By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 11, 2010; 8:57 AM
Even with so much going wrong early Sunday afternoon, with the offense stalling and the defense seemingly helpless at times against the Green Bay Packers, the Washington Redskins' expectations did not change.
"Seems we been there, pretty much, every game this season," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "Why today be any different?"
The Redskins again pulled out a close win, a 16-13 victory in overtime on a 33-yard field goal by place kicker Graham Gano to complete their late rally. The Redskins twice trailed by 10 points.
Gano's third field goal of the game and second after halftime capped the comeback and provided the latest of the Redskins' heart-stopping moments in the first five games before an announced crowd of 87,760 at FedEx Field. Although Gano missed a 51-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter that would have tied the score at 13-13, he made his next two high-pressure kicks and Washington won another contest in which the outcome was undecided until the final play.
"I was glad I had the chance to redeem myself on that," Gano said. "I was just glad to get another opportunity."
Fourth-year strong safety LaRon Landry, playing the best football of his career, made it happen by picking off Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the Packers 39-yard line in overtime. Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb, who had a big second half to lead the comeback, quickly completed two passes, including one to tight end Chris Cooley that resulted in a 30-yard gain after Cooley broke two tackles and eluded another defender.
Green Bay committed two penalties on the drive to help the Redskins, who moved the ball into the middle of the field and called timeout to give Gano a chance to end the game. He did, with the successful kick with 8 minutes 6 seconds remaining in the extra session. The Redskins improved to 3-2 and remained tied atop the NFC East.
Battered throughout the game by Green Bay's NFL-leading pass rush, McNabb finished with 357 yards passing. His outstanding deep pass to wide receiver Anthony Armstrong early in the fourth quarter resulted in a 48-yard touchdown that Armstrong leaped high in the air to corral. That helped the Redskins cut the Packers' lead to 13-10.
Armstrong (three receptions, 84 yards) provided McNabb with another target to complement top wide receiver Santana Moss, who had seven catches for 118 yards.
"Unless you have a lot of character on your team, you usually don't win games like that," Coach Mike Shanahan said. "Too many mistakes, especially early. As I told our football team, I'm very proud of the way they handled themselves for the way they kept on fighting. No finger pointing. At any point in the game, you could tell that they were all going in the same direction."
Despite being outgained in total offense, 427-373, the Redskins completed a long climb after appearing frequently overmatched at the outset against the high-powered Packers (3-2). Green Bay failed on downs on fourth and goal at the Redskins 1-yard line in the first half and missed two field goal attempts after halftime, including a potential game-winner in the final seven seconds of the game. Running back Brandon Jackson had 115 yards for the Packers on only 10 rushes.
Though Washington again overcame its problems and found a way to win, the process is becoming nerve-wracking, players said.
"A lot of times, this is the way it happens in the NFL, and it's definitely the way we've been going so far," outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said of the team's tense, late-game situations. "But we can't keep playing like this, going down to the end of the fourth quarter every week, because it is mentally and physically draining."
Early on, it appeared Green Bay could be headed toward a rout.
Washington was without two-time all-pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, whose younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident Thursday in Nashville. Haynesworth was coming off his best performance of the season in the Week 4 victory over Philadelphia, and it seemed he could have helped as the Packers' offense got off to a fast start with Rodgers at the controls.
The Redskins also had major problems along the offensive line. Veteran guard Derrick Dockery, who continued to slide down the depth chart, was inactive for the first time in his eight-year career. Kory Lichtensteiger, who supplanted Dockery as the starter at left guard in Week 3, struggled in pass protection against blitzes.
The Packers were slowed by injuries to key players as well. Linebackers Nick Barnett and Frank Zombo did not play. Green Bay lost standout third-year tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) on the game's second play from scrimmage and second-string tight end Donald Lee (shoulder) later in the first quarter. The Redskins also benefited late in the game when Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews - who had 1Â½ sacks Sunday and leads the league with 8Â½ - left the game late in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return.
"It was a challenge," Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said. "When you have injuries, you've got to make the appropriate game plan changes."
The Packers, however, held an early 10-0 lead on Rodgers's five-yard touchdown pass to Lee and place kicker Mason Crosby's 52-yard field goal. Crosby missed from 48 yards in the third and his 53-yard attempt in the closing seconds of the fourth hit the left upright.
"I hit it all the way up the upright," Crosby said. "It was one of those that everything felt good and was tracking all the way and just missed."
Rodgers (293 yards, one touchdown and one interception) was outstanding in the first quarter, completing 11 of 14 passes for 130 yards with the touchdown. He had a 129.2 passer rating. But he struggled from the second quarter on and suffered a concussion, the Packers said.
The Packers could have produced more on offense before halftime. They drove to the Redskins 1-yard line, where Rodgers was stopped for no gain on a third down quarterback sneak.
Leading, 7-0, Packers McCarthy decided to go for it. On a fourth-down pass play, Alexander applied tight coverage against Packers third-string tight end Andrew Quarless in the right corner of the end zone, and the ball bounced off Alexander.
"Well, it was the difference in the game, obviously," Shanahan said. "They went for it on fourth and one early, and obviously it [would have been] 14 points instead of seven. I thought that was the key to the game."
There were others, too.
Trailing 10-3 at halftime, Washington simplified things before the third quarter, throwing more in a straight West Coast scheme, players said.
"What we were doing wasn't working," said Cooley, who finished with 69 yards on seven catches. "We came in at halftime and made a complete adjustment. Offensively, we completely changed the game plan."
The McNabb-Armstrong connection with 11:35 remaining in the fourth energized the Redskins. "You can't say enough about what Donovan can do," Cooley said. "At any point in the game, Donovan can make a big play. He can turn a game."