INDIANAPOLIS -- Quarterback Mark Rypien was talking to himself in the quiet Washington Redskins' locker room Saturday night at the Hoosier Dome.
"Understand the situation, Mark, for gawd's sake," Rypien said. "It's not like you have to make a play to win the game. You can take it into overtime. For gawd's sake, don't do that."
What Rypien did -- instead of taking the sack with the game tied and seemingly headed for overtime -- was to try to throw the ball away when he got a big rush from defensive lineman Donnell Thompson with less than a minute left.
He couldn't get enough on the ball because of the rush, and the ball popped up into the air, right into the arms of Indianapolis Colts defensive back Alan Grant.
Grant ran 25 yards for a touchdown with 50 seconds left to give the Colts a 35-28 victory over the stunned Redskins. The Colts had tied the game 31 seconds earlier on Jeff George's third touchdown pass of the night.
"It just wasn't a very smart decision," Rypien said of his decision to try to throw the ball away. "It cost me. It really cost me. You have to take a sack in that situation."
Coach Joe Gibbs said he even thought about running out the clock in the last minute and going into overtime, but he remembered that the Redskins got two long Chip Lohmiller field goals in the last 37 seconds of the first half.
"I felt like I'd take a shot at something," Gibbs said. "I took a chance there."
It backfired when Rypien thew his ill-timed pass.
Rypien had a lot of company when it came to making mistakes. The Redskins were called for 14 penalties, and they dropped several passes.
But Rypien's costly mistake on a second-and-13 at the Redskins' 19 in the final minute of the game raised questions about whether he is consistent enough to take the Redskins very far in the playoffs.
Rypien, 28, is 17-11 in his 28 starts over the past three years.
His play can be described in the same way as the little girl with the curl. When he's good, he's very good. He came back from a seven-week layoff to throw four touchdown passes against the New Orleans Saints.
When he's bad, he sometimes makes mistakes the way he did at the end of the Colts game.
After the game, Rypien sat in front of his locker staring into space even when reporters moved on to talk to other players. He admitted how down he was.
"You've got to feel that way when you feel kind of responsible for what happened out there," Rypien said. "It's awfully frustrating to lose a game like this. By Wednesday, I'll get over it, but it kind of hurts right now."
The Redskins will start preparing Wednesday for the Buffalo Bills, but Rypien will be replaying the Indianapolis game in his mind that long.
"I'm going to be thinking about it until then," he said.
In two weeks, he'll quarterback his first playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, who will play host to the game if they beat the Phoenix Cardinals on Saturday or if the Redskins lose to the Bills on Sunday in their finale.
If the Redskins (9-6) had won their final two games, they would have been host to the game.
Since Buffalo clinched home-field advantage throughout the American Football Conference playoffs yesterday, the Bills game will be meaningless for both teams if the Eagles win Saturday.
Rypien, though, said he would like to end the regular season on a good note.
"Obviously, our season isn't lost yet," he said. "We've got to come back and regroup."
The shaky showing against the Colts (7-8), who were eliminated from the playoff race yesterday, will put even more pressure on Rypien in the playoffs.
It was difficult for the Redskins to accept to accept the loss because they dominated the statistics.
They had a 467-249 edge in yardage and a 223-33 edge in rushing yardage, holding Eric Dickerson to 31 yards in 10 carries.
They don't keep records on such things, but it's almost unheard of for a team to have a 190-yard edge in rushing yardage and still lose.
George, a rookie, had a good night, but his statistics were virtually identical to Rypien's. He completed 18 of 33 for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Rypien completed 18 of 37 for 249 yards and two touchdowns, although he was intercepted twice and George wasn't intercepted.
But the Redskins' rushing game should have trumped George. Instead, they wasted a 31-carry, 154-yard effort by Earnest Byner, his fourth straight 100-yard game. That tied John Riggins' club record that he set in the playoffs after the 1982 season.
Defensive lineman Tim Johnson said: "We beat ourselves in the first half. They really didn't do anything. I mean nothing. One drive, we had five penalties." That helped the Colts get their first touchdown. A Wilber Marshall roughing the passer penalty got the Colts' second touchdown drive rolling.
Johnson later got the team's second roughing-the-passer penalty, but it didn't lead to a score.
"I was standing on the sidelines thinking, 'What is going on?' and then I went in and made my mistake," Johnson said. "I'm like, 'What are we doing?' "