Redskins' OT defeat of Titans in Nashville provides melodrama worthy of a country music song

After missing a 47-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation, Graham Gano converts from 48 yards out to topple Tennessee.
By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010; 12:29 AM


Six days ago the Redskins sat in their locker room in mute disbelief at the historic disgrace they had inflicted on themselves on "Monday Night Football" with the NFL world watching, as they fell behind further and faster than any home team in history.

On Sunday here in Music City, in a football script so melodramatic, so over-the-top and so downright wonderfully corny that it deserved its own country music song, the Redskins erased the memory of a night of collective embarrassment and replaced it with an afternoon of team redemption.

After a victory during which they were sometimes without as many as a dozen injured players, the Redskins were nearly as speechless from the shock of a 19-16 win over the Titans as they had been by their 59-28 loss to the Eagles.

The Redskins (5-5) managed to restrain their grins and back slaps long enough to bask in a moment that none of them had experienced. They had, thanks to 376 passing yards from Donovan McNabb and remarkable emergency play from at least 10 reserves, beaten an NFL contender despite being so decimated that, at times, they did not know if they could field a team with complete units.

Do we have an entire offensive line left? What about defensive backs? Got that covered? Okay, if we get another linebacker hurt, can we still play the 3-4 defense?

Of all the overstressed units, the offensive line, considered the team's weakest point all season, was the most remarkable. A guard (Will Montgomery) switched to center. A tackle (Stephon Heyer) who had never played guard in his life, made the switch to an unknown position in mid-game and helped the Redskins rush for 107 yards and protect McNabb as well or better than they have all season.

"Wow, man, did you see Big Mike [Shanahan] come over and shake Stephon Heyer's hand," cackled McNabb.

"I think he shook all the offensive linemen's hands," said the modest Heyer. The Redskins' new coach, who's been through so much controversy in the last three weeks, probably would have shaken every hand if he'd had time. A season that was quickly getting away from his team has now been stabilized, though the list of players who will miss the Viking game next Sunday at home may be an arm's length.

"I have never seen that many guys go down, but still stay together, keep on fighting and find a way to win," said Shanahan.

According to my best arithmetic, and the M.A.S.H calculations will probably go on for years among Redskins fans, the team overcame injuries to 14 players - four before the game, one in pregame warmups and 10 during the game. Of those 10 in-game injury victims, eight did not come back in the game.

"I've never been more proud of anybody for how they handled themselves," said Shanahan, who lost count of the injuries and even of which units were down to their last spare part. But what good would it have done to know?

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