Shanahan, McNabb are helping the Redskins recapture their past

Donovan McNabb and Peyton Manning face-off at FedEx Field.
By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 18, 2010; 2:07 AM

Amid fireworks, a color guard and torrents of cheers, 62 former Redskins were introduced on Sunday night at FedEx Field, from Carl Kammerer, who played in 1963, to Darnerien McCants, who retired in 2004. There were Super Bowl stars, from round Ron McDole of the George Allen era to Hogs and Smurfs.

For tens of thousands of fans, this "homecoming" scene was like watching their lives, and the histories of their families, pass before their eyes, each with their own unique connection to the team. Even the corny final words of "Hail to the Redskins" ("Fight for old D.C.") had fans standing and pumping their fists in the air.

Then, the new Redskins of Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb, of Ryan Torain (100 yards rushing) and LaRon Landry, went out and showed everything positive in the Redskins' present that makes many of those fans believe, finally, that there may, before long, be a comparably entertaining future.

Oh, the Redskins lost, 27-24, to Indianapolis. But some defeats are fractional wins, at least in the long view of a rebuilding team.

You remember the Colts, horseshoes on their helmets, went 14-2 last year and lost the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning had all his usual skill-position weapons and amassed 469 yards of offense. Nonetheless, with 2 minutes 13 seconds left to play, it was the Redskins, the 4-12 laughingstock of last season, who had the ball at their own 38-yard line and had the game on their racket.

They didn't win, but with one long drive, the kind that McNabb has pulled off 23 times in his career to win games, they certainly could have. "We had a chance, without a doubt," McNabb said.

But his fourth-down pass, deep over the middle to Anthony Armstrong, fell incomplete. When the Redskins got the ball back with only 32 seconds left at their own 20-yard line, a desperate McNabb heave was intercepted.

"It was a good sign for us today," said McNabb of the 24 points, including touchdown drives of 89 and 92 yards. "You see a team that continues to fight. . . . But this was a tough loss. We've had chances to win all these [close] games. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, but we're 3-3."

For the Redskins, who were stuck on nada-nil-zilch a year ago, woulda-coulda-shoulda against Indy looks like lots of progress.

In fact, this game might have been decided before those last minutes if the Redskins hadn't, in the words of London Fletcher, "dropped about four interceptions." Two were positive gifts by Manning, directly to Carlos Rogers (all groan). Rogers's hands are so bad it's amazing he can feed himself.

Sometimes it's not only the final score that matters but the entire feeling of the fight, the sense of whether progress is being made. The Redskins stood as tall as their 62 predecessors until the final two minutes, when they finally failed.

Perhaps, after beating the Eagles on the road then knocking off the Packers in overtime in the last two weeks, it was too much to expect the Redskins to be like Peyton's bunch. But, after an eight-yard scoring pass from McNabb to Keiland Williams with 2:51 to play to cut the deficit to 27-24, they sure looked close.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company