INDIANAPOLIS, DEC. 22 -- The Washington Redskins, having spent the last three weeks proving they could again beat contenders and that they belonged back in the playoffs, came here hoping to establish that they had a legitimate pro quarterback and that he could give them a solid, blue-collar effort.
But once more, Mark Rypien turned in the big mistake. Rookie cornerback Alan Grant's 25-yard interception return for a touchdown with 50 seconds remaining gave the Indianapolis Colts a 35-28 victory over the Redskins before 58,173 at the Hoosier Dome tonight and gave a shot in the arm to their AFC playoff hopes.
It was Rypien's second interception of the game and his eighth in three weeks.
Moments earlier, rookie quarterback Jeff George had tied the game with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bill Brooks. For the night, George shredded the Redskins, completing 18 of 33 for a career-high 252 yards and three touchdowns.
The loss renewed the hopes the Philadelphia Eagles harbor of hosting the Redskins (9-6) in the opening round of the NFC playoffs in two weeks, and more than erased much of the good work the Redskins done the past three weeks in beating Miami, Chicago and New England to get into the playoffs.
It came with a price too. Defensive tackle Eric Williams suffered a sprained arch, Kelvin Bryant a sprained knee and cornerback Sidney Johnson a concussion.
Their good news again came from Earnest Byner, who rushed for 154 yards, and from Chip Lohmiller, who kicked four field goals, including the second-longest in Redskins history -- a 56-yarder that bounced on and over the crossbar as time expired in the first half -- and a 53-yarder.
The Colts (7-8) led, 14-13, at the half, but the Redskins were given a safety two plays into the second half and led until the final moments.
The Redskins rolled up 472 yards of offense, and got 223 of it on the ground. But they also got their longest pass play of the season, a 53-yard Rypien-to-Gary Clark pass in the fourth quarter.
Byner has now rushed for more than 100 yards in four straight games and five times in six weeks. He's the first Redskin to put together four straight 100-yard games since John Riggins did it in the playoffs after the 1982 season.
The game wasn't smooth. There were 19 penalties, 14 against the Redskins for 106 yards.
The opening 20 minutes were a mess for the Redskins, who were flagged for 10 penalties and twice all but escorted the Colts down the field with late hits, holding and pass interference calls. Still, Lohmiller's two field goals in the final 37 seconds got them within 14-13 at the half.
The Redskins trailed despite despite gaining 230 yards and holding the Colts to 117.
Byner gained 79 yards on 15 carries in the half. His longest carry was 12 yards, but he had nine rushes of at least five yards.
It didn't start that way. The Colts gambled on fourth and one from their 43 on their first possession. Halfback Eric Dickerson got the ball, but his offensive line didn't move anyone, and linebacker Ravin Caldwell smothered his dive.
The Redskins then drove 43 yards on nine plays in 5 1/2 minutes for a 7-0 lead. Art Monk scored it on a 12-yard pass from Rypien, and the Redskins looked terrific. Byner carried five times for 25 yards on the drive, as the Redskins converted three straight third-down plays.
But Sidney Johnson was hurt on the kickoff after the score, and the Redskins were flat for almost the remainder of the half.
Their next possession ended when safety Keith Taylor intercepted a Rypien pass after the ball deflected off the helmet of linebacker Duane Bickett.
Taylor was hauled down by Monk at the Washington 46, and the Colts drove the 46 yards in only three official plays. Dickerson scored on a four-yard run, but the Redskins were called for four penalties on the final six plays of the drive.
Pick a penalty and the Redskins were flagged for one. Fred Stokes was offside, Charles Mann was offside, Darrell Green committed interference (18 yards) and Wilber Marshall held.
After that the Redskins went flat. They picked up just 42 yards on their next two possessions and were giving the Colts some encouragement to hang around and get interested.
They took a 14-7 lead with 9:37 left in the second quarter when cornerback A.J. Johnson was fooled by a pump fake from George, and Stanley Morgan breezed past him and caught a 42-yard touchdown pass.
Again the Redskins helped with their mistakes. Marshall was called for a late hit on George. Monte Coleman was flagged for an inadvertent face mask grab. Finally, George and Morgan clicked on a couple of biggies -- 23 and 42 yards.
Lohmiller's 50-yard field goal try hit the right upright with 5:46 left in the half.
He was getting warmed up. The Redskins got the ball back with 2:18 left in the half and began the first of two scoring drives.
This one started at their 8-yard line, and the big plays were by Kelvin Bryant, who caught passes of 6, 11 and 10 and ran for 12.
Rypien threw an incompletion, then hit Monk for 10, then threw three more misses from the 36. Lohmiller came on and kicked a 53-yard field goal with 37 seconds left in the half to close it to 14-10.
That tied the longest field goal the Colts had ever allowed, but the record wouldn't last long. The Colts ran three plays and punted with 17 seconds left.
Joe Howard made a fair catch at the 38, and with nine seconds left, the Redskins had another chance from their 39. Ricky Sanders caught a 22-yarder to the Colts 39, and with one second left -- put back on the clock by referee Jerry Markbreit -- Lohmiller came in and tried a career-longest 56-yarder.
He made it, but just barely. It hit the crossbar, bounced up and over and at the half the Redskins were somehow within a point. The only longer field goal in Redskins history was Steve Cox's 57-yarder Sept. 28, 1986, vs. Seattle.
The Indianapolis lead didn't last much longer. Rookie linebacker Andre Collins started the second half with his sixth sack of the season. That loss by George backed the Colts to their 6, and when George backed up on the next play and saw Coleman bearing down on him, he dumped it into the left flat.
He was called for intentional grounding from his end zone, and the Redskins were awarded their fifth sack and a safety for a 15-14 lead. Receiving the free kick, they then used up 8 1/2 minutes and drove 54 yards in 13 plays so that Lohmiller could kick a 29-yarder for an 18-14 lead.
Byner again carried the load on offense, and with 10:23 left in the third quarter, he went over 100 yards for the fourth straight game and fifth time this season.
Gary Clark's seven-yard reception moved the Redskins to the Colts 14, and from there, Byner gained one and Bryant lost one before Rypien threw an incompletion. Enter Lohmiller for his third field goal and an 18-14 lead with 5:50 left in the third quarter.
The Redskins struck quickly the next time, going 81 yards in six plays and 3:07 to make the lead 25-14. Byner ran for 12, zero and zero and Clark caught a 14-yard pass on third down.
Reggie Dupard, giving Byner a breather, got two, then Clark caught a quick turn-in at the 48. Cornerback Eugene Daniel lunged at Clark's ankles, Clark dodged him and sprinted into the end zone -- the 53 yards constituting longest pass play for the Redskins this season.
The Colts came right back, 65 yards in four plays to make it 25-21. Bill Brooks got it to the Washington 8 with a 23-yard catch from George, and on the next play, Morgan leaped over Alvoid Mays in the end zone for the score.
Lohmiller's 29-yard field goal made it 28-21, but that wasn't enough.
Kelly Goodburn's 31-yard punt set the Colts up at their 37 with 2:01 remaining, and George coolly took them down the field.
Tim Johnson was called for encroachment on the first play, and George threw an incompletion on the second. But he hit Brooks for eight, Morgan for 12 and Brooks for 12 and the touchdown with 1:21 left to tie it, 28-28.