Let's do this again sometime soon: give John Riggins the day off. Allow him to loiter on the sideline and joke about being the highest-paid equipment aide in sport. There hasn't been quite so much entertainment with the Redskins in weeks.

Because there was no Riggins between the tackles, the Redskins were forced to use what was between their ears yesterday; the result was fun football, for a change.

It wasn't close to good football, but blame that mostly on some uninspired animals -- Lions and zebras. With no Riggins to dominate, nearly everybody tried to turn the spotlight in RFK Stadium his way.

For instance, who gained 169 yards in 19 carries? Veteran NFL watchers frustrated beyond belief at the intrusion of officials on the game know it was referee Pat Haggerty.

Hankies fluttered on several of the 19 penalties when they should have stayed glued to hip pockets; equally often, to one witness in his second day in glasses, obvious crimes by both teams went unpunished.

If they'd known Haggerty was going to walk off so many yards, the centers would have politely handed him the ball before the snap now and then. Get it over with, Pat, before anyone hurts himself on a play that doesn't count.

I dismiss as nonsense any growls by the Lions or concern by Redskins' doubters that there was more than mild drama in the second half. Only the margin of victory was in doubt.

Yes, the Redskins went flat on offense; yes, the Redskins couldn't punt their way out of the paper bag special teams Coach Wayne Sevier later wore over his head; yes, the Lions had wonderful field position much of the final 30 minutes.

No, they were not going to win. A week shy of nine years since the Mel Gray infamy in St. Louis, a Lion held the ball long enough in the end zone for the closest official to signal touchdown.

That would have pulled the Lions within 28-21. But back judge Jim Poole was overruled, by a colleague farther away but who clearly had a better view of the play.

Even if Jeff Chadwick had made that tough catch with 3 1/2 minutes left, even if the Lions had recovered the onside kick that surely would have followed, they would have found a way to fall short.

Bad teams do that. They play just well enough to give the illusion of having a chance against their betters. Last week, Ed Murray hit the right upright from extra-point distance and the Lions stayed tied with the Eagles in overtime. This week, he might have whiffed.

For fans accustomed to a game-long Riggo Drill, cheery good news came on the first Redskins' play. That was the bomb Joe Theismann heaved half the length of the field.

It went incomplete, but served as a warning to the Lions and squelched the growing worry that recently acquired Calvin Muhammad might be too fast for Theismann's arm. He isn't.

The Redskins went so long so often they hid the fact that this week's designated battering ram, Keith Griffin, carried a Riggins-like 32 times. He met the usual quota: 114 yards, 119 bruises.

This led to irresistible speculation: are the Redskins worried about overworking Keith Griffin? Will Griffin merit his own weekly television show to issue bulletins about the state of his health?

Coach Joe Gibbs realized the merry intent of such questions and smiled. Griffin's backup, Riggins, will be in harness Sunday against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

That seems sound enough, the Eagles having come within a Lion-like blunder of sending their game with the unbeaten Dolphins into overtime yesterday. They are worthy of Riggins.

The two titans after that are not. That would be time to rest Riggo again. Think you saw bad yesterday? Wait until the Bills come to town and the Redskins visit Minnesota.

Everybody would be better served in those games with Riggins absent. Riggins most of all; then the fans; then other Redskins who would be worried just enough to be alert and inventive.

Like yesterday, that would be a treat for the customers. It's nice to know that in a role-obsessed game, an Otis Wonsley can score a touchdown one moment and tackle the kickoff returner the next.

It's pleasant to see a pass on first down instead of Riggins sticking his snout among Hogs. It's bliss when special teams actually have the nerve to be dazzling.

Alas, that might not be enough to keep us amused against the Bills and Vikings. Buffalo hasn't won; Minnesota has beaten the Falcons, Lions and Tampa Bay, which is to say nobody.

So even more drastic maneuvering by the Redskins seems necessary. Use a Griffin at running back against the Bills and Vikings, but make it Griffin Bell; force Mike Nelms to lateral long distance on punt returns to Bruce Kimball instead of Monte Coleman.

Also, put in a screen pass for Joe Jacoby. He was open, anyway, both times Theismann was called for intentional grounding yesterday. And plant the Smurfs on the defensive line.

Some Redskins were fretting about "lulls" and "inconsistency when we got ahead" against the Lions. That would keep everyone alert every second of every play.

Just some things to consider, Joe. And one more suggestion. If he's going to dress anyway, let Riggins punt. In lots of ways, he'd also get a kick out of it.