For the second straight season, the Redskins went to Detroit and lost. That by itself would have been reason enough to question the team heading into their bye week but this loss came with something extra. With the Skins trailing 31-26 and just less than 2 minutes remaining, Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb and replaced him with Rex Grossman. It was a curious move because McNabb was not injured and hadn’t played poorly. On Grossman’s first play, he was sacked and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Ndomukong Suh for a touchdown. So instead of just making adjustments and getting players healthy, Shanahan will be bombarded with questions about the McNabb benching for the next two weeks.
Positives – Once again, Albert Haynesworth delivered a strong performance. He overpowered the Lions guards and was disruptive for much of the game. It appears that he’s up to speed with the new defensive scheme. The Skins run defense overall was solid, holding Jahvid Best to only 48 yards rushing. DeAngelo Hall had yet another interception (this time picking off a pass in the end zone while staying in bounds) and Laron Landry was all over the field. In fact, the Skins defense gave up the fewest yards of the season. Offensively, McNabb rediscovered the long ball, hitting Anthony Armstrong on a 50-yard bomb in the 4th quarter that led to their second touchdown of the game. McNabb also had a key 36-yard scramble in the 2nd quarter to set up a touchdown pass to Ryan Torain. Finally, what else can be said about Brandon Banks? The tiny receiver had a career day, which included a 96-yard touchdown return on a kickoff. He’s emerged as a real weapon and makes the Skins special teams unit even better.
Negatives – It has to be said that Casey Rabach is not fit to be the starting center on this team anymore. Twice early in the game, Rabach stepped on McNabb’s foot, causing the QB to trip and disrupt the plays. Rabach was also manhandled by Suh and the other defensive tackles of the Lions. His lack of strength and age are catching up with him, and Shanahan may need to turn that position over to someone else. Also, the lack of size in the middle of the offensive line is a major problem. McNabb was sacked 7 times and rushed constantly during the game. I think Shanahan should have considered this before benching McNabb in favor of Grossman who didn’t fare any better. Using Derrick Dockery at guard more often might be one solution. Moving Kory Lichtensteiger to center might work as well but something needs to be done. Another problem was penalties. Up until this week, the Skins were good at not causing stupid penalties but that changed against the Lions. On one field goal attempt by Detroit, Phillip Daniels had an unnecessary offsides call, which sustained the drive for the Lions and helped them score a touchdown. Another penalty on a punt return prevented Banks from getting a second touchdown in the game. Shanahan has done a good job preparing his players and making sure they stay focused. Let’s hope these penalties don’t continue.