Walt Harris started yesterday's game at left cornerback, but it was rookie Carlos Rogers who finished it, having a big day in the process. Rogers replaced Harris with 13 minutes 44 seconds remaining in the second quarter immediately following Eric Parker's 14-yard catch against Harris.

Gregg Williams, the Redskins' assistant head coach-defense, has been stressing for the past few weeks that his defensive backs need to recognize pass patterns better, and after Harris was caught giving Parker too much cushion, Rogers entered the game. Harris, meanwhile, played in five- and six-defensive back formations.

Harris's play at left corner has been criticized for some weeks as opposing defenses have been avoiding right corner Shawn Springs. The strategy to throw away from Springs has enabled teams to key on Harris for big plays.

The switch likely has signaled a changing of the guard. Rogers, the ninth pick in this year's draft from Auburn, is expected to be an impact player in the secondary, and it appears the Redskins are ready to end his apprenticeship.

Rogers acquitted himself well with seven solo tackles, eight overall, an interception and three pass deflections. For a defense that struggled with making the big play, Rogers for a moment looked to be a catalyst as the Chargers were driving toward a game-tying score early in the fourth quarter. On consecutive plays, San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson had rushed for seven and 22 yards to the Redskins 41. At that point, Chargers quarterback Drew Brees chose to challenge the rookie by throwing for Keenan McCardell in the end zone. Rogers was in single coverage and intercepted the pass along the sideline.

Rogers nearly had intercepted a Brees pass a series earlier on the same route, but lost control of the ball when he landed.

"I caught it, but when I hit the ground on my backside, the ball popped out," Rogers said. "When we get down to crunch time, we just have to make a play."

After the game, Rogers declined to comment to The Post, and Williams was unavailable to the media.

Griffin Is Big in Return

Cornelius Griffin, who sat out the previous three games because of a hip flexor injury, played virtually the entire game, and his effect on the defense was apparent. Not only did the Redskins record three sacks, they also intercepted three passes. It was the first time in weeks the defense seemed to control the line of scrimmage consistently on passing plays. His return did not produce much in the stat department -- Griffin was credited with one deflection -- but his worth to the defense cannot be measured only on the stat sheet.

That Griffin played underscored the important nature of yesterday's game. As late as Friday, Griffin did not expect to play.

"We're under .500 right now. We've got five games left, and we've got to get better every play and every game," Griffin said. "It's not time for all this talk. Let's go play and play to win. If we do that, we'll be okay."

Moss Goes Over 1,000 Yards

With six catches for 65 yards, Santana Moss went over 1,000 yards for the season for the second time in his career. The last was in 2003 with the New York Jets, when he caught 74 balls for 1,105 yards. . . . Shawn Springs, Harris and Rogers all intercepted passes, representing the first by Redskins cornerbacks this season. . . . Joe Salave'a left the game with an injury to the same foot that has been bothering him recently. Sean Taylor came off limping but went back into the game after a series. He had been hobbled by a foot injury for the last few weeks. . . . Jimmy Farris, signed last week when David Patten was lost for the season, caught a pass for 18 yards.