Everything seemed hopeless after the Redskins’ Monday night debacle against the Eagles. Then, they took their gold pants to Nashville and beat the Titans 19-16 in overtime. I guess this proves that the Eagle game was an anomaly. The Skins were scrappy against the Titans, the defense forced a couple of turnovers, and Donovan McNabb looked great with 376 yards and a touchdown passing. Better yet, McNabb ran the two-minute offense exactly how Mike Shanahan wanted him to run it. Only Graham Gano’s missed 47-yard field goal at the end of regulation prevented total confirmation. Gano did connect on a 48-yarder in overtime, thanks in part to the Titans’ penalties, to seal the victory. The Skins are back at .500 and all five wins have come when they’ve scored less than 20 points.
Positives – The offensive line had their best performance of the season despite key injuries. Artis Hicks was inactive for the game, Casey Rabach injured his knee in the 1st quarter, and Derrick Dockery also suffered an injury that forced him to miss the 2nd half. With a patchwork line, McNabb was given good protection, and the zone blocking opened up running lanes for Clinton Portis and Keiland Williams. Perhaps the injuries were a good sign. Rabach’s absence gave way to Will Montgomery at center where he performed solidly. Dockery also played for the first time since week 1 and provided significant help before he got hurt. Even Stephon Heyer appeared to play better at right guard than tackle. We’ll see if this line can hold up for the remainder of the season. Defensively, DeAngelo Hall and the safeties did a great job shutting down Randy Moss who finished with zero catches. In fact, the Titans passing game did not hurt the Skins much. Tennessee converted 3 of 11 on 3rd down. The Skins, on the other hand, went from being the worst 3rd down team in the league to completing 8 of 16 tries.
Negatives – I mentioned this earlier in the season but the problem went away for a brief period. Unfortunately, it returned against Tennessee. I’m talking about the long snapping situation. Nick Sundberg’s snaps were usually low (particularly on punts) and one high snap on a field goal attempt led to a miss. Sundberg is young but his play is far more important than most people realize. Another special teams issue was kick coverage. This is an area of strength for the Skins but they gave up a punt return for a touchdown to Marc Mariani as well as another long return on a kickoff. Offensively, the Skins receivers are continuing to drop catch-able passes. The receivers as a unit converted only 30 of 48 targets, some on 3rd down and one of which led to an interception by McNabb. Defensively, the Skins run defense was weak again. There is a good excuse to giving up 130 yards to Chris Johnson who is arguably the best running back in the league but it’s still an area of concern. It won’t get easier next week as the Skins host Minnesota and Adrian Peterson.