With six minutes left in the fourth period today, Joe Theismann was certain the Redskins were going to beat Miami.

"I had a good feeling and the way my line was playing, I didn't think they could stop us," he said.

But two defensive plays by the Dolphins ended Theismann's hopes.

The first came on a second-down-and-eight play at the Dolphin 35. The Redskins called an option screen that gave Theismann the choice of either passing downfield or going to John Riggins on a screen play.

"I never had a chance to look downfield," Theismann said. "They had the right defense, they were blitzing and the end (Doug Betters) was in on me very quickly. I had to get rid of it before I really wanted to."

Theismann swung the pass over to Riggins, who was tackled immediately by linebacker Earnest Rhone for a six-yard loss.

"The linebacker had been staying man-to-man with both John and me all day instead of dropping back downfield to cover on passes," halfback Joe Washington said. "If he goes downfield that time, we get a good play. But he made a good play instead."

Now the Redskins were contemplating a third-and-14 play. "We had to go downfield and try to pick up some yards to keep things going," Coach Joe Gibbs said.

Theismann tried to find tight end Rick Walker down the middle, but Miami defensed the play well and the pass fell incomplete. "If they double covered on the outside, that's where we wanted to go," Theismann said. "We took what they gave us, but we couldn't complete the play."

So, instead of being in field goal range, the Redskins had to punt. They never got the ball back.

Theismann said the Redskin game plan, which called for fewer passes than the Dolphins expected, was dictated by "what we did well last week against Chicago. We ran and passed well then. You just don't stop all that because the team you are playing this week supposedly has a weakness.

"You don't say, 'Gee whiz, they give up a lot of passing yards.' You do what you do best, that's how you try to win."

After seeing his team lose five straight games by committing too many mistakes and trying far more passes than runs, Gibbs decided to rein in his offense and be much more conservative in an attempt to reduce the errors. He said he thought that approach worked well today.

"We had some good moments," he said. "We were in the game, we should have had it but they made some big plays on us. We were doing what we can do best and we are going to keep at it, stay balanced and keep improving.

"This (loss) is hard to take. You hate to have them play this hard and still not win. We keep coming up short, but this is the third time we've played one of the best teams around and played them close. I'm encouraged by that."

Said Joe Washington: "If we were 1-6 and not making progress, I think you'd see a letdown. But we all can see that we are getting better. We are staying with some good teams. We're not that far away, and that's keeping everyone hustling."

The Redskins reported these injuries after the game: linebacker Rich Milot, sprained left knee; tight end Rich Caster, contusion of the eye; linebacker Mel Kaufman and tight end Rich Walker, hip pointers, and tackle Joe Jacoby, severe neck sprain. Guard Melvin Jones (sore neck) did not play.