Members of Redskins Nation are going to be scratching their heads after their team fell to the Detroit Lions 37-25 at Ford Field Oct. 31. It was the second-straight season that the club has lost to the Lions, but this defeat may sting a little bit more. Trailing 31-25, head coach Mike Shanahan elected to pull starting quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was apparently healthy, in favor of reserve signal caller Rex Grossman with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

The backup immediately fumbled his first snap and Detroit rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh added to his already spectacular day by running in the loose ball for a 17-yard score and the deciding touchdown. It was a wild game for Washington, one which the AFRO examines with Three Downs from the District.

First Down: Say What, Shanahan?

Washington’s first-year coach Mike Shanahan may be the hot topic this week in the District, after pulling his starting quarterback with his team trailing by a touchdown, and Grossman’s subsequent fumble will be discussed for the next two weeks as the Redskins enter their bye week. If Shanahan wasn’t pleased with the quarterback’s play, he could just have easily chosen to bench his starting offensive line as well. Washington allowed six sacks on the afternoon, destroying any rhythm the offense could’ve hoped to produce. One of Shanahan’s strengths as a coach has been his ability to stabilize offensive blocking units with unique and orchestrated concepts, but neither came to fruition against the Lions. McNabb didn’t play well, but he wasn’t alone. Shanahan, however, will be alone in the criticism he’s sure to face following the loss.

Second Down: Offensive Defense

Despite a now 2-5 record, the Lions haven’t been the perennial laughingstocks they’ve been in recent years. Detroit has only lost one game this season by more than two scores and their offense has flashed big-play potential at times. However, the Redskins allowed 23 points in the final period, the definition of a breakdown, and Washington’s defensive coaches deserve as much of the blame that is likely to fall on Shanahan. In eight games this year, the Redskins have allowed offenses to pile up 30, 30, 27 and 37 points against them after finishing in the top 10 in overall defense last season. It’s been a rocky transition to the 3-4 alignment and it’ll be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Jim Haslett elects to alter some of his principles after the team exits its bye week.

Third Down: Banking on Banks

Fans can find fault in many layers from the game, but they won’t have a problem with return man Brandon Banks. The Kansas State rookie exploded for 271 return yards and ripped off a 96-yarder in the fourth quarter that gave Washington its last lead at 25-20. Banks took a kick back 95 yards in the middle of the third quarter, but the play was called back on an illegal block. Banks has shown he can be a threat on special teams and the diminutive rookie may start seeing teams kick away from him, as he’s proven he can take it the distance any time he touches the ball.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO