INDIANAPOLIS — John Beck answered Rex Grossman's challenge.
One week after Grossman's impressive preseason performance, Beck counterpunched by leading the Redskins to four straight scores in the first half in Washington's 16-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Friday night.
Beck and Grossman are fighting to become Washington's starting quarterback, and after two weeks, the race appears even.
Grossman was 19 of 26 for 207 yards in a 16-7 win over defending AFC champion Pittsburgh last week.
Beck's answer: 14 of 17 for 140 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions against the defending AFC South champs. With Beck in the game, the Redskins dominated. They outgained the Colts 277-41 in the first half, ran more than twice as many plays (41-14) and had two 50-plus yard runs.
Grossman was 7 of 13 for 88 yards with one interception, all in the second half.
Indianapolis looked lethargic and inept in losing its eighth straight preseason game. The Colts are 4-24 since 2005 in games played in August and early September.
Curtis Painter started for the second straight week in place of Peyton Manning, who is recovering from offseason neck surgery, and struggled again. Despite playing the entire first half, he was just 5 of 10 for 40 yards and led the Colts to only one first down. Behind Painter, Indy didn't get past its 29-yard line.
One reason: the Colts weren't at full strength.
The offense was missing Manning, receivers Austin Collie (knee), Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring) and Reggie Wayne (personal matter), and the defense played without tackle Tommie Harris (hamstring) and linebacker Ernie Sims (appendix). The Colts also lost Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea on the game's second play, and rookie cornerback Chris Rucker, a second-round pick, later in the first quarter. Both went out with hamstring injuries.
The Redskins were missing only one key player, safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring).
And the difference was clear.
Tim Hightower exposed a gaping hole on the second play of the game, running 58 yards. Four plays later, Hightower plunged in from the 1 for a 7-0 lead.
Beck didn't stop there. He set up Graham Gano for three short field goals — from 28, 27 and 26 yards — to give the Redskins a 16-0 lead with 1:48 left in the first half.
Indy's lone score came on a 55-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri midway through the third quarter. The Colts' only other scoring chance was thwarted when Washington coach Mike Shanahan successfully challenged a 40-yard completion from Dan Orlovsky to Taj Smith that would have put Indianapolis inside the Washington 15.