In the second quarter of a lifetime, the Washington Redskins became Doug Williams' team for keeps or, at least, until September.

If every game has a turning point, perhaps Super Bowl XXII turned with the subtle twist of a knee. At that point, the Denver Broncos led, 10-0, late in the opening quarter and appeared on the way to an easy victory. Then Williams slipped beneath the stare of onrushing Broncos defender Rulon Jones and let out a scream that resonated 10 rows up at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

Jay Schroeder (the team used to be his) heard the echo and found the nearest football. He and Eric Yarber played catch -- back and forth, back and forth -- as Williams lay with a sprained knee, fibbing to trainer Bubba Tyer, telling Tyer he was fine.

Meanwhile, Schroeder's last warmup toss sailed 10 feet over Yarber's head as Williams half-jogged, half-limped off the field -- head down, team down.

Unmercifully, the first quarter ended, and Williams' quarter began, as he half-jogged, half-limped back on, his thumbs pointed subconsciously skyward. As emotional lifts go, this was a skylift up Mount Everest, and that's nothing against Schroeder, who couldn't help it that running back Kelvin Bryant dropped his only pass of the game.

Nevertheless, Redskins eyes grew wide when Williams came back, and that includes wide receiver Gary Clark, who -- while in Honolulu for the Pro Bowl -- gave this description to HBO:

"When he went down, {Williams} didn't want to go out of the game, but {the referees} had called a timeout, and he went out. His knee was hurting, but he was lying to the trainer, saying he was all right. So, when Jay came in, we had faith in Jay, but we weren't really sure what was going to happen.

"Then, Doug comes in for the second quarter and bang . . . "

Bang No. 1 was an 80-yard pass to wide receiver Ricky Sanders, and Bang No. 2 was a third-and-one, 27-yard pass to a sliding Clark. Bang No. 3 was rookie Timmy Smith's 58-yard run on that good old Counter-Gap play. Clark said, "Believe me, the guys {up front} were opening up holes. I think I could've run through the holes."

Mammoth tackle Joe Jacoby could've fit through the holes, too, and he actually did on Smith's long touchdown run. Check the replays, and there's Jacoby running untouched through a seven-foot gap at the line of scrimmage, Smith on his heels.

Bang No. 4 was a 50-yard heave from Williams to Sanders again, off another play-action fake to Smith. Broncos cornerback Mark Haynes, for some reason, kept trying to get into Sanders' arm space at the line of scrimmage, rather than drop back and play it safe.

"{Haynes} was just standing straight up," Clark said on HBO, "and he was saying, 'Well, if you can beat me, take it. And if you can't, I'm going to take you.' It seems like Ricky Sanders took him."

The fifth and final bang was an eight-yard lob from Williams to Clint Didier. Center Jeff Bostic was the first to reach Didier, picking him several feet off the ground. The score was now, somehow, 35-10.

In the meantime, after every bang, players would mob Williams as he ran off the field.

"I wasn't running {off the field}," Williams was saying late this week. "I was walking. I wished I could've run."

Williams had played the entire quarter on one leg, not to mention the rest of the game. It's a safe bet that the Redskins offense subconsciously lifted itself for the simple reason that its leader was hurt and could scarcely take another blow.

"I feel like they {the team} respect me, and responded to me," Williams said in reflection. "They knew I was hurt, and they blocked their hearts out. I think every quarterback would like to have an offense believe in them; I really do."

Last September, most would have named Jay Schroeder, center/guard Russ Grimm and running back George Rogers as three of the most integral Redskins on offense. It never evolved that way. Instead, it was Williams, Jacoby and Smith, and what were the odds on that in September?

If every season has a turning point, then there were several with the Redskins, but none more crucial than Dec. 26 in Minnesota when Coach Joe Gibbs benched Schroeder one final time, essentially turning the team over to Williams once and for all.

Another hidden turn may have been Dec. 13 when former Redskins star John Riggins sat high in a radio booth taking low blows at running backs Rogers and Bryant. He said they weren't as fast as they thought they were and that Rogers "didn't like to run through that stuff," the stuff being arms and legs at the line of scrimmage.

Rogers told Riggins to "keep his mouth shut," but perhaps Gibbs had his ears open, because the next week was when Gibbs first unveiled Smith in a three-back rotation against the Miami Dolphins.

In this first week following their 42-10 Super Bowl victory, many Redskins have been reflective, including Williams, Smith and Jacoby. And, as for Williams and Smith, if there's ever been a more magical time, they can't name it. WOL radio, for instance, has put together a "scroll" in honor of Williams, signed by more than 58,000 people in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

People have drawn pictures and scribbled messages to Williams, and the scroll is so huge now, it covers 21 blocks. Now, the station has even chartered a flight to Zachary, La., where Williams' hometown parade will be held Saturday. They are bringing the scroll, which might be bigger than Zachary itself.

As for Smith, he was a guest Friday night on NBC's "Late Night with David Letterman Show," where he showed David how to do an end zone celebration and said, "I scored twice by accident."

Trying to be introspective moments before the show, Smith had said, "One game can make you so popular. All these guys have played so many more games than me, and I play one game, and I'm on shows. I guess I'm famous."

The thing is, it all happened in one measly second quarter.

The three of them -- Williams, Smith and Jacoby -- don't know if they have the exact explanations for it, but they tried late this week, anyway.

Williams: "All I can say is that it was the greatest quarter of football I've ever been associated with. I don't think you see that kind of football every day. How do I explain it? I guess with a 'wow' or an 'awesome.' There's no other way to do it.

"Even being involved in it, that's just something hard to explain. I don't think you can explain something like that. On the other hand, Cleveland had a good half against them {in the AFC championship game}, so maybe it wasn't so unbelievable . . . don't think it was easy. Please give our offensive line credit, too.

"Really, without the line and Timmy Smith and the defense, there's no way I could've done this. That's why I try to keep everything in perspective right now. All this could be gone tomorrow. Just the way it came like it did, it could leave like it did. I've got to keep it in perspective.

"You know, my dad was just interviewed in an article, and he said the team helped me win. He knows I can't do it alone. I'm not here trying to take credit. If they had named Timmy Smith MVP, what could I have done? I was his biggest fan. The biggest thing, to me, was getting the championship ring. What's left to do in pro football? Own a team? And I won't own a team, I don't think.

"Did the team rally around me? I don't know. But they accepted me. I'm a team player. If I were selfish, it wouldn't have meant as much to them or me. I'll always put the team first. From a team standpoint, they like people who are down to earth, who give it all they've got, who don't think they're better than they are. That's me."

Timmy Smith: "I think we played to our ability in the second quarter. We hadn't played the way we could all year, and we finally showed everybody we were as good as our defense.

"Our line, they're very experienced, and we used that to our advantage. Yeah, those holes were pretty darn big. I just had to hit them full speed and I was guaranteed 10 yards. Am I famous now? I guess. But I don't realize that. I'm just being myself."

Joe Jacoby: "The thing about it is we did it {the 35 second-quarter points} in six minutes, 18 plays. The whole year, we missed on big plays, and we made up for it in one quarter. We look back now and say, 'We did that?'

"The way I look at it, we were frustrated all year. Was it Doug coming back in? Was it magical, uplifting? I don't know. It might've been for some. I was just glad to see him back in there."

Anyway, there seems to be no definitive answer for 35 second-quarter points and 356 second-quarter yards. If Williams or Smith or Jacoby or even Gibbs knew, they'd do it again, of course.

"But I don't think we will," Williams said, though September's just around the corner.