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

QB's passing breaks out of anemic offense, with Tuthill adding four FGs

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.

After taking a 23-7 advantage into the locker room 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 Washington engineered a time-consuming drive that resulted in James Tuthill's 22-yard field goal with 18 seconds left and linebacker Jessie Armstead pounced on a botched hook-and-ladder play with three seconds left in the game.

The Redskins, whose season appeared to nearing a downward spiral, injected some life by scoring on five of their first six possessions.

After scoring just nine points in a 21-point setback to the Green Bay Packers last week, the Redskins (3-4) used two Shane Matthews touchdown passes and three Tuthill field goals to score a season-high 23 points in the first half.

Matthews, who had been benched by coach Steve Spurrier the past three games for relying too heavily on short outlet passes, looked like the quarterback who was the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week after a 31-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.

Matthews, who threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns against the Cardinals, completed 15 of 30 passes for 186 yards and a 91.8 rating in the first half. More importantly, he did not throw an interception or get sacked.

By comparison, when former starters Danny Wuerffel and Patrick Ramsey played, they threw four interceptions and were sacked 14 times.

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

Last night's contest marked the end of offensive tackle Chris Samuels' string of 38 consecutive starts. Samuels (left ankle sprain, shoulder injury) was replaced by second-year player Alex Sulfsted, who made his first career start. Similarly, right guard Brenden Stai's left knee tendinitis forced the team to start Wilbert Brown.

Both Sulfsted and Brown played well.

Washington also gained 116 rushing yards after the third quarter without Stephen Davis, who sat out the second half with an undisclosed injury. Backups Kenny Watson (four carries for 18 yards) and Ladell Betts (one carry for 4 yards) filled in for Davis, who finished with 80 yards on 16 carries.

The Redskins, who had scored a league-low nine points in the first quarter, got 10 points in the opening frame last night. They started with a 5-minute, 9-second drive capped by Tuthill's 40-yard field goal.

After the Colts burned a series with a three-and-out, Washington marched 66 yards and scored their first touchdown in five quarters when Matthews found wide receiver Darnerien McCants - relegated to the inactive list for four games this season - in the back of the end zone for a 9-yard strike.

Indianapolis (4-3) punted on the ensuing possession. Again, the Redskins' offense was methodical as it chewed up 4:37 and 78 yards on a drive capped by another Matthews touchdown toss.

Forced to roll to his right by several defenders, Matthews lofted a pass that sailed over the outstretched arms of cornerback Walt Harris and into the waiting hands of wide receiver Chris Doering for a 17-0 lead.

Washington made it 4-for-4 when Tuthill converted a 23-yard field goal on the team's fourth series of the first half.

But the Redskins could not preserve the shutout as Davis tried to smash his way through a mass in the middle of the field and fumbled the ball. Defensive tackle James Cannida recovered it and returned it to Washington's 3-yard line. Manning's 1-yard bootleg made it 20-7.

Betts, however, gave the Redskins a lift when he returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to Indianapolis's 35-yard line. Six plays and 12 yards later, Tuthill nailed a 41-yard field goal to give Washington a 23-7 halftime lead.

Washington's defense, which had allowed 319.5 yards a contest, handcuffed the Colts' trio of Manning, running back Edgerrin James and wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

Manning was 21-for-32 for 214 yards, sacked three times and intercepted twice; Harris caught six passes for 77 yards, and James gained just 33 yards on 14 carries - his fourth straight game with fewer than 100 yards.

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