Coming off a brutal 59-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins could have thrown in the towel on a season where the play-off race was slipping away. By the start of the second half against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, injuries had depleted their roster, and the Redskins had blown several opportunities to take the lead. But Mike Shanahan and his players refused to fold.
Despite the injuries, Washington rebounded from a ghastly performance last week, working overtime to beat the Titans 19-16 on a 48-yard field goal from Graham Gano. The embattled Redskins placekicker made the most of his second chance to win the game, drilling the ball through the uprights in a blustery wind at LP Field to keep the team’s play-off hopes alive in a muddled NFC race.
Already without G Artis Hicks, CB Carlos Rogers, and S LaRon Landry prior to the game, the Redskins lost a host of other players on a slick field, but somehow managed to control the flow of play. Washington had more yards, controlled the ball for over 40 minutes, and contained superstar RB Chris Johnson for much of the game.
Donovan McNabb appeared to throw an interception on the winning drive, but Alterraun Verner’s diving attempt was overturned by the officials. Several costly penalties put the Redskins in prime position for Gano and the young kicker, who missed a potential game-winning kick at the end of regulation, stepped onto the field and won it.
While Gano’s fourth field goal of the contest ultimately decided it, the Redskins were anchored by a tremendous effort from a patchwork offensive line. By the start of the second half the Redskins were missing three linemen, but still racked up 32 first downs and converted 8-16 third downs attempts a week after going 0-10 in those situations. The makeshift line, going up against a formidable Titans’ defensive front, surrendered three sacks and paved the way for 107 yards rushing.
Things got off to a dismal start for the offense. McNabb tripped over a lineman, the offense failed to convert a third down, and the Titans had the ball deep in Redskins territory after a 22-yard punt from Hunter Smith. However, the Redskins defense, back to the wall, buckled down and forced a Vince Young fumble to prevent an early score.
The Titans still managed to get on the board first with Marc Mariani’s 87-yard punt return for a touchdown. The play marked the second longest punt return in Titans history and gave Tennessee an early 7-0 advantage. The score woke the Redskins up as McNabb hit Santana Moss on a 48-yard pass to set the table for a five-yard strike to Moss to tie it later in the drive.
McNabb, with a carousel of offensive linemen in front of him had a solid first half going 13-20 for 168 yards and a touchdown. He did throw an interception late in the first half with the Redskins at the Titans’ 30 yard-line, spoiling an opportunity to break a 10-10 tie. Graham Gano also missed a 51-yard field goal attempt at the close of the half, leaving the team deadlocked after a half.
Washington dominated the first half with 242 yards of offense; the 2nd highest output on the season. The Titans failed to establish any type of rhythm as they held the ball for just over ten minutes, and at one point Young signaled the fans to continue booing after he missed a third down throw in the red zone.
Young went 12-16 for 165 yards before leaving the game with a torn tendon in his thumb during the third quarter. The Titans struggled to establish themselves offensively in the first half as Young seemed out of sync and Johnson only received seven touches.
The Redskins’ first half success was fueled by their ability to control the game in trenches. Johnson had 33 yards rushing while Washington’s latest no-name running back, Keiland Williams combined with Clinton Portis for 77 yards. Despite the injuries, the Redskins were able to run the ball with success and offset the pressure with dump-offs from McNabb.
The Titans responded in the second half with an 11-play drive that lasted 5:50, ending with a 32-yard field goal by Rob Bironas. The drive was instrumental in evening out the time of possession, but the Redskins answered on the ensuing drive with a 40-yard field goal by Gano to make it 13-13.
Young hurt his thumb soon after and with Kerry Collins sidelined, Jeff Fischer went with Rusty Smith. Smith threw a touchdown pass to Randy Moss on his first play from scrimmage, but the play was called back as Moss pushed off on DeAngelo Hall to make the catch.
Moss was held without a reception in his second game with the Titans, and was largely invisible throughout the game. The other Moss, Santana had a six catch, 106 yard performance. Nine other players chipped in with catches, including Chris Cooley with seven. All of Cooley’s receptions came after the first half and five of them moved the chains.
The teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter, and Washington had a pair of chances to take the lead after a Phillip Buchanon interception set up the offense at the Tennessee 41. However, McNabb tripped again under center on third down and the Redskins had to punt it back. After a Tennessee punt, Washington drove down the field and had an opportunity to win it, but Gano’s 47-yard attempt fell short, sending the game to overtime.
Game Notes: The Redskins injury report was extensive. Running backs Chad Simpson, Clinton Portis, and Keiland Williams; linebackers Rocky McIntosh, Brian Orakpo and Lorenzo Alexander; safety Anderson Russell; and offensive linemen Casey Rabach and Derrick Dockery all sustained injuries.