WASHINGTON -- A meaningless football game is apparently in the eye of the beholder.
Coaches Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins and Marv Levy of the Buffalo Bills seemed to have different views of the game their playoff-bound teams played yesterday with nothing at stake at RFK Stadium in the regular-season finale.
Levy rested his quarterback, Frank Reich, after halftime, even though the Bills trailed, 9-0, and let Gale Gilbert play the second half of the 29-14 loss to the Redskins.
"I'm glad to see that we could get playing time for some other players that needed it," said Levy, who appeared to treat it like an exhibition game.
The Bills wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the American Football Conference playoffs with a victory over the Miami Dolphins a week ago and get next week off.
The Redskins, by contrast, wanted to bounce back from the Dec. 22 loss to the Indianapolis Colts and prepare for this weekend's National Football Conference first-round game at Philadelphia.
Gibbs talked about his players as if they had played a masterpiece of a game.
"I think they've got great character. I like them. I think they've got a lot of pizazz. Hey, there was nothing riding on it other than just pride. I'm proud of our guys. I think they stood up and played one for pride," Gibbs said.
The Redskins won it on five field goals by Chip Lohmiller (tying a team record) and two fourth-period touchdowns set up when safety Alvin Walton and cornerback Martin Mayhew picked off passes by Gilbert.
Gibbs said he wanted some kind of momentum going to Philadelphia, and a 10-6 regular-season record sounds much better than 9-7. The Bills, who got their 10th win Dec. 2, finished the regular season 13-3.
"I think this was a big game for that reason [momentum]. I think you'd hate to go into the playoffs losing two straight. I don't think we're the most talented team. I think we work hard. There's good character there," Gibbs said.
Asked if he thought the Bills didn't seem to care whether they won, he said: "If they played it that way, there's nothing we can do about it. Our guys wanted it."
He said he hopes the victory was a sign the Redskins will play well at Philadelphia this weekend. The National Football League will announce today whether the game will be played Saturday or Sunday.
The Eagles knocked out quarterbacks Jeff Rutledge and Stan Humphries while pounding the Redskins, 28-14, in a Monday night game Nov. 12 in their last meeting.
"I think we know what's coming," Gibbs said. "That's the way I feel about it."
Gibbs said he was encouraged that the two Redskins activated from the injured-reserve list Saturday, running back Gerald Riggs and defensive tackle Tracy Rocker, played well.
Riggs gained 67 yards on 16 carries, although his return ruined Earnest Byner's chance of gaining 100 yards for a record fifth straight game. Byner carried 11 times for 34 yards.
"In Gerald's case, he'd been off a long time, so we wanted him to get hit so it wasn't a shock the first time he got hit in a playoff game," Gibbs said.
Rocker collected two sacks to boost a line that was short-handed because three players, Markus Koch, Eric Williams and Charles Mann, sat out with injuries.
There were mixed reviews, though, on the team's top priority: getting quarterback Mark Rypien ready for the playoffs.
Rypien, who was 16-for-26 for 172 yards, one touchdown and one interception, was booed loudly at times. He didn't get the team in the end zone until the fourth quarter, as the Redskins kept settling for Lohmiller's field goals.
Rypien said Lohmiller told him before the game that he had a feeling he'd kick five field goals.
"I said, 'Chip, that shows us a lot of confidence [in the offense],' " Rypien said with a smile.
Gibbs said the booing didn't bother Rypien. "I think that's part of life," he said. "You're going to get booed when things don't go well."
But Rypien seemed to be disturbed by the booing, especially when he called a timeout to change a play.
"Here's what the fans know about the game," Rypien said as he explained the coaches were telling him "great decision" for calling a timeout because the Redskins wanted a new play for the defense.
Gibbs agreed that he wanted Rypien to call a timeout in those situations. "I should have been the one getting the boos," Gibbs said.
Gibbs said that Rypien's work was "solid."
Rypien also said he got too much criticism for last week's loss to Indianapolis, when Alan Grant ran an interception back for a touchdown with 50 seconds left to win the game.
"I look at last week's game, and without that throw [that Grant intercepted], I felt I had a fairly good ballgame, and you guys write it like I played like a dog," Rypien told reporters. "So it's
basically what you all think and what you all want to write is how we played.
"I'm going to tell you I think I played fairly well at times, and you write that you don't think I played well at times. It's whatever you guys feel you want to write."
Rypien added: "As far as I'm concerned, I know there's some plays that I have made and some plays I haven't made, and I know I have to get better, and that's all that matters."
What counts is how Rypien plays against the Eagles. He didn't play in either of the two games the teams split in the regular season, because he was injured, but he seems eager to take on the Eagles defense if it gives him a big rush.
"When a team comes after me, I like to lick my chops, because you get a chance to throw against one-on-one coverage," he said.
The Eagles are likely to give him that chance this weekend.