Joe Gibbs and Bobby Beathard embraced on the sideline at game's end; Jack Kent Cooke wouldn't have rushed the Hope Diamond with more affection than he did Gibbs several minutes later in the Redskins' dressing room.

"Oh God, I love you," the owner said to his coach.

So something mighty important must have unfolded yesterday for Washington's football team.

What happened was this: the guys inside RFK Stadium, from Cooke through Beathard through Gibbs through Ed Rubbert through the no-minds who kept chanting "Stay on strike," beat the guys outside RFK Stadium.

The final score, Redskins over the Cardinals by seven points, was only part of the reason interest in the town's timeless passion was more keen than usual.

Yesterday was historic in sport. For the first time ever in the regular season, 95 percent of all pro football players were begging fans not to watch pro football.

The real Redskins were manning unique positions. At Right Entrance, wearing jeans and a hooded sweat shirt, was Neal Olkewicz. He was the only striking Redskin who met the bus carrying replacement Redskins.

Olkewicz was the lone greeter because he wanted it that way. Ugly confrontations would be especially damaging.

"We're the good guys today," he said. "Hopefully."

The Realskins players scored points by attracting such a large and diverse collection of unions to join their picket line.

An official of the NFL Players Association wanted to balance his sign-toting troops. When he tried to coax some from the relatively sunny side of RFK to the much colder entryway, a honcho from another union said:

"Not us. The only ones crazy enough to go over there are the mine workers."

Whether the players or Cooke won the battle for customers revolves around seeing RFK as a water glass. The place was almost exactly half full. Or half empty. Give the players a shaky nod, because the crowd of 27,728 was about three-fourths what management anticipated.

Once the football actually got kicked off, however, strikers stock started to decline. Secretly, the Realskins had to be rooting for the Scabskins, because the league insists these sorry games will count.

Which means that the makeshift gang featuring the passing combo of Rubbert to Anthony Allen has won as many games this season as the familiar one built around Jay Schroeder to Art Monk.

That's somewhat embarrassing, but not the problem for the Realskins. The troubling matter is who the Scabskins licked and how they did it.

The Cardinals had 11 players from their regular team available, more than anyone else in the NFL and exactly 11 more than Gibbs had.

Casual observers figured the Cardinals ought to win by several touchdowns; deeper thinkers realized St. Louis was weak in three important areas: scouting, coaching and quarterbacking.

If Beathard and Gibbs were ordered to run a mule in the Kentucky Derby, the general manager would find the fastest one available and the coach would get it to the finish line ahead of many thoroughbreds.

The Scabskins did not do anything memorably awful. Rubbert did throw a touchdown pass to a Cardinal, but Redskins passers from Baugh to Jurgensen probably also have done that. Otherwise, Rubbert passed beautifully.

There were no crashes. No quarterback-running back collisions on handoffs. The Scabskins had six penalties; the Realskins have 11 in two games.

"We did have some times {in practice} when it looked like a wreck on the Beltway," running backs coach Don Breaux admitted. Meaning that the running back would bump into a blocker who would bump into a blocker who would bump into a tackler.

Gibbs said fundamentals were emphasized, though he and the Scabskins must have been less basic than Vince Lombardi and his Packers supposedly once were.

After a horrible practice or game, Lombardi is said to have held a ball aloft in a team meeting and said: "Gentlemen, this is a football." From the back of the room came this from impish receiver Max McGee: "Coach, you're going too fast."

The Scabskins were on the same page constantly. The highlights that appeared on television were genuine. The patterns record-setter Allen ran were precise, if primitive; Rubbert's passes were fairly hard-and-tight spirals.

This tends to influence doubters who stayed away yesterday to think that the Scabskins can really play, that most of them would deserve to man significant positions when the strike ends.

Rubbert passed as though touched by some magic from another University of Louisville alum, Johnny Unitas.

"Big kid . . . strong arm . . . nice touch," said Allen.

Allen caught and ran his way into the Redskins record book, or so the NFL says. His 255 receiving yards were 14 more than Gary Clark mustered last year against the Giants.

Should this count? Should a catcher unemployed in football two weeks ago get lasting credit for a performance, however grand, against less than quality opposition?

The league insists yes. It says that if early-American Football League records count, and they do, so should Allen's. None of those cornerbacks could guard anything more mobile than a shopping cart, either.

"If it counts, fine," said Allen. "If it doesn't, that's okay."

If this strike ends soon, and I believe it will, what will become of Rubbert and Allen? If the Realskins were to return this week, should Allen remain?

Very likely, he is good enough; very likely, he will not survive a settlement. That's because Gibbs would want to maintain harmony among the evidently united Realskins.

Allen knows this. His RFK locker is usually occupied by Darryl Grant, called for unnecessary roughness against a bus last week. His thoughts were these: "I would love to stay here {when the Realskins return}; this gives them {Gibbs and his staff} something to think about. Or someone else around the league. I'm hoping this gives me a chance to play."