Washington Redskins punter Jeff Hayes calls football a "cutthroat business." You perform or get out of town, he says, you beat down the backups swinging their legs on the sidelines, waiting for you to bump your last winged bird. And you whip your right foot into the football with "all the strength God gave you."

Last night, Hayes punted four times for a 49.5 yard average. His best went 52 yards, his worst 43. Only a week ago against Atlanta, in the preseason opener, he flubbed one that crash-landed only nine yards from the line of scrimmage. His 29-yard average against the Falcons had the coaches wondering if Hayes were a big-league punter.

"This is the pros," Hayes said after the game. "You get a lot of pressure from the coaches, the press, everybody. People pay $13 for a ticket and expect a certain type of performance. You get in groove and do your job, or your job isn't yours anymore."

If anybody had doubts about whether Hayes would be the hot foot standing 15-yards behind the Redskins' deep snapper in the season opener against Dallas Sept. 5, Coach Gibbs dispelled them when he said, "I'm committed to Jeff Hayes. We're gonna live through his inconsistencies. He's a competitor.

"We told him he'd punt and kick off and he responded with a great job."

So did the Redskins' defensive secondary, split by the holdout of Jeris White and the arrest on a cocaine charge of Tony Peters.

Cincinnati quarterback Ken Anderson knew whom to pick on, cornerback Ken Coffey said. "He picked on me. But that's fine with me," Coffey said. "I appreciate the work."

Coffey, a first-year man from Southwest Texas State, replaced Peters and had a second-half interception that set up a field goal by Mark Moseley. "Anderson's a great quarterback and he has two damned good tight ends in (Dan) Ross and (M.L.) Harris," Coffey said. "They broke down my coverage a couple of times, but we adjusted.

"A couple of times we had great coverage and a good rush, but Anderson broke away and we lost it in the secondary. He got some extra time and completed the passes.

"The rapport in the secondary is getting there," Coffey said. "Sometimes communicating is a problem; you know, getting the signals to each other. A good offensive team like Cincinnati is going to test your weaknesses. Only time you get better is when you're being tested."

LeCharls McDaniel, who started ahead of top draft pick Darrell Green and replaces White, said, "We've got a bunch of individuals pulling together and trying to fill the void. We're still trying to get used to each other back there. It won't be long before we mold into championship form."