Had the Washington Redskins dreamed of a way to finish their preseason schedule, they would've envisioned a game in which the running game broke loose, the passing game hit a couple of big plays and the defense turned in a dominating performance.

The Redskins got all of that and more last night as they routed the Los Angeles Rams, 37-10, in an impressive performance in front of 54,371 at RFK Stadium.

It was their third straight preseason victory, all against 1989 playoff teams, and they enter next week's regular season opener against Phoenix with only a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

"It was a good finish for us," Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said. "I felt our guys played hard and we improved on some things. We did a better job of running the ball, were really pushing people back."

As with last week's victory over Cleveland, this one comes with an asterisk. The Rams had a long list of injuries and holdouts, and left this game in even worse shape, as Pro Bowl cornerback Jerry Gray suffered a season-ending knee injury and another defensive back, Alfred Jackson, sustained a pulled groin that will sideline him four to six weeks.

"You can't win without cornerbacks, defensive linemen and linebackers," Coach John Robinson said. "That's putting it about as truthfully as I can."

The Redskins were impressive no matter what the condition of their opponent, taking a 24-10 halftime lead and finishing with 350 yards, including 160 from a ground game that had been thoroughly unimpressive until the fourth quarter the Cleveland game.

Gibbs began by attempting to establish the running game, and Earnest Byner gained 62 yards on 16 carries, all in the first half.

The defense limited the Rams to 110 yards and forced a pair of turnovers, one on a Todd Bowles pass interception and another when Wilber Marshall stripped running back Gaston Green of the ball.

Quarterback Mark Rypien began the game with a mistake that Gray turned into a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown. But he didn't make many more, and finished seven for 13 for 99 yards and three touchdowns.

Rypien passed to Ken Whisenhunt for nine yards and Art Monk for 36 for scores in the first quarter, then found Terry Orr on a 20-yarder in the second. He turned the game over to Stan Humphries in the second half and Humphries was eight for nine for 83 yards and a touchdown.

"Now, the real work starts," Rypien said. "I feel pretty good about things except for that first one {the interception}, and that wasn't really a mistake. That's why Jerry Gray has been in the Pro Bowl. After that, we really got everything in gear."

Kicker Chip Lohmiller has had it in gear from the start and did again last night, hitting field goals of 37, 43 and 20 yards. He finished preseason eight for eight.

With rosters to be trimmed from 60 to 47 players Monday, some Redskins made have made the coaches' decisions a bit tougher. Orr and Whisenhunt were both on the thinnest ice possible, as was receiver Joe Howard, who returned a kickoff 84 yards in the first half.

"Those were already tough decisions," Gibbs said. "This is as good a group as I've had. They've worked hard and as coaches you like them. That's the real tough part of this job for coaches. . . . We've got guys we know can play and will have to make some hard choices."

But one backfield choice should not be among the tough ones. Byner walked into training camp as the No. 1 running back and was only firmer in control after last night.

On the Redskins' first possession, they drove from their 22 to the Rams 44 and Byner carried much of the load, getting the ball five times and gaining 19 yards. Rypien hit Gary Clark for nine, and then on second down at the Rams 44, he threw for Monk on the right side.

Monk had turned in front of safety Anthony Newman, but Rypien didn't see Gray, who drifted from the right flat and intercepted the ball. He caught it at the 38 and sprinted 62 yards for the opening score.

But Howard returned the kickoff 84 yards to the Rams 13, and the Redskins needed three plays to get in, with Rypien passing to Whisenhunt in the back of the end zone for a nine-yard scoring play.

The Rams ran three plays and punted. On the first play of their next possession, the Redskins showed the Rams an offensive wrinkle: a shifting of the offensive line that ends with one of the guards over the ball.

"The guys had been fooling around with it in preseason," Gibbs said, "and I promised them I'd let them use it."

That, and everything else, worked and the Redskins drove 57 yards in four plays, with Rypien hitting Monk on a 36-yard scoring play. Lohmiller's extra point made it 14-7 and the Redskins were in business.

Three plays later, Marshall stripped Green of the ball at the 33. He returned it to the 28, and the Redskins needed four plays to put Lohmiller in position for a 37-yard field goal and 17-7 lead with 14:53 left in the second quarter.

Once more, the Rams ran three plays and punted, and the Redskins took over at the Rams 48. This time, they needed eight plays and 5:15 to drive 48 yards for a 24-7 lead.

Rypien opened with a 17-yard completion to Clark and a six-yarder to Jimmie Johnson. Byner picked up gains of two, one, seven and three yards before being dropped for a four-yard loss by linebacker Frank Stams. The Redskins were sent back another five yards when they were called for delay.

Then, on third and 16 from the Los Angeles 21, Rypien laid the ball between Jackson and Gray and over defender Bobby Humphery's outstretched hands. Orr, also fighting for a job, clutched it to his chest for his first touchdown. Lohmiller's extra point made it 24-7.

The Rams then had their best drive, Mark Herrmann leading them 70 yards to the 6, where Lansford kicked a 24-yard field goal to close the halftime lead to 24-10.

The second half was no better for the Rams. Chuck Long came in at quarterback and his third pass was intercepted by Bowles, who returned it 22 yards to the 20.

Lohmiller's 43-yard field goal made it 27-10.

The Rams again punted and Humphries took the Redskins on an eight-play, 61-yard drive. He hit Gerald Riggs for seven yards and Ricky Sanders for nine. On third and one from the 16, play-action got Johnson behind the coverage, and Humphries lofted it into the end zone. Lohmiller's extra point made it 34-10 with 1:28 left in the third quarter. Lohmiller's 20-yarder with 9:22 remaining made it 37-10.

"It has been a good preseason, but I never know what it means," Gibbs said. "We've gone 0-4 in preseason and gone to the Super Bowl. You'd worry if you didn't play well. But I'm not sure it has any real meaning."

Redskins Notes:

Center Jeff Bostic missed the game after coming down with flu-like symptoms yesterday afternoon. Raleigh McKenzie started in his place. . . . Cornerback Brian Davis played nickel and one-on-one situations in his first preseason action. "I'm still rusty, but it felt good to be out there," he said. . . . Rookie linebacker Jon Leverenz, an 11th-round draft choice, pulled a hamstring in the first half. He was a likely cut Monday, but may now be a candidate for injured reserve. . . . Only two Redskins who were in uniform didn't play -- rookies Mo Elewonibi and Cary Conklin. Both will be placed on injured reserve Monday.