Running back Skip Hicks has been a forgotten man for the Washington Redskins this season. But he could become a key figure in the final two games of the regular season as they try to hold on to first place in the NFC East.

Hicks took over at tailback in the second half of a 24-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts today after Davis suffered an ankle injury that was diagnosed as both a sprain and a chipped bone.

Davis said he plans to play next Sunday night at San Francisco, but the Redskins know they must have Hicks ready to play if Davis is sidelined or limited. Davis is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on the injured left ankle on Monday.

"I have no idea what's going to happen," Hicks said. "I guess I'll find out [Monday]".

Davis had 70 yards on 14 first-half carries today to help the Redskins to a 13-10 lead at the break. Hicks split the job with third down specialist Brian Mitchell after Davis departed. Hicks rushed 11 times for 39 yards; Mitchell gained 42 yards on five carries.

"I felt pretty good [but] I'm sure there were some things I could have done better," Hicks said.

Redskins Coach Norv Turner said: "Skip Hicks is a good player . . . I thought we could do the same things with Skip that we were doing with Stephen."

Hicks set a Redskins rookie record last season with eight rushing touchdowns, but lost the starting tailback job to Davis in training camp. Davis has taken advantage of his opportunity to become the NFL's leading rusher. Hicks, meanwhile, has only 156 rushing yards this season, and the rust in his game often has been evident during his sporadic playing time.

Even so, he said his inactivity this season didn't hinder him today.

"It's not that difficult," he said. "That's what you practice for. You have to be ready if that situation comes up. It could be in a big game like today, and you have to be able to go in there and do your part."

Guard Tre Johnson said the Redskins' blockers had to adjust to Hicks.

"I think we took a little setback when [Davis] went out," Johnson said. "He's a totally different runner. It takes a little while to adjust."

Likewise, Mitchell said he'll be ready against San Francisco if Davis isn't.

"I hope they give me as much as they can," he said. "I leave everything on the field. If I have to be carried off the field these last two games, I'll take that.

Mitchell, who had just 30 carries entering the game, has seen his role on the team pared back a bit lately, with James Thrash now sharing kickoff returns.

Mitchell said he was disappointed by the 24-21 loss, given the number of opportunities the Redskins had in the game. But he was also reassured by the effort his teammates put forth.

"We didn't quit," Mitchell said. "But we've got to make plays when we have opportunities early in the game. We can't go 1, 2, 3 and out. We can't have our defense playing the way they did--giving us opportunities--and do nothing with it. A loss is a loss. You can find good things in it, but it's not a good loss."

Connell Catches On

Wide receiver Albert Connell ended a four-game touchdown drought by catching a 48-yard scoring pass from quarterback Brad Johnson in the second quarter. It was Connell's seventh touchdown reception of the season and came on a pass pattern that has worked for him and Johnson regularly this year, he said.

"That's one of my best routes," Connell said. "That's like a gimme for us."