Yesterday, the Washington Redskins were beaten soundly by a team that hadn't scored a touchdown this season, by a rookie quarterback who had to write the plays on a piece of tape on his arm to remember them and by a defense missing three stars embroiled in contract holdouts.

They were beaten soundly by the Philadelphia Eagles, for heaven's sake.

The score was 19-6. "Talk about miserable," said offensive tackle Mark May.

"It's sad," said defensive end Dexter Manley as the Redskins' record fell to 1-2 with the Chicago Bears (3-0) and St. Louis Cardinals (2-1) to play in the next two weeks.

"We really stunk up the place, didn't we?"

How bad was it?

So bad that the 53,748 diligent souls assembled at RFK Stadium began booing Joe Theismann and the passing game after the first, ineffectual possession, and never had to stop.

While Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham was gobbling up 187 yards on only eight completions and 60 more yards on eight impromptu rushes, Theismann, who is 14 years older, had just 124 yards passing in a 15-for-34 day, and 25 more on one artful, dodging run.

It was so bad that even when the Redskins did something right, it was wrong. When cornerback Darrell Green did just as he was told and turned up the pressure on Mike Quick, trying for the interception deep in Philadelphia territory midway through the third quarter, he got burned on a 69-yard catch that set up Paul McFadden's third field goal and a 9-6 Philadelphia lead.

And when the Redskin defense seemed to have Cunningham contained as he rolled right, tantalizingly pumping the football at the Washington 17 on third and two with 8:50 remaining in the game, what did he do? He turned in his tracks and rolled left, throwing to running back Earnest Jackson for the game's only touchdown.

It was so bad that George Rogers fumbled at the worst possible moment (Redskins, losing 9-6, at the Eagles 35 with a first and 10 with 10 minutes to play). That led, three plays later, to the touchdown.

So bad that it was left to Art Monk -- who caught seven passes, most of the short-and-safe variety the sagging Eagles defense allowed -- to end the Redskins' final, futile drive with one last, embarrassing, dropped pass.

And so bad that it reminded Manley of 1981, Coach Joe Gibbs' first season, the one that began with an 0-5 record and ended 8-8.

"This probably is worse than 1981," Manley said. "Back then, we were beating ourselves. Today, we were even worse. We weren't making anything happen. If we play this way in Chicago (next Sunday), we'll get killed."

When Gibbs was asked to describe this game, he said, "There's just inconsistency everywhere. On offense, George was running great, John (Riggins) has been nicked, Keith (Griffin) does well, but then a fumble or a dropped pass or not getting (a) foot inbounds (happens) . . . There is no smoothness. We can't operate smoothly now."

As one would expect, there was ecstasy in the other locker room. An 0-2 start has been erased in the bliss of beating the Redskins at RFK, something the Eagles hadn't done since 1980.

"In the first half I went out there thinking, 'Geez, these are the Redskins,' " said Cunningham, who was playing for Nevada-Las Vegas at this time last year. "In the second half, I just sat back in the pocket. I didn't even need to run."

Somewhere in the euphoria, Cunningham forgot how the Eagles won this one. Whether he needed to or not, he ran. He beat the Redskins with his feet, not his arm, which is exactly what the Washington coaches had feared all week.

"When a guy like that runs, it turns into sandlot ball," said free safety Curtis Jordan. "Basically, the only play they had was him running out of trouble."

Twice in the Eagles' first drive, Cunningham ran the trouble-play. Third and six at the 18, he slithers out of the pocket for nine. Third and four at the 33, he pumps, then runs, carrying the ball over his head, for 11.

It's a slow, halting march, and the Redskin defense makes it even more so, but McFadden eventually kicks the first of four field goals, a 41-yarder, for a 3-0 lead with 10:21 gone in the game.

It was 6-0 after his 36-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Up to that point, the Redskins had gone down punting. Five plays and kick, three plays and kick, three plays and kick.

The Redskins never got closer to the end zone than the Philadelphia 10, and of the five times they crossed the 50, only twice did they crack the 20.

"It was frustrating," said Theismann, who was his calm-and-collected self after the game. "It seems like sometimes we press and I can't find my way out of a paper bag. Well, I'll keep trying. The bag's got a hole in it somewhere."

A little hole opened after McFadden's second field goal. Theismann connected with Monk for his longest pass of the day, 25 yards, to the Philadelphia 38.

Then, working out of the I-formation with tight end Clint Didier performing the duties of the blocking back, Rogers gained 15 yards in two carries.

A moment of brilliance, then back to nothing. It could have been any of yesterday's drives: Theismann threw incomplete deep, Rogers lost one yard, Theismann again threw incomplete deep, one of his last long throws of the day, and Mark Moseley came in for a 41-yard field goal.

The next drive also began with good intentions and ended with a measly three points. If any play symbolized this game's frustrations for the Redskins, it was their supposed razzle-dazzle, a pitch by Riggins back to Theismann, who is to throw long and straight and complete to someone downfield.

But, as they did all day, the Eagles had the secondary saturated with defenders, as many as seven when the Redskins consistently faced long-yardage situations.

So Theismann, with nothing else to do, tucked the ball under his arm and scrambled. He gained 25 yards to the Philadelphia 28, but it was a gain tempered by the reality that he could not complete the deep pass.

Moseley shortly thereafter kicked a 26-yard field goal, and the half ended in a tie.

The game swung to the Eagles five minutes into the second half. It was third and six for the Eagles at their five. The fans, for the first and only time, became a part of the game. Cunningham, standing in his end zone, waiting for the shotgun snap, couldn't hear signals. He said later he wasn't sure what to do, call timeout, call a huddle, call a cab.

It was the perfect situation for the Redskins to put a rookie quarterback in. Interception? Sack? At least a punt, right?

Wrong. With the Redskins blitzing, Cunningham threw as fast as he could to Quick, who already was behind Green along the left sideline.

Sixty-nine yards later, rookie Barry Wilburn, who intercepted Cunningham at the end of the first half to end another Eagle threat, chased Quick down.

Four plays later, McFadden kicked a 37-yarder and put Philadelphia in the lead for good.

"I just tried to cover my guy," said Green, "but he released the ball so fast. It was an excellent play."

The rest of the points were the Eagles': the touchdown pass and another McFadden field goal. For Washington, Moseley missed from 32 yards away in the fourth quarter.

For the second straight week, the Redskins were shut out in the second half. For the third straight week, there was puzzlement in the locker room.

"It's kind of a scary feeling to lose a game when you're a 14-point favorite," said center Rick Donnalley. "I think this loss really shocked me.

"Maybe the cold, harsh reality is we have to quit telling ourselves we're so good."