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Donovan McNabb looks good in two-minute offense as Redskins top Titans

After missing a 47-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation, Graham Gano converts from 48 yards out to topple Tennessee.

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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010; 12:33 AM

NASHVILLE - When the game was on the line Sunday, Rex Grossman remained on the sideline and Donovan McNabb led the huddle, which wouldn't have seemed like a big deal had Coach Mike Shanahan not benched McNabb late in a game three weeks earlier.

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On Sunday against the Titans, McNabb came through both times, putting his team in field goal position with fast-paced drives at the end of the first half and again at the end of regulation. Place kicker Graham Gano missed both kicks, but Shanahan acknowledged after the Redskins' 19-16 win over Tennessee that McNabb did his job.

"So I guess we don't have to talk about that any more," Shanahan said with a smile.

McNabb turned in his best performance since Week 2, completing 30 of a season-high 50 pass attempts for 376 yards. He had a touchdown and an interception for a quarterback rating of 81.7, only the second time in 10 games with the Redskins that he's topped 80.0.

"We need to win games like this," McNabb said.

The Redskins did it despite a lineup that required shuffling every few plays in the first half because of injuries. In fact, McNabb was one of the few constants Sunday afternoon at LP Field. Clinton Portis started the game at running back, but rookie Keiland Williams finished it. Wide receiver Santana Moss had 96 of his game-high 106 yards in the first three quarters, while tight end Chris Cooley had all 91 of his receiving yards in the fourth quarter and the overtime period.

The day's biggest surprise, though, was the offensive line. The unit knew it would be without Artis Hicks on Sunday, but ended up going through three other right guards as well. When Casey Rabach went out with a knee injury in the opening quarter, Will Montgomery moved over to center and Derrick Dockery took Montgomery's spot at right guard. When Dockery went down later in the half, tackle Stephon Heyer was asked to play a guard position that was foreign to him.

"We were able to survive," Shanahan said of the day's adversity.

Actually, the offensive line thrived. The patchwork unit turned in one of the year's best performances. McNabb was sacked three times, but he had plenty of time in the pocket on many plays, and the Redskins were able to post 107 rushing yards, the fourth time in the past five outings they topped 100.

"We knew there was no one else left," Heyer said. "We had to go out there and play hard as a group, as a unit. If not, we weren't going to get the win."

The day's biggest success came on third downs. The Redskins had failed to convert 14 straight third-down attempts, a streak that dated back to the end of the loss at Detroit Oct. 31 and extended through the team's first two offensive possessions Sunday. A week after failing to convert a single third down, the Redskins finished the day 8 of 16 against the Titans. They were able to extend drives and dominated the clock. The offense had the ball for 40:09, compared with the Titans' 26:34.

"Sooner or later, we had to have a good game," Shanahan said. "You can't have bad games all year."

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