In the other little boy's game they play, the one with toy guns and rubber-tipped darts called Assassin, Redskins pop up in the strangest places.

Rich Milot, for instance, found Greg Williams crouched behind his garbage can last week. Dan McQuaid was nailed, by Otis Wonsley, in a crowded shopping mall, seconds after buying his weapon.

So it was not the least bit surprising, what with all the extracurricular practice, that the perpetrator of Assassin, Curtis Jordan, appeared exactly where Bernie Kosar least expected yesterday and turned the game the Redskins' way.

Kosar may be the next wonderful quarterback in the NFL, Unitas-like in his maturity and touch and fully worthy of the No. 19 he wears. But not just yet.

Jordan and Vernon Dean caught his star on the rise and reeled it back inside Cleveland Stadium. Kosar's early errors led the Redskins to the sensible thought: if our offense can't win, we'll let the Browns lose.

With two good, though unheralded runners, the Browns figured to begin Kosar's third start in the manner of most Ohioans: conservatively. Somewhere Robert Taft and Woody Hayes are shaking their heads in dismay, for Kosar passed on the first first down of the game. And on the second.

Jordan figured a trend was developing. Sure enough, Kosar backpedaled on the third first down; half the field away, Jordan tried to disguise himself as an unusually tall blade of dirty grass.

Under pressure, Kosar lofted a pass that would not have passed muster in any league.

"It hung," Jordan admitted. "Sort of a wounded duck."

Jordan may have easier interceptions in his life, but not many. His 32-yard return was seven yards farther than the Redskins offense needed to drive for a touchdown.

Next series, the Browns figured running might be wise. Trouble was, Kosar fumbled a handoff, and Neal Olkewicz recovered for Washington.

On a roll, quarterback Joe Theismann lofted a pass that had to be close to perfect -- and was. Behind one Browns defensive back and in front of another, gritty Gary Clark clutched it in the end zone.

The offensive players do not like to appear greedy this season. Give 'em a mile and they'll find a way to turn it into an inch. Which means that all the good work by the defense the remaining three-plus quarters was, well, pointless.

Going in that direction, the Browns scarcely got a whiff of Lake Erie the first period. With a chance to assure a .500 record -- and early -- after Dean's interception, the Redskins needed a fine defensive stand late in the game to avoid overtime.

Round up all the usual suspects.

Haul out the familiar questions.

But don't flog too hard. John Riggins was the first runner to gain more than 100 yards here in 25 games; Theismann was exceptionally accurate at times; Clark saved the game with a fingertip sideline catch in a crowd.

"Two days off," said an excited Mark May. "I can hide out for 48 hours."

Lately, May and the rest of the offense has been hiding from Redskin fans who wonder why a once-veritable touchdown machine often operates at crawl speed.

Most Redskins also now hide from themselves. Targets for criticism, they also are targets in a game that ought to be treated for what it is: fun.

Moralists need not fret. Stores were selling those dart pistols long before the country's largest elf, Jordan, devised his game; tinier kids than May and Milot were pointing them at one another and pulling the trigger.

"It's like the camouflage stuff," May said. "It brings us together a little bit. Everyone's in better spirits."

Everyone is in better spirits mainly because Kosar resembled a rookie before being replaced at halftime, and Washington's offense stumbled into the end zone just often enough.

"You make a point of watching a young quarterback's eyes," said Jordan of his Kosar coverage. "Usually, they'll look right at the first receiver. Mixing coverages confuses them even more."

Had Clark not been so acrobatic, had the front four not hurried Kosar and sacked backup Gary Danielson, had the Browns managed fewer penalties, the Redskins dressing room would have been gloomy.

And their harmless shoot-'em-up would have been blasted as an inexcusable distraction.

There are lessons to be learned from Assassin. The offense could be as cunning as Milot, whose home is not far from the demilaritized zone at Redskin Park. Milot tricked Clint Didier into a vulnerable position, then zapped him with shot from a pistol stuffed up his sleeve. Didier then declared a bounty on Milot, until Milot offered to split any winnings. "Money talks," Didier said. "Bull walks."

No Redskins haven is safe.

"Got armed guards patrolling my place," Theismann joked. "Got the dogs out. My horses even know how to alert me."

Simply, the offense must pounce on what the defense permits, as May did against Jordan the other day. Serene and confident, the Abner Doubleday of Redskins folly was on the passenger side of a car perhaps a half-mile from Redskin Park. He had remembered everything important in his life, except to close the window. At a red light, up pulled a car driven by May, who was armed and considered dangerous.

Hi, Curtis.


Bye, Curtis.