Phil Simms said there was no pattern to the three plays, and that the New York Giants definitely weren't picking on any one player. He emphasized that each play was "a separate individual accomplishment."

Yes, well. The Washington Redskins weren't so quick to hand out game balls to the New York Giants after losing to them, 24-20, two weeks ago at RFK Stadium.

The Redskins credit Simms and his receivers with taking advantage of their opportunities. But they repeated yesterday that had they not made a handful of physical blunders, had they not given Simms the opportunities, the plays couldn't have been made.

The Redskins (4-2) have looked at those plays again this week as they prepare for a rematch with the unbeaten Giants (6-0) Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands. The Redskins allowed the Giants 332 yards last time, with an astounding 204 coming on just three plays: Simms to receiver Stephen Baker for 80 yards in the second quarter. Simms to tight end Mark Bavaro for 61 yards in the third quarter. Simms to running back Maurice Carthon for 63 yards in the third quarter.

Baker's play went for a touchdown and overcame a 3-0 Washington lead. Bavaro's set up the second New York touchdown and Carthon's the third. The Redskins can fret about three Stan Humphries interceptions and a fourth-quarter special teams turnover, but if their defense had given up one less big play, they probably would have ended three years of frustration against the Giants.

"We had a terrible day," safety Todd Bowles said. "Simms took advantage of things, just like any good quarterback would. Maybe every quarterback wouldn't make those plays, but that's not the point. Phil Simms did."

The Redskins yesterday insisted that Simms hadn't spotted any particular flaw in their system, and that human errors led to all three plays.

From the top. Secondary coach Emmitt Thomas said the pass to Baker should have gone for about 20 yards. It was turn-in to Baker on the left side. Cornerback Brian Davis was brushed slightly as Baker turned in and fell a step behind.

He then lost a footrace with one of the NFL's fastest receivers, but even that shouldn't have turned into the longest touchdown pass of Simms's career. Davis was chasing Baker toward the right sideline, where cornerback Martin Mayhew should have been in position to make the tackle.

But Mayhew fell down, Baker reached the goal line and a nightmarish afternoon had begun. Cornerback Darrell Green, who saved touchdowns on the passes to Bavaro and Carthon, was visibly upset after that game.

He said he wasn't angry at any one teammate, but at the fact that the plays had been made and another game to the Giants had been lost.

"You want to eliminate those mistakes," he said. "Teams have to hit big plays to beat you. That's generally true. Very few teams are going to chip, chip, chip away and beat you. It was disappointing. Everyone has to do their job and that goes for me too. The bottom line is that we had everything it took to win, and we didn't do it. I was upset. A lot of our guys were upset."

Before Baker's catch, the Redskins had ground out drives of 66 and 68 yards and controlled the ball for 15 of the game's first 20 minutes. All they had to show for it was Chip Lohmiller's 43-yard field goal and his 30-yard miss.

Then, in an instant, the Giants struck, and the Redskins never again led.

"The way the NFL is today, you almost have to hit some big plays downfield," Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said.

The Redskins got a 35-yard field goal from Lohmiller on their first possession of the second half. That closed them to 7-6, but the Giants took five plays to go 80 yards and get a 14-6 lead.

Again, it was one big play. On second and 10 from the New York 20, Bavaro ran past the Redskins' secondary and Simms hit him in stride for a 61-yard gain to the 19. Three plays later, Ottis Anderson scored on a five-yard run.

Safety Alvin Walton stood up and took the blame on that play, saying he was expecting one route and got another and that he let Bavaro run past him.

"That's a bad feeling," Walton said. "You know it's your fault. Everyone has bad days."

The last play was more complicated. On first down at the New York 32, Simms caught Carthon in a seam between the zones. He caught the ball at the 50, slipped a tackle from Brad Edwards and went untouched until Darrell Green caught him at the 2.

Thomas said that Walton either called the right coverage too late or didn't call it loudly enough to overcome the noise at RFK. Either way, Carthon caught the ball, and the Redskins had no one close to him. Two plays later, Simms threw to Bavaro for a two-yard touchdown pass and a 21-13 lead.

"It's the idea of communication," Thomas said. "You've got to make the calls loudly enough and you've got to reinforce that to the players."

But in all these cases, Thomas said the problem wasn't in the system, but in the execution. If everyone does his job, Baker gains 20 and Simms may not even throw to Bavaro or Carthon.

"We left some things open," Thomas said, "but it's unusual that a quarterback will make you pay every time. But that's Simms. He's got a lot of {the 49ers' Joe} Montana's qualities. He sees the field very well. He knows who his hot receivers are and gets the ball there quickly. Even though you don't like to see them against you, you still had to have some big-time football talent to make those plays."

What's so amazing about those three plays is that -- other than a big day by Montana -- they came against a defense that has been one of the NFL's best this season. The Redskins are ranked fourth overall, behind the Giants, Bears and Eagles in the NFC. Only the Bears have allowed fewer points, and those three plays by the Giants are the three longest against the Redskins this season.

"That's something we'd been real good about," Gibbs said. "We just had a few breakdowns in that game and a guy like Simms takes advantage of things like that."