- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

A fantastic first half built just enough cushion for the Washington Redskins to hang on for an important win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Redskins nearly blew a 16-point halftime lead but the defense came up with several big plays in the second half, including an interception by safety Ifeanyi Ohalete and a break-up cornerback Fred Smoot on a two-point conversion. Those plays and a powerful final drive allowed Washington to close out a 26-21 victory before 80,169 at FedEx Field.
However, running back Stephen Davis re-sprained the knee he injured in the Oct.6 win at Tennessee. He didn't return to play (unlike that day in Nashville) after rushing 16 times for 80 yards in the first half. He will undergo an MRI today to try to determine whether he will be able to play Sunday at Seattle.
That West Coast contest opens a three-game stretch on the road for Washington (3-4), which finally faces some opponents of lesser caliberSeattle (2-5), Jacksonville (3-4) and the New York Giants (3-3 pending tonight's game against Philadelphia) after an opening string that included Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans and Green Bay.
Last night's victory gives the Redskins some momentum for those winnable games. And although the win might not have been as convincing as hoped following a 23-7 halftime lead, it was more than adequate for a team with uncertain playoff potential.
"It's a start," wide receiver Rod Gardner said. "It shows we're going on the right path. We need the victories right now because we dug ourselves a little hole. We're starting to come out."
Said defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson: "We know we needed this win. We'll take them any way we can get them."
Backup running back Kenny Watson carried 10 times for 42 yards on the final drive that preserved Washington's once-large lead. James Tuthill kicked a 22-yard field goal with 18 seconds left his fourth of the game in as many tries to cap a drive that consumed 6:28 of the final 6:34.
The game then ended on a fumble by Colts wide receiver Troy Walters as he tried to lateral to running back Ricky Williams on a last-ditch attempt to score.
Quarterback Shane Matthews returned to the starting lineup after being benched for three games and played well. Matthews threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the first half before Washington's offense sputtered in the second.
He finished 17-for-35 for 210 yards with no interceptions, for a passer's rating of 86.6 right around the 84.4 which he carried into the weekend and which ranked fifth in the NFC. He was sacked just one time, whereas rookie Patrick Ramsey had been sacked 13 times in the past two games.
Behind Matthews, Washington scored on its first four drives to take a 20-0 lead and on five of its first six possessions to lead 23-7 at intermission.
"First half, we were making all the first downs, completing passes as needed and putting points on the board no mistakes," Gardner said. "In the first half, it looked like we going to blow the guys out. We let them back into the game."
The rally came slowly. Washington drove to the Colts' 39 early in the third quarter before punting and then got the ball at Indianapolis' 14 on an interception by Smoot. But fullback Rock Cartwright was well-covered on a fourth-and-inches pass from Matthews, and Indianpolis capitalized on the momentum with a 14-play, 95-yard touchdown drive.
"I made a bad call on that fourth-and-1," coach Steve Spurrier said. "We probably should have run it. They had the thing covered. You could see it as soon as they snapped it."
Running back Edgerrin James scored the touchdown on a 2-yard reception on the first play of the fourth quarter. He then ran in for a two-point conversion, pulling Indianapolis to within a possession at 23-15.
Washington sandwiched three-and-outs around the interception by Ohalete, and the Colts got the ball at the Redskins' 41 following a 34-yard punt return by Walters. Five plays later Williams went uncovered on a play-action pass for a 20-yard touchdown. But Smoot broke up the two-point passing attempt to Qadry Ismail, leaving Washington ahead 23-21 all the cushion it needed considering the clock-consuming drive that followed.
The Redskins' defense played well, limiting the NFL's 11th-ranked offense to 258 yards. And Washington probably would have had a shutout at halftime if Davis didn't fumble the ball to set up Indianapolis at the 3 with 2:07 left in the second quarter. Quarterback Peyton Manning ran in a 1-yard bootleg three plays later, cutting the Redskins' lead to 20-7.
Catching touchdowns from Matthews were receivers Darnerien McCants (who got on the field for the first time in his career) and Chris Doering. Tuthill provided the rest of the first half's scoring, on field goals from 40, 23 and 41 yards.
Washington held up offensively despite a stopgap line, which was missing Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels (ankle) and veteran right guard Brenden Stai (knee). Alex Sulfsted and Wilbert Brown filled in capably for those two, respectively, and newly signed Tre Johnson got a handful of snaps at right guard.
"Our line blocked well," Spurrier said. "We gave Alex a game ball. [The Colts have] a good pass rush, and it was crucial that we got passes off."

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