By Moe Murphy, Special to Viva Loudoun
Landover, MD (December 20, 2017) – The Washington Redskins entered Monday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers holding their playoff destiny in their own hands. Win the last three games and they were guaranteed a wild card spot.
A combination of blown coverages, turnovers, penalties, a struggling offense and dropped passes caused the Redskins to drop from a playoff spot as they fell to the Panthers 26-15 before a nationally televised Monday Night Football crowd.
“We had some uncharacteristic drops and some misses on some third down and two to three. Some very makeable third down and twos.” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said, “We missed a guy in the flat, we overthrow a guy, and then we drop a ball on the sideline.”
Carolina (6-8) wasted no time in seizing the game momentum. After Washington won the coin toss and deferred, Cam Newton drove the Panthers 58 yards and Graham Gano connected on a 35-yard field goal to give the Panthers the lead within the first two minutes of the game.
Washington (7-6-1) tied the game on a Dustin Hopkins 43-yard field goal, but that’s as close as they could get as the Panthers pulled away on the next drive as a blown coverage left Ted Ginn Jr wide open and Newton hooked up for a 30-yard touchdown.
“I believe he should have been doubled but we blew [coverage].” Gruden said.
After pulling to within 4 at the half, the Redskins start to the second half turned out disastrous as quarterback Kirk Cousins was hit in the backfield and fumbled with Carolina recovering on the Redskins one yard line.
Two plays into the second half the Panthers scored on a Mike Tolbert one yard run and never looked back.
“Tough play.” Cousins said, “I fumbled and gave them the ball on the one-yard line and that’s where we felt that we did not do enough to help our defense, because on top of not scoring enough, we gave their offense a much better opportunity to score and made it tough on our defense.”
Cousins, once again passed for over 300 yards and broke his own single season passing yardage record completing 32 of 47 passes for 315 yards with 1 interception and a rating of 77.9
The Redskins rushing game was virtually nonexistent as the team rushed 13 times and 29 yards, compared to Carolina’s 148 yards rushing on 33 attempts.
“I think we just weren’t getting the run game started and those guys came out and played on the defensive side of the ball for the Panthers.” Redskins back Robert Kelley said. Kelley rushed 9 times for 8 yards and scored on a 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson had a good performance grabbing 7 receptions for 111 yards but was obviously disappointed with the outcome of the game.
“Everybody could see for themselves. We weren’t productive enough to win a football game.” Jackson said, “It was a tough battle. Carolina played a good game. They outplayed us, came into our house and got a victory. Call it how it is, we lost [and] didn’t play good. It’s very frustrating.”
Penalties were also a factor in hampering the Redskins performance, with 7 infractions for 70 yards, the costliest being an unsportsmanlike conduct on Jordan Reed for throwing a punch that got Reed ejected from the game in the second half.
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart ad a stellar night with 132 yards rushing on 25 carries. Newton was 21 of 37 yards passing with 300 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Redskins no longer control their own fate and will have to hope for help from other teams as they slipped from the sixth seed to the eighth seed behind Tampa Bay and Green Bay.
The Redskins have another short week as they travel to the Windy city to play the Chicago Bears on Saturday before returning home on New Year’s Day to face the New York Giants in the final regular season game.
“Well, we’ve still got everything that we want in our hands. We just have to find a way to win these next two and see what happens.” Redskins defensive end Chris Baker said,
“It’s a whole lot of situations to make it or not make it but we just have to handle what we can handle and that’s going out there and trying to win these next two games.”