TEMPE, ARIZ., DEC. 3 -- Rookie cornerback A.J. Johnson intercepted passes from two Phoenix quarterbacks, returned one 59 yards in a flash for a touchdown and seems the spitting image of Darrell Green. The Washington Redskins are rallying behind such no-name defenders and today defeated the Cardinals, 29-10, before a sparse Sun Devil Stadium turnout of 38,870. Johnson, all 5 feet 8 of him, picked off a first-quarter pass by Gary Hogeboom to set up a field goal, but his interception off reliever Tom Tupa -- intended for Roy Green -- increased an unsafe seven-point lead to 24-10 in the third quarter. An NFL celebrity for the first time, Johnson was asked afterward to do a live television spot Monday and didn't seem keen on the idea until someone mentioned the station would pay $500. "I'll be there," he said. The Redskins (7-6) were, in fact, gathered around a television before the game, keeping tabs on the NFC playoff chase. Running back Jamie Morris had a portable set tucked in his duffel bag, and the team watched and learned in the locker room that the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, two of their main wild-card competitors, had eked out victories to go to 9-4, as had the Green Bay Packers to become 8-5 (matched by the Minnesota Vikings later on). Coach Joe Gibbs feared his team might then let down, but running back Earnest Byner did everything well today -- except pass -- and Gerald Riggs was a competent replacement after Byner (140 all-purpose yards) took a serious shot to the ribs. Riggs, out since Nov. 5 with a sprained arch, even scored a fourth-down touchdown without knowing the snap count. Gibbs mentioned playoffs. "We're hanging," he said. "Maybe there's a miracle in there someplace." Quarterback Mark Rypien, who missed seven plays before halftime with a sprained knee, was steady (16 of 22 for 163 yards) and didn't fumble. The Cardinals' defensive secondary played Washington's wide receivers so soft and so deep that Rypien's best bet was to hand off. While a four-wide receiver package helped spread Phoenix's defensive backs, Byner amassed 86 yards rushing on 20 carries, Riggs 39 on 12 attempts and Jamie Morris 13 yards on four. Washington ended all chance of a Phoenix comeback with a grind-it-out drive that consumed the bulk of the final quarter. After a 14-play, 61-yard, 9-minute 26-second possession, Chip Lohmiller kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 27-10 with 1:38 to play. With 53 seconds left, Tupa was pressed by linebacker Ravin Caldwell in the end zone and was flagged for intentional grounding -- which is a safety. Starter Hogeboom lasted barely over a quarter; he bruised a knuckle on his throwing hand after a botched shotgun snap. Tupa came on and led the Cardinals back from a 10-3 deficit, aided by a pass interference penalty against Johnson in the end zone that set up Earl Ferrell's one-yard plunge. But Tupa's second half wasn't as good. Washington took the kickoff and advanced 61 yards on 11 plays to lead, 17-10. The crispest play of the drive was a 25-yard criss-crossing catch-and-run by wide receiver Ricky Sanders to the 5-yard line. Three cracks up the middle by Byner brought up fourth down at the 1, with Byner trudging off clutching his ribs after the third carry. Riggs rushed onto the field late and didn't know the play until Rypien turned back and shouted it in Redskins code. Riggs still didn't know the snap count, but he took off on the centering of the ball and scored with 8:53 left in the third quarter. "It was a little sore being back the first time," Riggs said of the nagging arch, "but it's okay." Tupa soon had the Cardinals in business at their 45, the ball on the far right hash mark. It was third and five, and Cardinals coaches said the next play should have been a sideline pass to the wide side of the field, where Roy Green would have more room to operate against Johnson. Instead, Tupa called a sideline pattern toward the short side, then telegraphed his pass. Johnson stepped in front of Green, made the interception and coasted in. "Tom's got a lot on his mind these days," Green said of Tupa. Some of Roy Green's most epic battles have been waged against Darrell Green, the fleet Redskins cornerback who is out with a dislocated wrist. He did catch eight passes today for 116 yards, but not all were on the rookie. Two plays were magnified, though. On the 50-yard catch with the Redskins leading 10-0, Green nudged Johnson before catching Hogeboom's lob down the sideline. "I thought the push should've been called," Johnson said. "I learned something though. Roy's an old vet." Later, on second and 11 from the Washington 20, Tupa lobbed toward Green, and while Johnson swatted it away with his left hand, he seemed to jar Green with his right. This set up Ferrell's scoring plunge that tied it. "I don't think it was a good call," Johnson said. Gibbs said Johnson reminds him of Darrell Green as a rookie in 1983. Said Johnson: "I want to be Darrell Green. I can't ever be as fast as him, probably, but I want to make it to the Pro Bowl one day." Gibbs said earlier in the season he pulled Johnson aside for disciplinary reasons. The coach didn't believe he was going all out in practice and told him so. Johnson, though, had been hiding a sore ankle from Gibbs. But what Gibbs noticed something more about Johnson. "When I chewed him out," Gibbs said, "there was no rookie fear. In fact, I got a little mad and wanted to choke him. . . . There was no fear. He was taking his chewing-out in stride. He wasn't awed by whoever this was in front of him." Incidentally, his first interception of the day was intended for Roy Green also, but defensive end Fred Stokes tipped it directly his way. Rypien's knee injury is not considered serious, although he left for the team flight home with his leg packed in ice. With 59 seconds left in the first half, he faded to pass at the Phoenix 45 and was slammed in the rear of the knee by linebacker Ken Harvey. "It kind of caved in," Rypien said. "I thought at the time I tore something." His replacement, Doug Williams, threw consecutive darts of 10 yards to Gary Clark and 12 yards to Art Monk. But -- now in field goal range -- Williams threw an interception to cornerback Cedric Mack when he misread Clark with 26 seconds left. Williams fared better with the pass than Byner. In the first half, when he was gaining 108 yards of total offense, Byner -- a former high school quarterback -- had tight end Terry Orr alone on a halfback option pass and wobbled it short and incomplete. "That ball stuck to my glove a little," Byner said. Byner scored a one-yard touchdown to make it 10-0 after Cardinals linebacker Garth Jax was whistled for pass interference against tight end Mike Tice in the end zone. Byner then tried braving the second half with his bruised ribs. "I went back in there . . . and the second play I ran, I got hit in the ribs again," he said.