Maybe next week the Falcons will throw eight defensive linemen against the Redskins -- and call it the Hog Bog; maybe the Eagles will put 10 men on the line and lease Garry Maddox from the Phillies to chase passes; maybe the Bills will bring in real buffalo.

The thread during this latest two-game Redskin losing streak is the opposition dedicating itself to stopping John Riggins. Each new week fetches a new Riggo wrinkle.

"St. Louis had a total departure from what it usually does," said quarterback Joe Theismann. "The Giants haven't used that look today in a long time. I didn't see it on film."

"I was a little befuddled (today)," Riggins admitted. "We practice against one thing and very likely we'll see something different in the game."

The something different the Giants did today was slip two linebackers onto their three-man line and allow another, Lawrence Taylor, to sort of shadow Riggins.

"They had our five linemen tied up," Riggins said, "so whichever way we went they couldn't be wrong."

To one pressbox lifer who never met an X or an O he either liked or fully understood, this seems the obvious and proper way to defuse the one-back offense. The Raiders devised the tactic, but neglected to patent it.

Seems to these innocent eyes that if you have only one back who almost never runs outside you are inviting teams to build what the Raiders did in the Super Bowl: a human wall, with seven or so 250-pound bricks.

If the Giants did not completely steal that strategy, as a somewhat testy Joe Gibbs insisted, it had the same effect. Riggins couldn't run and the Redskins couldn't pass.

Or catch.

The same brilliant mind that just figured out how teams can defense Riggins is now going to offer a way the Redskins can counter it: by passing. You don't run through walls; you throw over them.

So why haven't the Redskins passed more against these stacked defenses? Won't they have to shortly?

"I can't answer those questions," said Theismann. "The coach makes those determinations. I believe in him. I believe in what he does."

Gibbs drifts into Coachspeak to deflect such questions, adding that schemes such as that can be pass blocked and, besides, there were several fine chances that misconnected.

Before getting too carried away with the defense of the '80s, keep in mind that only a few teams can even think about it. Ones with spectacular linebackers, guard large and fullback mobile.

Such creatures thrive mostly near Los Angeles discos and Jersey swamps. Still, everybody else uses every available way to achieve the same end. A week ago, the Redskins failed to protect a lead; today, they failed to get it.

Riggin could not muster 100 yards in 30-plus carries against the Cardinals; he touched the ball just 16 times today, the Giants hustling to a 17-point halftime lead and scoring on their second possession of the second half.

"We put a lot of pressure on the defense," left guard Russ Grimm said. "We only got one first down (on 10 third-down attempts) the first half. The defense had to gamble to come up with the big play to help us, and it didn't work."

Clearly, the relatively harmless collection of Falcons, Lions, Eagles, Bills and Vikings that clutter the next several weeks will be ganging up on Riggins.

"We'll have to adjust on the move," Theismann said. "From here on, there's no telling what we'll see. Actually, it's a compliment to us that teams go out of their way so much to stop us.

"The Cardinals blitzed; the Giants put their linebackers down. There's not too many other things you can do with the seven people up front."

The Giants tossing all their eggs in one Riggins basket presumes a couple of things: their secondary can contain Washington's receivers with little help and the offense can grab a decent lead.

They were correct on both counts. Before today, the Giants had one of the sorriest ground games in the NFL. Fact is, it was assumed that the Giants could run the equivalent of a marathon and not gain an inch.

Not this day. So effective was Phil Simms at passing, a squirt named Joe Morris was able to scamper past Redskins for 68 time-consuming yards and three touchdowns.

The Giants bottling Redskins receivers is a bit easier to explain: only Art Monk is a major-league threat and the Giants guessed wonderfully one critical time.

With Charlie Brown hurt, the Redskins have been going with a reserve for weeks; they uncovered a gem in Calvin Muhammad. Except he got hurt late this week and was unable to play.

Theismann is not nearly as adept at hitting Smurfs on the run this season, although Virgil Seay did grab three passes for 44 yards. Just guessing, but secondaries probably can double Monk without being too worried about going one on one against everyone else.

Two moments seemed especially vital: had Jeff Moore not fumbled inside the Giants' 20 on the first (semi-interrupted) series, the Redskins might have gained an early lead that would have rendered the Giants' innovation useless.

Ahead, the Redskins would not have minded the Giants grabbing Riggins early and often. A minute off the clock is worth more than three yards any time. If Clint Didier had been open for huge yardage, as he almost always has been, on third and one later, the offense might have surged back.

Only 49 Giants smelled what was coming.

"We're struggling," Gibbs said. "We've got to get people moved to the best place to give us the best chance. And the people who aren't hurt must play great."

With nothing to lose except one more game and the pride of beating a back-to-back Super Bowl team to gain, defenses will be testing the Redskins' ability to think even more.

"We'd better catch on quickly," Theismann volunteered.