They lost three fumbles in the second half, and Peyton Manning threw three passes that should have been intercepted in the first half. And, instead of killing the clock with a three-point lead in the final 3 minutes, they threw three straight incompletions to give the Washington Redskins plenty of time to tie or win it.
Yet Manning was able to complete enough passes, and Joseph Addai was able to break enough tackles against the league's most generous defense as the Colts made up for their mistakes by accumulating 469 yards Sunday night in a 27-24 win.
Manning completed 25 of 38 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns for the Colts (4-2), who kept pace with the Houston Texans atop the AFC South. Addai ran 17 times for 128 yards and a score, giving a boost for a largely dormant running game, before leaving in the second half with a shoulder injury. Pierre Garcon caught four passes for 103 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown.
Donovan McNabb went 29 for 45 for 246 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the Redskins (3-3), who fell a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants in the NFC East. Ryan Torain ran for 100 yards on 20 carries, his first 100-yard game as he subs for the injured Clinton Portis.
But the Redskins, who seem to make every game suspenseful down to the final whistle despite a defense that gives up well over 400 yards per game, made it a tight one once again. McNabb went 10 for 11 on a 92-yard fourth-quarter drive that cut the Colts' lead to three, hitting Keiland Williams for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 2:46 remaining.
Then the Colts, who live by the pass, nearly died by the pass. Starting at his own 20 with 2:42 to play, Manning had two passes broken up by Phillip Buchanon and one by LaRon Landry. After a punt, the Redskins got the ball back at their own 38 with 2:13 to go and all three timeouts - but McNabb threw long and incomplete on fourth-and-10.
The Redskins got the ball back with under a minute to go, but McNabb's long pass was picked off - one-handed - by Aaron Francisco, sealing the Colts' win.
Manning threw 27 passes in the first half alone, and the Colts piled up 294 yards before halftime. But the Redskins haven't been giving up points as generously as they've been allowing yards, and Indianapolis led only 17-7 at halftime in part because the usually reliable Adam Vinatieri was off the mark, missing two field goal attempts after an 8-for-8 start to the season.
Manning's day would have been much worse if the Redskins secondary could catch the ball. Carlos Rogers dropped two would-be interceptions, including one in which he took three stumbling steps before the ball popped out when his backside the ground. Safety Kareem Moore later had one go through his hands, Manning's only incompletion in a drive in which he went 7 for 8 for 64 yards with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Austin Collie.
When the Colts had interception in their hands, they held on. Jerraud Powers stepped in front of Santana Moss to pick off McNabb in the first quarter, and Garcon outran the Redskins secondary on the very next play to haul in the 57-yarder for the game's first touchdown.
The catch of the day, however, belonged to Garcon, who somehow made a backhanded, one-handed grab with his right hand while falling down for a 21-yard reception. The reception set up a 43-yard field goal by Vinatieri in the second quarter.
Three Colts fumbles in the second half kept the Redskins in the game. Brian Orakpo stripped Manning on a sack, and Andre Carter recovered at Indianapolis' 13-yard line. Torain scored four plays later to cut the Colts' lead to 17-14, breaking tackles along the way.
Addai then started emulating Torain, escaping defenders with abandon on a 46-yard run on the Colts' next possession. He accounted for 63 of 66 yards on the drive and bounced off would-be tacklers like a pinball on a 13-yard run that put Indianapolis ahead 24-14.
But Kenny Moore fumbled on a punt return, giving Washington another turnover with excellent field position. The Redskins recovered at the Colts 39, but could only get a field goal out of it: a 39-yarder by Graham Gano that made it 24-17.
The Colts were driving again when London Fletcher crashed into Addai, forcing a fumble and injuring the running back on the play. Landry recovered for the Redskins at their own 17, but Washington went three-and-out. Vinatieri made a 33-yard field goal on Indianapolis' next possession to put the Colts ahead 27-17.