NASHVILLE –After all that talk about the two-minute offense, it turned out to be the two-minute offenses that really mattered.
A couple of personal foul penalties and an illegal contact call against the Tennessee Titans offered the Redskins 35 yards of turf and an opportunity to win in overtime. They did not let it get away. Graham Gano kicked a 48-yard field goal with 6:43 elapsed in the extra session and and a battered and bruised Redskins team escaped LP Field Sunday with a 19-16 victory.
"Sooner or later we had to have a good game," coach Mike Shanahan said as the Redskins ended a two-game losing streak and evened their record at 5-5. "We were able to survive."
They had a chance to win without going to the fifth quarter. Donovan McNabb, questioned for weeks about his skills in the two-minute offense, got the Redskins in position for the winning field goal on the last play of regulation. A low snap preceded a kick that fell short from 47 yards and there the Redskins were, well, working overtime.
Next order of business? Repairs. Get out the paste, the glue, the rubber cement, the duct tape. It's time to put the Redskins together.
What to do when you lose a running back before the game … for the second consecutive week? And another once it starts.
If this were hockey, you'd have thought the Redskins were killing a couple of penalties and skating two men short.
Asked after the game about the lengthy list of injuries, Shanahan simply said: "I can't remember all of them."
First, Chad Simpson hurt his foot during warmups. He'd have been the third running back, the Redskins having learned how risky it is to have only two. Then Clinton Portis, back after a five-week absence, reinjured his groin.
The Redskins began with their usual complement of seven offensive linemen but Derrick Dockery was active instead of the injured Artis Hicks. Will Montgomery started for Hicks but soon was at center for a hurt Casey Rabach and that precipitated more changes.
Dockery jumped in at left guard, Kory Lichtensteiger moved from left to right guard and this group, which has had so little continuity for so long, now sported even less. Then Dockey went down, Lichtensteiger went back to the left side and Stephon Heyer, the swing tackle, became the right guard.
Confused? We now check the emergency room for the defense.
Strong safety LaRono Landry and his aching Achilles tendon and cornerback Carlos Rogers (hamstring) didn't make the trip, stripping the secondary of half of its starters. Then linebacker Lorenzo Alexander hurt his hamstring on Marc Mariani's 87-yard punt return for a touchdown, even as rookie safety Anderson Russell tweaked a knee. Linebacker Rocky McIntosh banged up his thigh.
"I don't think I ever had that many guys go down and the team stay together and keep fighting and find a way to win," Shanahan said. "With injuries, you still have to find a way to win."
The question coming in was whether the Redskins could put the 59-28 beating by the Philadelphia Eagles behind them. Now the question is whether they can get health care.
Denuded as they were, they hung together. The pass protection for McNabb actually seemed better with the cobbled-together line on the field than it did with the starters. Losing Portis hurt but Keiland Williams continued to prove himself serviceable and the Redskins dominated most of the stats, even though the game was tied 10-10 at halftime. McNabb passed for 376 yards but couldn't get the team into the end zone except for the one scoring pass to Santana Moss.
The defense kept Chris Johnson contained and pressured Vince Young enough that the crowd began to boo him late in the second quarter. The Redskins might not have been whole but they seemed hale. They allowed the Titans one first down in the first quarter and five in the first half and the only touchdown came on the punt return.
When cornerback DeAngelo Hall hurt his back tackling Johnson on the opening possession of the third quarter, the Redskins found themselves lining up Phillip Buchanon and Byron Westbrook at the corners, Andre Carter and H.B. Blades at linebacker, Reed Doughty at safety and Jerry Mathers as The Beaver.
Hall, at least, returned quickly.
The resiliency makes for a nice story but there's still the bottom line. The Redskins won. Buried that Eagles' loss and did it on the road in a short week against a team that had defeated the three other NFC East teams already this season.
Yes, more scoring would help. An interception stopped one drive and Gano missed a 51-yard field goal on the final play before halftime. A drive to the Titans' 1-yard yielded, as it inevitably does, a 19-yard field goal.
That's the one that hurt. The Redskins converted a third down (yes, you read that right) and a first down at the Titans' 5-yard line. Williams carried twice and Mike Sellers once and even after a penalty against the Titans the Redskins still were a yard short of where the touchdowns are kept. So they kicked it, for a 10-7 lead.
Inside the red zone late in the third quarter, the Redskins again came away with a field goal, this one of 40 yards. First down from the 19, and Williams slips in the backfield, losing three. McNabb then threw incomplete to Joey Galloway. Then McNabb dropped the snap on third down, recovered and threw a quick pass to a split-out Cooley, who couldn't hold on.
Field goal. Tied at 13-13.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the injury plague had crossed the field and felled Young. The Titans, already minus Kerry Collins, plugged in untested rookie Rusty Smith, who threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss (remember him?) that was immediately erased by Moss' blatant offensive pass interference penalty. Young, coach Jeff Fisher said later, was done as the Titans' starter due to his angry and premature departure from the stadium.
At the end, this game seemed like old times, if a month ago can be called old times. A tight, low-scoring game sat there for the taking and neither team reached out and grabbed it. Johnson fired off a couple of runs that totaled 49 yards as the enfeebled Titans moved toward setting up the winning field goal in hiccups and burps but hiccups and burps weren't enough and the Titans ran out of gas and punted.
That set up the Redskins, who moved well enough in the two-minute drill to position a 47-yard field goal try that failed with the snap low and the kick short.
In overtime, the Titans melted down. They committed a penalty on an interception of McNabb that was overturned on an instant replay review, drew another for smacking McNabb in the head and another on a simple pass route. The Redskins really only had success on two plays in driving from their 13 to the Tennessee 30 – a 26-yard pass to Chris Cooley on the first snap and Gano's field goal at the end.
"We know all the character that we have and the guys just won't quit," said Williams.
Sometimes it's not about the skill. It's about the will.
Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.