WASHINGTON -- With one swift flick of his arm, Washington quarterback Mark Rypien dispatched the New York Giants.
It was on the first play of the fourth quarter of yesterday's game that Rypien rifled a 50-yard touchdown pass to Gary Clark, closing the scoring on the Redskins' 34-17 victory over the Giants.
On that same play, delivering that same flawless pass, the Redskins' quarterback injured the middle finger of his right hand when it smashed against another player's helmet on the follow through.
When backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge trotted on the field on the Redskins' next possession just seconds before Rypien left the field to be X-rayed, a stir went through the crowd of 54,722 at RFK Stadium.
But the Eagles, if they are still in the playoff hunt next Sunday when the Redskins journey to Veterans Stadium to close the regular season, would be wise not to expect a complacent Washington team with a winged quarterback.
"It feels fine," said Rypien, who had a bandage on the battered finger. "I don't know whether I'm going to lose the nail or not. It's something, hopefully, I can put some ice on and take care of the swelling."
About one-third of the fingernail on the injured finger was torn off by the impact with the helmet, but more foreboding is the fact that Rypien also jammed the finger.
He did throw the ball on the sidelines after the injury but did not re-enter the game.
X-rays on the finger were negative, but Rypien held a pen clamped between his thumb and forefinger as he awkwardly signed autographs in the dressing room after the game.
"He's going to go [against Philadelphia]," said Washington coach Joe Gibbs, who saw his team improve to 14-1 against a vanquished but frisky Giants team. "He has a chipped finger, all right. Rip is going to go."
Rypien said he probably could've returned to the game had New York quarterback Phil Simms been able to mount a more fruitful rally.
As it turned out, Rypien was able to rest on the merits of an effective but not overly stunning performance.
Rypien completed nine of 19 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns -- two to Clark, who caught a 65-yarder in the first half.
The Posse -- wide receivers Clark, Ricky Sanders and Art Monk (five catches, 91 yards) -- was open all day. And not only were they open, but they should also have been lonely.
Too often, the Giants' secondary was caught napping or flat-footed.
Considering that this game was important only to the Redskins' vanity -- they came into the game with the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs already secured -- Washington looked sharp.
The Giants, who were eliminated from playoff contention by the Eagles last week, were also more intense than one might have expected.
"I'm proud of our guys," Gibbs said. "They had respect for the Giants and knew they'd play hard. That's what we needed to keep playing at a high level going into the playoffs. We'll try to do the same thing next week against the Eagles."
The Giants came out slugging, leading 3-0 after a 36-yard field goal by Matt Bahr and 10-7 early in the second period after Simms scored on a 1-yard run.
The start of their demise came shortly thereafter, when Washington safety Danny Copeland feasted on two turnovers (a fumble recovery and an interception) in the span of 1:54.
The Redskins took possession of the ball at the Giants' 17-yard line after Simms fumbled a snap and, three plays later, Gerald Riggs lumbered in for a touchdown from the 1-yard line.
Copeland picked off a Simms pass at the Washington 32 on second down of the Giants' next possession, and four plays later Rypien hit a wide-open Terry Orr with a 22-yard touchdown pass.
"They came out running the football, and that's exactly what we expected them to do," Copeland said. "The Giants, for the most part, have run through everybody. They've just had some bad breaks."
When Lawrence Taylor gets only one tackle in a game, it's more than a matter of fate.
The Giants, Super Bowl champions nearly a year ago, disintegrated yesterday just as they have for this season.
"I'll take responsibility for this loss and this season," said first-year coach Ray Handley. "Our discipline has gone to hell."