By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010; 12:46 AM
NASHVILLE - It was not immediately clear Sunday night how the injury-weakened Washington Redskins would handle their difficult situation, and Coach Mike Shanahan undoubtedly faces more juggling with the roster in flux.
But those are matters for another day.
Redskins players and coaches preferred to accentuate the positive Sunday after overcoming a dizzying array of injuries that sidelined many key players and outlasting the Tennessee Titans, 19-16, on place kicker Graham Gano's 48-yard field goal in overtime before 69,143 at LP Field.
After missing from 47 yards as time expired in regulation, Gano succeeded during his second high-pressure opportunity to close the game. The Redskins (5-5), coming off consecutive embarrassing losses, listed four starters among their inactives, had another four starters knocked out early and played without 11 players who were expected to contribute.
Gano's fourth field goal in six attempts - his second game-winner this season - ended the Redskins' work 8 minutes 17 seconds into the extra session, capping a much-needed victory for an organization eager to move on after last week's embarrassing display in a 59-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
On the final drive Sunday, the Titans (5-5), who have dropped three in a row, committed 15-yard penalties on consecutive plays. Gano also kicked a 33-yard field goal in overtime in Week 5 to complete a 16-13 victory against the Green Bay Packers.
The Redskins' secondary, and cornerback DeAngelo Hall in particular, performed well in shutting out Pro Bowl wide receiver Randy Moss. Titans quarterback Vince Young was removed late in the third quarter because of a thumb injury and "threw half his uniform in the stands" in frustration over the benching, Tennessee Coach Jeff Fisher said. Regardless of Young's medical status, he is out as the team's starter, Fisher said.
Determined to show their character after the Eagles debacle, the Redskins leaned on each other against the Titans and found a way, though even they weren't exactly sure how they made it happen.
"Coach obviously talks a lot about that character," said center and offensive co-captain Casey Rabach, who did not return after injuring his knee in the first quarter. "To see guys dropping like flies, in the beginning of that game, and guys just keep on stepping up, keep on stepping up . . . my hat's off to that offensive line that stuck together there. They played their butt off."
Missing two starters - Rabach and right guard Artis Hicks - and with tackle Stephon Heyer at guard for the first time at any level of football ("I did what I had to do out of necessity," Heyer said), the much-maligned group had one of its best performances in pass protection. Quarterback Donovan McNabb passed for 376 yards, his second-highest total this season, and performed well directing the two-minute offense at the end of the first half and regulation.
Shanahan's decision to bench McNabb in favor of backup Rex Grossman during the final 1 minute 50 seconds in the Week 8 loss to the Detroit Lions stirred controversy for weeks. On sports-talk radio and Internet message boards, Redskins fans roundly criticized Shanahan and his son, Kyle, Washington's offensive coordinator, for the way they have handled the accomplished 12-year veteran in his first season with the franchise.
Against the Titans, however, McNabb calmly directed the Redskins as they took possession on their 22-yard line with 1:37 to play. Excluding downs on which he spiked the ball to stop the clock, McNabb completed 5 of 6 passes for 45 yards while guiding the Redskins from their 22-yard line to the Titans 29. Although Gano missed the kick, McNabb made a point with his play.
"I thought we were all comfortable in the situation," said McNabb, who threw a short touchdown pass to Santana Moss early in the game and was intercepted once. "We all look forward to it. I know I did. As a quarterback, you kind of thrive off it."
And that was McNabb's second successful performance of the game in the Shanahans' two-minute scheme. After the Redskins took possession at their 39-yard line with 29 seconds left in the first half, McNabb completed his four attempts for 28 yards. Gano missed a 51-yarder as time expired in the half and the teams went to the locker rooms with the score at 10-10.
Coach Mike Shanahan said McNabb "did a great job in both situations. . . . So I guess we don't have to talk about that anymore."
Shanahan was more interested in discussing the mettle the Redskins displayed while losing an inordinate number of players, even by the standards of the violent world of the NFL.
"As I told the team after the game, I've been in a lot of football games through the years, not just in the pro level, and I have never had that many guys go down and the team stay together and keep on fighting and find a way to win," he said. "It says a lot about our football team."
It was clear that cornerback Carlos Rogers (hamstring) and safety LaRon Landry (Achilles') would not play against the Titans, so they did not accompany the team on the trip. Second-year running back Ryan Torain (hamstring), who has started four games, and veteran guard-tackle Hicks (thigh), Washington's starting right guard since Week 1, also were among the inactive players.
With four starters sidelined, Washington shuffled its offensive and defensive lineups. Then in the first quarter, the Redskins lost four more starters: veteran back Clinton Portis (aggravated groin), making his return to the lineup for the first time since suffering a severe groin tear during a a Week 4 victory against Philadelphia; Rabach (knee), outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (hamstring) ; and inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh (groin).
Rookie safety Anderson Russell (knee) and veteran guard Derrick Dockery (knee), who was inactive for five consecutive games, went out and did not return. And in pregame warmups, running back Chad Simpson, who was on the active list, broke a bone in his foot. He will undergo surgery, Shanahan said.
"Guys today, man, I mean . . . so many guys just stepped up," inside linebacker and defensive co-captain London Fletcher said. "Offensive linemen moving to tackle and guard, we've got guys moving all over the place, some guys who haven't played a lot . . . and they were prepared. They came in and they helped us."
At the end of his postgame news conference, Shanahan began to provide updates about the medical status of each injured player before eventually stopping mid-sentence and saying, "Everybody's a long-shot guys" for the upcoming game against the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field.
After sticking together after the worst experience of the season for them and winning on the road, however, the Redskins believe they'll continue to find a way.
"Just a lot of guys who believe in themselves and each other," Alexander said. "That's one thing we always have."