The Washington Redskins relived their often-glorious past last night at FedEx Field, and did something about improving the present as well. They built an early 20-point lead and held on late, using two touchdown passes by quarterback Shane Matthews and four field goals by place kicker James Tuthill to beat the Indianapolis Colts, 26-21, before 80,169.
The victory ended a two-game losing streak for the Redskins (3-4), but it might have been costly. Tailback Stephen Davis reinjured his right knee late on a play in the first half on which he fumbled, and did not return to the game. He had been productive, with 80 rushing yards on 16 first-half carries. Davis has been playing with a sprained medial collateral ligament since hurting the knee during the Redskins' triumph at Tennessee on Oct. 6, and he said the pain was greater this time.
Fred Smoot breaks up a two-point conversion pass in the fourth quarter after the Colts had pulled with two points.
(Kevin Clark - The Washington Post)
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"This is worse than last time," said Davis, who likely will undergo further tests today after being told by doctors last night that his knee was sprained.
But on the night when they honored their 70 greatest players with a halftime ceremony as part of the celebration of the franchise's 70th anniversary, the Redskins managed to keep the competitive portion of their season going.
"Obviously, it was a good win," Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier said. "All wins are pretty good when you're 2-4."
Matthews, back in charge after Spurrier's third starting-quarterback switch of the season, threw first-half touchdown passes of nine yards to Darnerien McCants and 33 yards to fellow wide receiver Chris Doering. Tuthill added a pair of field goals as the Redskins built a 20-0 advantage. Tuthill's third field goal made it 23-7 at the half, but the Redskins had to survive anxious second-half moments. A fourth-down gamble by Spurrier in the third quarter did not pay off, and the Colts (4-3) eventually got to 23-21 on quarterback Peyton Manning's 20-yard touchdown throw to running back Ricky Williams with 6 minutes 46 seconds to play.
However, the Colts could not convert the two-point conversion attempt to tie, with Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot jarring the ball free with a hit on wide receiver Qadry Ismail. The Redskins used the running of backup tailback Kenny Watson to grind out a final drive that produced Tuthill's fourth field goal and ran all but the final 18 seconds off the clock.
"We're the only ones that believe in us," Redskins defensive tackle Daryl Gardener said. "We realize we're behind the eight ball. We're salvaging what we can salvage. If we keep playing like this, we'll be in pretty good shape."
Manning got the Colts back into contention by running for a second-quarter touchdown and throwing for an earlier fourth-quarter touchdown on a two-yard toss to tailback Edgerrin James. But the Redskins hung on with a gritty defensive effort that included two sacks by linebacker LaVar Arrington and interceptions by Smoot and new starting strong safety Ifeanyi Ohalete.
The reshuffled offensive line also had a hand in the triumph, permitting Matthews to be sacked only once. He didn't throw an interception and completed 17 of 35 passes for 210 yards. Alex Sulfsted made his first NFL start in place of left tackle Chris Samuels, who joined right guard Brenden Stai on the inactive list. Offensive line coach Kim Helton rotated Kipp Vickers and just-signed guard Tre Johnson with his five starters.
"We were shuffling linemen in and out of there like they were wide receivers," Matthews said. "They all played pretty well. . . . I tried to play smart and not have turnovers. We just can't put our defense in bad situations."
Matthews threw an incompletion on the Redskins' first offensive play but then handed the ball three straight times to Davis, who totaled 21 yards to set the early tone and get the offense moving. A quick screen pass to wideout Derrius Thompson got the Redskins 12 yards on a third-and-11 play. They got to the Colts 22-yard line but stalled, and Tuthill's 40-yard field goal put them in front, 3-0.
Indianapolis went three plays and out on its opening possession, and the Redskins marched 66 yards to make it 10-0. Matthews connected with Thompson for 15 yards on third and seven, and wide receiver Rod Gardner made a lunging grab on the next play for a 16-yard gain. Davis bulled through the middle for a 15-yard run. On second down from the Colts 9, McCants got a step on safety Jason Doering on a post pattern and hauled in Matthews's throw in the back of the end zone for his first NFL touchdown. He had not played in a game this season until Spurrier decided this week to get him into the mix.
A roughing-the-quarterback penalty gave the Colts a first down on their next drive. But they couldn't get a first down on their own, and punted. The Redskins again churned their way down the field, with a 10-yard run by Davis giving them a first down at the Indianapolis 33. Matthews threw a first-down incompletion, then rolled to his right on second and 10. He saw Chris Doering with one-on-one coverage and heaved a high throw on the run. Cornerback Walt Harris was in position to make the play, and perhaps intercept the pass, but stumbled and allowed the ball to go over his head. Doering gathered in the pass, and Tuthill's extra point made it a 17-0 game four minutes into the second quarter.
The Colts again went nowhere, and the Redskins began at their 48 after a 12-yard punt return by Jacquez Green. Matthews began with a 13-yard completion to tight end Leonard Stephens and, after a two-yard run by Davis, connected with McCants in stride in the middle of the field for 32 yards and a first down at the Colts 5. The Redskins could not get into the end zone, but Tuthill's second field goal upped their lead to 20 points.
The Colts moved to the Redskins 20 but got stopped on a third-down sack by linebacker Jessie Armstead. The ensuing punt backed up the Redskins at their 10, however, and Davis lost the ball on their first play. Defensive tackle James Cannida scooped up the fumble and put the Colts in business at the Redskins 3. On third down from the 1, Manning faked a handoff and had only defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson to outrun when he rolled to his right. Manning is not swift but can manage that, and Indianapolis pulled to within 20-7.
Rookie Ladell Betts gave the Redskins a chance for more points before the half, though, with a 60-yard kickoff return, just as Davis was making his way to the locker room. Spurrier kept his offense on the field on fourth and 12 from the Colts 37 with 20 seconds left in the half, and Matthews made the gamble work with a 14-yard completion to Thompson. The Redskins, without any timeouts, rushed to the line of scrimmage. Matthews spiked the ball to stop the clock with four seconds to go, and Tuthill was true from 41 yards as time expired in the half.
The Redskins moved to the Colts 39 on their first drive of the second half but had to punt. They had a great chance when Manning, being pressured by Gardener, put a pass intended for wide receiver Marvin Harrison into the chest of Smoot, who made the interception and provided a 12-yard return to the Indianapolis 14. But Spurrier tried for a first down on fourth and one from the 5. This time, the gamble backfired. Matthews went to the pass, but threw incomplete toward rookie fullback Rock Cartwright after being chased from the pocket.
"That was a bad call by me," Spurrier said.
The Colts moved 95 yards, getting the final two when Manning threw to James for the touchdown on the initial play of the fourth quarter. James ran into the end zone untouched on the two-point conversion, getting Indianapolis within eight points at 23-15.
The Redskins had to punt, and the Colts started to move again. But Ohalete stepped in front of James for an interception. The Redskins went three plays and out, however, with Matthews having to scramble to recover a wild third-down snap by center Larry Moore in the shotgun formation. Troy Walters's 34-yard punt return gave the Colts the ball at the Redskins 41. They needed five plays to score, getting it done when Manning fooled the entire defense with a fake handoff to Williams on third and two from the 20. Williams didn't get the ball on the handoff but kept going and was wide open along the right sideline, catching Manning's pass and coasting into the end zone.