Monday, November 22, 2010 6:15 p.m.
By Rich Tandler
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Six days ago, we were trying to figure out what ugly adjectives to use for the Washington Redskins 59-28 whipping by the Philadelphia Eagles. Today, were struggling to find an apt way to describe the Redskins 19-16 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. How about gutty (or is it gutsy)? Hard-fought, certainly. Heroic? No, lets save that for policemen, soldiers and others who put their lives on line for us on a daily basis. Call it what you will, the Redskins won despite having three starters inactive in Carlos Rogers, LaRon Landry, and Artis Hicks. As the game wore on and players were sidelined, Stephon Heyer, who has never played guard in his life, was in the game at right guard. Andre Carter, who was moved back to defensive end after struggling with his conversion to linebacker, played linebacker. Will Montgomery, who replaced Hicks at guard, played center for the first time as a Redskin when Casey Rabach went out with a knee injury. Keiland Williams was not supposed to carry the full load at running back since Chad Simpson and Clinton Portis both were active. But Simpson was lost to a season-ending broken foot injury during, get this, pregame warmups and Portis aggravated his injured groin. That left Williams as a one-man show like he was last week against the Eagles. And so on. The Redskins beat a tough AFC team on the road. They won because they got a few breaks along the way, as noted below. They won also because Donovan McNabb enjoyed excellent protection behind the makeshift offensive line and completed 30 of 50 passes for 376 yards. They won because the converted half of their third downs (816) after coming into the game having converted just 22 percent on the year and just two of their previous 34 They won because the depleted defense didnt allow the Titans an offensive touchdown. Joe Gibbs would call a game like this a real gut check. Ill go with that. Dodged bullets When the Redskins lost to the Houston Texans in Week 2, I compiled a list of plays that, had they gone the other way, may have led to a Redskins win. The Tennessee game was another tight overtime affair and there were several points during the game that, had they pivoted in the Titans direction, might have led to a different outcome. Here is the dodged bullet point list from Sunday: --After McNabb opened up the game by getting stepped on by an offensive lineman and falling to the ground, the Redskins went three and out. Hunter Smith shanked the punt, it traveled only 22 yards, and the Titans started their first possession at the Washington 34. One Chris Johnson run later they were at the 20. As Vince Young started to scramble up the middle, Lorenzo Alexander executed a perfect strip from behind. Phillip Buchanon recovered the fumble. --On the first play after Marc Mariani returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown, Moss got behind the secondary and hauled in a long pass from McNabb. The ball came loose after he took a couple of steps and it bounced out of bounds. The play could have been ruled a dropped pass but it survived a replay challenge. Since it was complete, the Redskins were fortunate that the ball went out of bounds as there were two Titans defenders in the area who could have recovered it. In fact, cornerback Courtland Finnegan juggled the ball briefly before it went out of bounds. --After that pass, on first and 10 at the Titans 20, McNabb went for Fred Davis at the goal line over the middle. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch got two hands on the ball but it went through them, bounced off of his helmet, and fell to the ground. --In the second quarter, Redskins had gone up 10-7 but Titans methodically drove to the Washington 3. What ensued wasnt a classic goal line stand but a combination of good defense and some sloppy execution by the Titans kept Tennessee out of the end zone. --First down, Johnson goes wide tackled for no gain, holding penalty. --First and goal at the 13Toss to Johnson, who cut up the middle for six yards to the seven. Doughty made a good, low tackle or Johnson may have been able to burst through and score. --Second and goal at the sevenJust as the pocket was starting to collapse in the face of a four-man rush, Young threw it well out of bounds. --Third and goal at the sevenYoung threw it in Moss general direction but Hall had good coverage and Young threw it well over the end zone. The Titans settle for a field goal to tie the game a 10-10. --In the third quarter, Young hit the thumb of his throwing hand on the helmet of Maake Kemoeatu. He stayed in for one more play before going out of the game. With veteran backup Kerry Collins sidelined with an injury, rookie Rusty Smith saw his first NFL action and he had to finish the game. --With Young out and Rusty Smith in at quarterback late in the third quarter, Fischer decided to go for it on fourth and three at the Washington 36. Smith had some time against a five-man rush and threw for Moss on the end zone. Although Hall was right with the receiver, Moss had position to make the catch in the end zone. But Moss pushed Hall off with his right arm before making the grab. The flag flew immediately and the score was negated. Moss clearly committed a penalty but its quite possible that he would have made the catch even if had he not pushed Hall off. --On first down at the Washington 47 with the Redskins trailing 16-13 midway through the fourth quarter, McNabb threw a low pass to Armstrong over the middle. The receiver cradled the ball and it was called complete for a gain of 19 to the Titans 34. The call may or may not have withstood a replay challenge as the ball did appear to shift a bit as Armstrong went to the ground. But it didnt matter since the Titans had burned their final timeout a few plays earlier and they could not challenge. The Redskins went in to score the tying field goal. --With 2:24 left in regulation and the score knotted at 16-16, three Chris Johnson runs moved the Titans from their own six to the Washington 45. It came to mind that Titans kicker Rob Bironas once kicked a game-winning field goal from 60 yards out. Then Ringer ran for a yard and the clock ran down to the two-minute warning. As they lined up for the second and nine play, Moss was penalized for a false start. Smith then threw to Jared Cook for six yards and on third and nine Phillip Buchanon nearly picked off his second pass and the Titans punted. --In overtime, a sack of McNabb and a false start penalty set up second and 22 at the Washington 27. McNabb was flushed to the left and threw what originally was called an interception. In the aftermath of the play, a flag flew. Jason Babin was in a tussle with Kory Lichtensteiger and he tore off the Redskins guards helmet. As always is the case in overtime, the booth reviewed the play and overturned the interception. The Titans would have had the ball at their own 40 had the interception stood. With an incompletion, the Redskins would have been facing third and 22. But the incompletion and the personal foul gave the Redskins a first down at their own 42. Game notes --The third and 16 conversion to Galloway was a heck of a throw, not one the worm killers that McNabb is infamous for. If he puts the ball in Galloways chest, as many would like, the safety would have drilled the receiver in the back and the ball would have fallen to the ground. The low throw wasnt pretty but it put the ball where only the receiver could catch it. --I didn't quite understand going with Williams up the middle twice and then Sellers up the middle after the Redskins had a first and goal at the five early in the second quarter. The line is not built for power blocking but they were asked to do that three straight time. On top of that, Sellers does a lot of things well but he is not a good runner. All he tries to do is use his power to move the pile, there's no patience and no subtlety to try to find a crease. Overall the play calling was excellent, but this sequence was a head scratcher. --Fred Davis may have epitomized the spirit of this game. Although he was not in the game due to an injury, he gets limited chances to touch the ball and he made the most of them. Late in the first half on first down from the Washington 37, he took a pass from McNabb a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. He has about 10 yards of open field and a blocker in front of him. After he had gained 12 yards, three Tennessee defenders converged on him. As he got away from them, another wrapped him up around the waist. He got out of that tackle, did a nice spin move to get out of another one, and didnt stop until he had gained 21 yards. Ten yards thanks to a good play call and another 11 on determination. In the fourth quarter he got the drive to the game-tying field goal jump started with a 21-yard catch and run on the first play of the possession. --Brian Orakpo is turning in to more than a great pass rusher. He can stuff the run from his linebacker spot, too. Late in regulation on first down from the Titans nine, Orakpo just blew up an attempted lead block by the fullback, knocking him right into Johnson, who went down for a loss of three. Orakpo did not get a sack during the game but if he makes plays like that he will be valuable even when he gets shut out. --Whether he had a charley horse or not, it appears that Albert Haynesworth was sufficiently embarrassed by his lying on the ground act to make sure he did not get caught doing the same thing again. Late in the fourth quarter, Haynesworth rushed Smith, was double teamed, and got knocked to the ground. He did a lunge and kind of a roll to keep moving towards the quarterback. He wasnt about to get caught lying down on the job again. You can reach Rich by email atRTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter@RealRedskins. Join Rich Tandler for an in-game chat during the Redskins-Vikings game on Sunday. Rich will be watching the game from the press box at FedEx Field. Things will get underway onwww.CSNwashington.com shortly before kickoff and continue all game long.