A good rear-end kicking, Joe Theismann called it almost too calmly. Done, finished. C'est la vie.

"Maybe we needed to get this out of our system," he said. "They did almost everything right. We did almost everything wrong."

Coach Joe Gibbs said it was so bad it was ugly, the worst overall performance by the Redskins in 23, maybe 24 outings. "The Miami Dolphins outplayed us in every category. It was a thorough, old-time whipping, good and solid," he said.

"It's time now to do some serious soul searching."

But 38-7 defeat is history. "Gone," said Theismann, who completed only three of 12 passes for 32 yards in the first half. "This game's over; it's done. If this isn't a way to get our feet back on the ground I don't know what is."

Again, of all the aspects of the Redskins' overall game left vulnerable since last season's glory in Pasadena, none looks more suspect than the defensive secondary. Dolphin quarterbacks David Woodley and Dan Marino ripped holes in a defensive backfield already ripped open by the absence of Tony Peters and Jeris White. Even ever-steady Vernon Dean, who played solidly and without serious calamity in the first two preseason games, was beaten repeatedly by Jimmy Cefalo and Duriel Harris, who had two touchdown receptions.

Darrell Green, a rookie cornerback, looked befuddled at times and downright lost at others.

"They just stuck it to us," Dean said. "They threw the ball great and stuffed it down our throats. But we're still a new unit. We have two guys who are still brand new back there."

"We'll be playing well by the time the season starts. It's just a matter of time. All preseason really is anyway is a chance to get your chemistry going and to see who can play and who can't," Dean said. "I'm just relieved this happened tonight and not during the season."

There was whooping and hollering before the game, but the fanfare died right there, before the Hogs and Riggo and the Fun Bunch and all the rest could take it out beyond the limed stripes.

"I'm sure there will be bright spots once we review the film," Gibbs said. "But it'll be individually. There was nothing bright about the team's performance."

Evaluation time, Gibbs called it. Time to run a gut check and see who'll rear his head, raise his hand and run with the ball.

"What went wrong?" Theismann asked rhetorically. "What went right? We played without emotion. We played without intensity. We caught passes out of bounds. We threw interceptions. We got stuck repeatedly in long-distance third down situations. That's what went wrong."

Gibbs said quarterback Babe Laufenberg, who completed nine of 17 passes and played the entire second half, did a lot of good things. "But he did a lot of bad things, too," he said.