SAN DIEGO, FEB. 1 -- No one asked Joe Gibbs the annual "genius" question today, and he has said all along he doesn't think he's an Einstein.

Nevertheless, he'll have to live with a Lombardi label or something similar because he and his Washington Redskins coaching staff clearly wore their thinking caps during Sunday's 42-10 Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos.

After a week of hearing, "How do you stop John Elway," the Redskins figured out a way. Elway proved his flexibility once again by even catching a pass, but that was early in the game, before Richie Petitbon and the rest of the defensive coaches instituted their rock-'em, sock-'em game plan.

Denver coaches and players, looking back to Sunday's game, were convinced today that the Redskins stopped Elway with an old trick -- the "spy' tactic. In other words, Elway moves to his left, and a Redskins defender -- usually situated where a linebacker would be -- moves with him. Any direction Elway moves, the Redskins defender moves with him. The Broncos believe the "spy" was strong safety Alvin Walton, although the Redskins apparently used several undercover agents. Sometimes Walton would do it; sometimes safety/linebacker Clarence Vaughn. Sometimes, linebacker Monte Coleman would, too.

The Redskins don't explain it exactly the same way. Gibbs today said the Redskins wanted to penetrate the line of scrimmage with five men -- sometimes three linemen, a linebacker and a safety; sometimes four linemen and a linebacker; sometimes four linemen and a safety -- and that might have looked like "spy" tactics.

"You try to keep somebody in every gap, so {Elway} wouldn't have a place to come out of there, because he does such a great job of scrambling," Gibbs explained.

So, more than any game this year, Vaughn was replacing middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz on early downs, coming close enough to the line to play run, but being cognizant of pass.

"Clarence Vaughn, although he's a defensive back/safety, we play him as a linebacker," Gibbs said. "With him, he has speed, and he's a big guy, so he can cover a back out of the backfield and blitz."

When the Redskins went into their three-man front, the line consisted of defensive ends Dexter Manley and Charles Mann, plus nose guard Markus Koch. This was a quick line, and the linebackers or safeties could come from every which way.

Certainly, a devastating blow for the Broncos was tackle Dave Studdard's knee injury, which took him out of the game in the first half. Left with playing a reserve -- Keith Kartz -- against Manley, the Broncos had to use either a running back or tight end to double-team Manley, and that took away a portion of their offensive repertoire.

Offensively, the Redskins suffered through a pitiful first quarter. On one drive alone, Timmy Smith's 25-yard run was called back on Don Warren's holding penalty, wide receiver Ricky Sanders dropped a pass, quarterback Doug Williams injured his knee, backup Jay Schroeder was sacked, running back Kelvin Bryant dropped a pass and punter Steve Cox wobbled a 39-yard kick.

Clearly, something had gone haywire, and Gibbs admitted today that the Broncos confused him early with a "46" defense, a ploy the Bears have used. Generally, this is a blitzing defense that cuts off outside runs, although Gibbs said he started Smith Sunday particularly because he wanted to run outside.

To adjust, Gibbs used the Counter-Gap play, which is when Smith gives a jab step one way and comes back the other way, while a whole side of beef (Hogs Raleigh McKenzie and Joe Jacoby) come charging in front of him. The play worked inside for a 58-yard touchdown, plus runs of 43 and 32 yards.

Joe Bugel, assistant head coach/ offense, said the Redskins have become more of a counter team nowadays anyway, and the Broncos' stunting, slanting defense made them vulnerable to that Sunday.

"We used to be an off-tackle team with John Riggins," Bugel said. "{But} our philosophy has changed to counters. To be a good one-back team, you need counters, because they can zero in on {the one back}."

Speaking of Smith (who gained 204 yards Sunday, more yards than he had all season), Gibbs is kicking himself for not using him earlier.

"I think I have to take the blame for {not playing him more}," Gibbs said today. "Looking back, obviously that's one I wasn't real sharp on. I should've had him in there."

On the other hand, Gibbs -- trailing by 10-7 in the second quarter -- made an Einsteinian call on third and one at the Denver 27-yard line. Usually a running situation, Gibbs sent Bryant in for Smith, and a third wide receiver, Art Monk, in for a tight end. Wide receiver Gary Clark ran a corner route, beat cornerback Steve Wilson and made a sliding touchdown catch.

Gibbs said he treated that third and one like a "two-play package," meaning he'd have gone for it on fourth down if the corner route failed.

"Other than that, it was just one of those feelings you have," Gibbs said of the call.

Of course, it was a similar feeling that led him to bench Jay Schroeder for Williams this season and the same sort of feeling that led him to start Smith Sunday. Whether he's called a genius or not, he's certainly no dummy.

The Redskins scored five touchdowns in the second quarter Sunday, which set an NFL postseason record for most points in a quarter and gave them a 35-10 halftime lead.

FINAL SCORE: Washington 42, Denver 10

TD ONE: Trailing 10-0, the Redskins opened the second quarter on their 20. Wide receiver Ricky Sanders (83), lined up to the right, ran a fly pattern past Denver's star cornerback, Mark Haynes (36), with safety Tony Lilly (22) responsible to help on a deep pattern. Doug Williams (17) arched a perfect pass into the arms of Sanders, who had beaten Haynes on the bump-and-run situation.

TD TWO: The Redskins were in a third-and-one situation at the Broncos 27. Williams dropped back to pass, his blockers picking up a blitz that left cornerback Steve Wilson (45) in single coverage against wide receiver Gary Clark (84). Williams passed to Clark, who caught the ball diving and fell into the end zone.

TD THREE: The play, called Counter Gap, had left tackle Joe Jacoby (66) and left guard Raleigh McKenzie (63) pulling out and blocking right, as did H-back Clint Didier (86). Their blocks opened a big hole for running back Timmy Smith (36), who outran Lilly (22) for a 58-yard score.

TD FOUR: Sanders (83), lining up on the right, went in motion left. At the snap, he headed upfield, cutting through what appeared to be a zone defense. Lilly (22) picked him up too late to prevent a 50-yard pass.

TD FIVE: Didier (86) ran a simple slant pattern, beating Wilson (45) for a eight-yard touchdown.