WASHINGTON -- Gary Clark's so-easy catch of a 43-yard pas made it 21-0 and the Washington Redskins' band and chorus started Steve Allen's upbeat show song, "This Could Be the Start of Something Big."
Maybe so, but it was just as well the Redskins started theiseason with something small yesterday.
It sounds smart-alecky to say a 31-0 game was closer than thscore indicates, but the Skins appreciated -- in the best sense of the word -- the help they had from rookie coach Joe Bugel's young Cardinals.
Phoenix quarterback Timm Rosenbach, who started his first NFgame with 23 birthdays and 22 professional passes behind him, set up three Redskins touchdowns with interceptions and killed his team's only scoring drive with another.
Rookie running back Johnny Johnson's fumble might havfacilitated another score, had Joe Gibbs' gamble succeeded. This is Gibbs' idea, in his 10th year as Redskins coach, of a gamble:
The Skins were leading, 14-0, nine minutes into the seconquarter when linebacker Wilber Marshall smacked Johnson loose from the ball and Ravin Caldwell recovered on the Cardinals' 34. Two carries by Earnest Byner and a pass to Art Monk left Washington with fourth-and-one at the Phoenix 25.
Byner, having played a season for Gibbs, made an assumptioand went to the sideline while kicker Chip Lohmiller put his helmet on. Many of the 52,649 customers started the go-go chant and Gibbs went.
"Yeah, I took a chance," Gibbs said after the game, "and it didn'pan out." His daring questioned, Gibbs argued: "Sure, it's a gamble. If they get that big drive in the third quarter it's 14-7 and it's a ballgame."
Four of the nine plays in that drive were completions bRosenbach, rolling out and scrambling in despair of any effective pass blocking. (It was obvious why the Redskins made none of their 10 offensive linemen available when they cut the squad; Bugel would have grabbed any of them.)
Rosenbach then lost his patience and went for the long ball, tErnie Jones on the goal line. Cornerback Martin Mayhew leaped for it at the flag for his second interception. He hadn't had one since 1985, as a freshman at Florida State, Mayhew said.
"If you throw an interception, so what?" Rosenbach said. "Yomake a bad play, you come right back."
"We're young," Bugel said. "We're not going to panic. We'll jusplay hard until we win a game."
A number of Redskins took pains to find positive things to saabout Bugel's maiden venture as a head coach. He was singularly popular as Gibbs' offensive assistant the past nine seasons.
"They have some good people," Darrell Green said. "They'll be alright." Said defensive hero (seven tackles, two assists and very nearly an interception) Monte Coleman: "It's just that we made the big plays."
Gibbs sidestepped the question of the Cardinals' abilities. "It'hard to get a good read on them," he said. "There were so many mistakes."
Gibbs acknowledged the imbalance of his team's offense in thearly part of the game. Thirteen of their first 15 plays, and 16 of the first 20, were passes. "That's too much," Gibbs said. The Cardinals had a defensive alignment "that bothered us," he said. "But our offense didn't do stupid things, so you can say we were solid."
Quarterback Mark Rypien seemed content with his work, free ointerceptions and the fumbles that haunted his first two seasons. He completed 17 of 31 for 240 yards and three touchdowns.
Rypien credited his blockers: "Only one breakdown [for a11-yard sack] all game." He singled out the block by H-back Jimmy Johnson that left swift Ricky Sanders one-on-one with linebacker Ken Harvey. The result was Sanders' scoot for the first TD, a 37-yard pass play.
The Redskins' elation in victory was not absolute. Gerald Riggdidn't get the ball once until Byner had carried it eight times, and then he watched Byner carry seven more times before he got in again. "Just have to make the best of it," Riggs said. "But they can't keep me out."
Darrell Green "felt funny" not going man-to-man with Roy Greenas he had done for seven years. "They kind of let the air out of me," he said, "when I walked into the meeting and found out I wasn't going to do it. They kind of threw me a curve."
Defensive end Fred Stokes had a sack in the second quarter bua while later felt his harnessed left shoulder separate again, "or whatever it does." He would not agree to surgery, Stokes said.