked hard and has a great training camp," Pardee said. "I'm glad to see him rewarded, to come up with a big play like that."

As for Bacon the coach said, "He had two sacks, and that's pretty good. And keep in mind, he was against an All-Pro offensive tackle in Leon Gray. He wasn't going against any stiff."

The coach liked Joe Theismann's poised control at quarterback . . . Mike Theismann pass to keep remarkable catch of a Theismann pass to keep a TD drive going . . . Lemar Parrish's work at cornerback . . . and Chris Hanburger's work at linebacker.

Oh, you, Pardee also said another thing that we foolish sorts should remember, for it is the truth, too.

"We've still got 15 league games to go," he said.

Those 15 games will be fun for Redskin zealots, though, if Pardee and his staff keep together the nice blend of wise old men (our hero, McDole, is 39 Saturday) and eager kids (remember, Theismann, who will be 29 this Saturday, now has started exactly oneseason opener).

Stayed tuned.