The Redskins rushed for three times as many yards as the Giants. The Redskins held the ball 11 minutes longer. The Redskins had nine more first downs. They never punted. They didn't allow a sack, not even to the indomitable LT. "I've played these SOBs for 10 years," Taylor said afterward, "and I've never seen 'em as physical as they were today. They were firing off the ball. They seemed like they knew exactly what we practiced all week. We didn't know what the hell was going on."

Once again, the Redskins did everything except beat the New York Giants. You know it, you've seen it, it's the longest running rerun in the NFL: Redskins dominate, Giants win. It's up to five and counting, eight of the last nine.

"The Redskins controlled it from start to finish," New York quarterback Phil Simms said.

But the Giants won. They felt like they stole one. "I feel like I'm at Notre Dame," LT said. "I know they're confused about how they lost this game."

With a week to scheme, you knew a coach as savvy as Joe Gibbs would come up with some new stuff. A halfback option pass from Earnest Byner, running backs going outside instead of inside against the fast-pursuing Giants, little receivers trying to block the unblockable LT.

"They were like a whole new team. When is the last time the Redskins' running backs tried to get outside on our defense?" an incredulous Taylor asked. "And a wide receiver on me? I totally tripped out. One time when {Ricky Sanders} lined up to block me, I started thinking, 'This is almost like a joke.' It's not that he couldn't block me, I just looked at him and thought, 'This has got to be a trick. They're going to throw it back to him or something, right?' When a wide receiver tries to block me, I've come full circle; it must be time to retire. They did everything."

Except win.

"A good team had an excellent chance to win," Giants cornerback Everson Walls said, "but things happened. The kinds of things you can't put into a game plan."

The kinds of things Walls was talking about included Giants pass plays of 63, 61 and 80 yards. Oh, and let's not forget the play that iced it: Punt-it-off-the-back-of-Johnny Thomas's-right calf-and-have-Reyna Thompson-fall-on-it-at-the-1. Just like the coaches drew it up.

More than anything that happened yesterday at RFK Stadium, the old muffed punt typified the frustration the Redskins must feel today. With just less than four minutes to play, the Redskins trailing by a point and having just stopped the Giants, Sean Landeta punted toward the end zone. Walter Stanley was faking a fair catch. Thompson, the best special teams player in the league, ignored the ploy and worked his way down into the left corner of the end zone, hoping to down the ball inside the 5.

He did, at the 1. But what he didn't know was that the ball had nicked Thomas's leg as he had his back turned, giving the Giants possession at the 1.

Just imagine, you block LT and Carl Banks and Pepper Johnson all day, you score a touchdown on a brilliantly conceived, perfectly executed halfback option, you punch it in from the 1 on fourth and goal, and you get stung by a punt that rolls off a guy's leg. "One of the freakiest plays I've seen in a long while," Walls said. "The guy knew it hit him and tried to play it off, but the referee didn't fall for it."

Of course, the recovery wouldn't have mattered so much if the Redskins' secondary had stopped one of those 900-yard passes over the middle. Darrell Green ran more 100-yard dashes today than Carl Lewis did the week before the Olympic trials. He couldn't catch Stephen Baker on an 80-yard touchdown reception; he did catch Maurice Carthon and Mark Bavaro after 60 yards.

"We made some mistakes at the wrong time," Green said. "Give them credit, Phil Simms hit the big plays. He caught us in some mix-ups -- or something."

The three plays looked so strangely similar -- Giants taking medium-distance routes near the right hash mark and turning them into foot races with Green -- that Simms seemed to have found something he knew he could exploit.

Simms said, no, each play was different: "Each one was a physical accomplishment, not a blown assignment."

So now that the Giants have tightened this choke hold on the Redskins, we have to keep asking, why? Are the Giants better? Are the Redskins starting to psyche themselves out of these games at critical moments because they've lost so many of them? Or is it simply that three interceptions thrown by a rookie quarterback mean doom?

"A lot of it's been turnovers," Gibbs said. "We've turned it over more than they did in almost every one of those games."

Simms said, "Some of it's luck, some of it's because we played a little better than them."

Said Taylor: "Some of it's determination, some of it's having won a few and believing you can do it. Hey, I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth."

The Redskins are going to have to look themselves in the mirror, though. These are some bare facts: Since the Super Bowl XXII victory, the Redskins haven't beaten a playoff team other than the Eagles (three times). You can play well, you can impress LT, you can be gritty and all that. But unless you beat playoff teams like the Giants now and then, especially at home, it doesn't mean a hill of beans.

In each of the three seasons the Redskins have gone to the Super Bowl, they've swept New York. When the Giants won it all in '86, they beat the Redskins three times. The last two years the Giants have swept the series, and the Redskins have missed the playoffs. Coincidence? Don't be silly.

The Redskins, having played very well on their home field, are faced with the job of having to visit these Giants in two weeks. Asked if it's possible the Giants are just better than his team, Joe Gibbs said, "Nobody else could beat them, so . . . "

His voice trailed off, understandably.