Now that the Redskins have established themselves as the best team in the NFL, it is time we paid closer attention to . . .

Oh, you didn't know?

You could figure it up. We're only four games into this silly season, which isn't time enough to judge. So let's count back into 1981 for -- what? -- a team's last 13 games, regular season and playoff. That's enough to make a trend that the Gipper could turn into a nice chart with a burgundy arrow going up.

In those games, the Redskins are 11-2.

The Jets and Bengals are 10-3.

San Francisco is 9-4, same as the cursed Cowboys.

The Redskins have won their last seven games. The next-longest winning streak is three games.

Now, as we were saying, it is time to look at Perry Brooks' bow tie because it is somehow symbolic, in a cheerily loony way, of how these Redskins . . .

What, the Redskins have a long way to go?

Certainly they do. Those won-lost numbers over 13 games are a statistic contrived to emphasize how far the Redskins have come after losing their first five games last season. Of the 11 victories, six have come by four points or fewer. Such escapes are the mark of a good team, but they also demonstrate how fine the Redskins' balance is -- with victory's scale falling under the weight of work the full value of which is yet unknown.

The team's best player, Joe Washington, hasn't done a thing so far because of a knee injury. Despite that, the Redskins are undefeated. The delight is that no one expected it. These foolish fingers typed a few sentences in September saying the Redskins were five years away from a Super Bowl. Wrong, prognostication breath. It's more like five weeks, the way things are going. The question now, put almost breathlessly by everyone, is: how long can the Redskins keep this up?

As good as Charlie Brown has been at wide receiver, he hasn't been around the league once. Joe Theismann seems to be improving when his career lifeline suggested he had reached his highest level. Mark Moseley has kicked 13 straight field goals for a team that nearly fired him this summer. A young offensive line, mean as a barnful of barrows, has given John Riggins daylight in his old age.

Maligned as inadequate, especially against the run, the Redskins' defensive line has performed so well that Perry Brooks may have to wear that bow tie forever. He's the tackle alongside Dave Butz. When the Redskins were 0-5 last season, back when people were wondering how long rookie Coach Joe Gibbs would last, Perry Brooks decided to wear a black bow tie to the next game.

"We won and I've never taken it off," Brooks said, not meaning exactly that, for Pete Rozelle would frown on a bow tie in the huddle. Most times, the only Redskins bow tie belongs to publicist Joe Blair. "So everybody calls me Joe Blair II," Brooks said, laughing.

Put a bow tie on all these Redskins and paint their portraits laughing. These Redskins wrapped Rickey Claitt in tape, mummifying yards of tape, from nose to toe and dumped him, immobilized, on the practice field. Their offensive linemen are "Hogs" and their teeny-tiny receivers are "Smurfs." There is a swagger in their walk now and pure joy in their leaping double high-fives. They are young and they are growing up together and they are winning.

"Four-oh is much more fun than oh-four," Brooks said. "Whew. We'll never forget that as long as we're playing. We'll never forget those moments, because at times like this it makes us deal with reality."

Someone asked Brooks how often the Redskins coaches speak of 1981's oh-five start.

"Every week," he said.

They are young, they are winning and they know how much it hurts to lose. Along with such a rare conjunction of circumstances comes a coaching staff in only its second season together, a staff purposefully proclaimed by owner Jack Kent Cooke the best paid in the NFL. There is a sense now, with the joy of four-oh replacing the pain of oh-five, of 60 players and coaches becoming the prettiest of things -- a team.

Ask around. Everyone says the same thing.

Dexter Manley: "We have a togetherness among us guys. It's a believing in your fellow man on the side of you."

Mark Moseley: "It's 45 guys fighting together. One of Jack Pardee's teams was 10-6 and we had some guys that didn't belong in football. But we all were together. That's what we have now, everybody together to make one big solid team that comes up with big plays."

Charlie Brown: "We're like a regular family, concerned with each other on and off the field. Winning has a lot to do with that, sure, but there's no kind of animosity."

Mark May: "Like for Thanksgiving, we all made pit stops at each other's places. Joe Jacoby, Dexter, Larry Kubin, Don Warren -- we were together. Guys care about each other here. That's because of the coaches. They didn't let us get negative even when we were oh-five. It's not like college, where you know you have a scholarship. This is your livelihood, and you're helping each other out. There's sincerity here."

What, you've heard this before? And it's been hokum?

Let's ask Joe Gibbs. How much does this togetherness stuff have to do with the Redskins' success?

"It's got everything to do with it," Gibbs said. He talked about Mike Nelms' fumble that gave Philadelphia an important possession. And he talked about Joe Theismann's intercepted pass near the goal.

"You saw what happened. Everybody pats Mike on the butt, and he responds later with that 58-yard kickoff return that might have been the game-turner. Joe Theismann, everybody said, 'Hey, don't worry.' Joe came right back with the big touchdown pass. That's the kind of team we have. It takes all of us to make a play."

And then, unsolicited, Gibbs said, "I'm getting a little bit of the feeling."

The feeling?

"The feeling that when we need it, something good is going to happen."

Put a bow tie on that man.