The Washington Redskins showed they can win without Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb.
And without Clinton Portis, or any of the other 13 players on injured reserve.
The Redskins (6-9) have a ton of distractions, but one thing they don't have is quit. Just when it appeared all the winning was done for the season, a ragtag mix and match of backups, rookies, practice squad promotees and scrap-heap pickups helped break the team's four-game losing streak with an overtime spoiler win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Maybe this season isn't such a waste after all.
"We've got a lot of young guys that made a statement for themselves," defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday said Monday, "whether that be with this club or another club, you never know. Guys went out and fought at a time when really you can just throw the towel in and get ready to load the U-Hauls up and get out of here. Guys didn't take that approach to things."
Everyone gets one final shot at making game-day impressions Sunday when Washington hosts the New York Giants.
The Redskins defense, already ranked last in the NFL, began the game against Jacksonville with only five starters from opening day — and one of them, cornerback Carlos Rogers, left in the first half with a calf injury. Three defensive linemen were placed on IR last week alone.
Five safeties were unavailable due to injuries, leaving midseason pickup Macho Harris and converted cornerback Kevin Barnes as the starters. Sure enough, Barnes made the interception in overtime to set up the winning field goal.
"You're going to see people playing very hard. You just hope they're playing very smart," coach Mike Shanahan said of the younger players. "A lot of times you get too excited and you want to hit somebody and you forget your assignment. I was pleased with the effort. It wasn't perfect by any means on either side of the ball, but you got the effort you needed to find a way to win."
The Redskins had a laundry list of firsts. Barnes' first career start and first career interception. Rob Jackson's first career sack and first career forced fumble. Terrence Austin's first career catch. Jeremy Jarmon taking part in his first career sack, getting credit for a half-sack. Joe Joseph's first career game, which was tainted by his overnight arrest on charges of driving under the influence after the team retuned to the Washington area.
While all of those players are under evaluation for next season, none is under the microscope more than Rex Grossman, whose sequel did not live up to his original in his trilogy of games as starter since replacing McNabb. Grossman completed 19 of 39 passes for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Only two of the Redskins' 14 drives went more than 20 yards: One ended when Grossman was picked off in the end zone in the first half, and the other was a nice 14-play touchdown drive in the second half that was far and away the highlight for the offense.
"After the interception, it looked like he lost a little focus and missed some of the reads that he normally would make," Shanahan said.
Those are the sorts of ups and downs Shanahan needs to see as he decides on his quarterbacks for next year. He pointed out that while Grossman has spent two seasons learning the offense, Grossman's actual game experience has been limited.
"That's why you put people in game situations," Shanahan said, "to see how they react."
Notes: There were no new volleys in Shanahan's tit-for-tat with McNabb and McNabb's agent. Shanahan would like to meet McNabb's agent to settle things down, but the coach wants it to be face-to-face. "I told him when he was down here in this area, if he'd like to meet with me, I'd love to be able to sit down with him one-on-one," Shanahan said. ... Shanahan acknowledged the shadow that the McNabb saga has cast over the franchise. "It's kind of like a soap opera, yeah," Shanahan said. "I think there's been enough talk about that over the last couple of weeks."