First downs rushing is a subtle statistic deserving more attention than it receives. This year, in games in which a team has rushed for 10 or more first downs, 44 times the team has won, 11 times it has lost.

The Hogs and John Riggins earn their paychecks from this grunt and gain statistic. Computer analysis shows that one rushing first down more than your opponent gets is worth two-plus points in the winning margin.

Rushing first downs should carry a heavy weight in Monday's game against the Chargers. Why? Because the rushing first down will take more time and protect the Redskins' modest pass defense from the Chargers' potentially dangerous passing offense.

On defense, the Redskins lead the NFL in allowing only 4.7 rushing first downs. The 25th-ranked Chargers give up 9.5.

San Diego played five games in which it gave up more rushing first downs than it got. It lost four of the five.

By comparison, the Redskins had seven games in which Riggins and the Hogs got more rushing first downs than the defense allowed. They won five of seven.

In the season's first eight weeks, the Redskins have gotten 9, 8, 10, 9, 6, 13, 12, and 12 first downs rushing. A dozen more Monday night could disarm the Chargers.