Matthews, Redskins strike early, stave off Colts, 26-21

QB's passing helps team break offensive slump

Tuthill kicks 4 field goals

Nfl Week 8

October 28, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER - On a night when the chill of autumn descended over the Mid-Atlantic region, the Washington Redskins made their fans sweat.

After scoring 20 unanswered points in the first half, Washington withstood an Indianapolis rally in the second half to outlast the Colts, 26-21, before 80,169 at FedEx Field.

Armed with a 23-7 advantage at halftime, the Redskins watched Indianapolis score 14 points on two Peyton Manning touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to draw the Colts within two.

But cornerback Fred Smoot batted away an attempted two-point conversion, Washington (3-4) engineered a 14-play, 6-minute, 28-second drive that resulted in a James Tuthill 22-yard field goal with 18 seconds left, and linebacker Jessie Armstead pounced on a botched hook-and-ladder play to end the Indianapolis threat with three seconds left in the game.

"All wins are pretty good when you're 2-4," Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said. "Now we're 3-4. Hopefully, we can build on this a little bit."

Washington's offense, which had averaged 306 yards a game, collected 370 against a Colts defense that had been ranked 10th in the league.

A key component in the Redskins' offensive success was quarterback Shane Matthews, who returned after being benched for the past three games.

Matthews, who had been demoted for relying too heavily on short outlet passes, didn't look like the quarterback who threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns and was the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week after a 31-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.

Matthews completed just 17 of 35 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. But more importantly, he did not throw an interception and was sacked just once on a poorly snapped shotgun formation. By comparison, when former starters Danny Wuerffel and Patrick Ramsey played, they were intercepted four times and sacked 14.

Asked if the offense wasn't the typical Spurrier attack that likes to throw deep for quick-strike touchdowns, Matthews replied: "Who cares? I could care less if I threw for 15 yards. The bottom line is, we won."

Matthews' performance was even more eye-opening considering that he was playing behind a patched-up offensive line.

Alex Sulfsted made his first career start at left tackle when Chris Samuels' left ankle sprain and shoulder injury ended his string of 38 consecutive starts. Similarly, Wilbert Brown filled in at right guard for Brenden Stai (left knee tendinitis). Both Sulfsted and Brown played well.

Washington also gained 165 rushing yards with only 80 from Stephen Davis, who aggravated a left knee sprain that he injured three weeks ago. He tweaked the knee on a rushing attempt that led to a fumble and Manning's 1-yard touchdown bootleg late in the second quarter.

"Right now, we're going to play it by ear," Davis said about playing vs. Seattle next week. "It's something we're going to evaluate in the morning."

Backup Kenny Watson gained 42 of his 67 yards on the critical final drive that completed the game's scoring.

The Redskins, whose season appeared to nearing a downward spiral, injected some life by scoring on five of their first six possessions and a season-high 23 points in the first half. Matthews threw touchdown passes to wide receivers Darnerien McCants and Chris Doering, and Tuthill kicked three field goals.

Washington's defense, which had allowed 319.5 yards a contest, gave up 258 to a Colts offense powered by the trio of Manning, running back Edgerrin James, and wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

Manning was 21-for-32 for 214 yards and threw two touchdowns, but he was sacked by linebackers LaVar Arrington twice and Armstead once and intercepted by cornerback Smoot and strong safety Ifeanyi Ohalete.

James gained just 33 yards on 14 carries - his fourth straight game with fewer than 100 yards - and Harrison caught six balls for 77 yards.

Indianapolis made its run in the fourth quarter when Manning threw touchdown passes to James and backup running back Ricky Williams. But Smoot batted down Manning's two-point attempt to wide receiver Qadry Ismail, and the Redskins marched back downfield for Tuthill's insurance field goal.

"We can't let good teams hang around the way we let them," Doering said. "We have to put them away or else they'll come back to bite you."

Washington, which owns a .500 mark (10-10) at FedEx Field since the start of the 2000 season, has won the past five meetings in Washington against the Colts franchise.

NOTES: The Redskins celebrated 70 years of the club's existence with a raucous halftime show that included the introduction of the franchise's 70 all-time greatest players. Sonny Jurgensen, Art Monk, Charles Mann and former coach Joe Gibbs were among those on hand. ... Ohalete started in place of Sam Shade, who had started 45 of the previous 48 games for Washington.

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