Redskins vs. Panthers: No magic as Carolina beats Washington 21-13

November 4, 2012

The Washington Redskins celebrated their annual Homecoming Game on Sunday, welcoming back more than 150 stars from their glory years. But the magic didn’t rub off. Mike Shanahan and the 2012 members of the franchise endured their second consecutive drubbing, losing 21-13 to the Carolina Panthers.

With the loss, the Redskins fell to 3-6 on the year and suffered their first three-game losing streak of the season. The offensive firepower boasted by Robert Griffin III and Co. in the first seven weeks of the season was missing again. The demons that have tormented the defense all year afflicted the unit once again. And the Redskins head into the bye week searching for answers to many questions.

“It’s a bad feeling knowing that you didn’t execute the way you wanted to,” said Griffin, whose unit entered the day averaging 26.6 points per game (seventh in the NFL), but mustered only one touchdown for the second consecutive week. “People are going to criticize, they’re going to criticize the coaches, they’re going to criticize the players. They’re going to say drastic change needs to be made. But I don’t feel that way. I think it falls on us, the players to make sure we go out there and play regardless of what coaches call on offense, defense or special teams. We’ve got to make plays happen.”

While the Redskins limp into the bye week, Griffin’s counterpart, fellow Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton, and the Panthers get a respite from the scrutiny of them after a 1-6 start

The scowl and poor body language that Newton had displayed in recent games and postgame interviews was gone. Instead, the quarterback sported the megawatt smile from his Heisman Trophy and rookie of the year days. After each first down run, Newton bounced up, flexed with one arm and pointed downfield with the other. And after he powered his way through the line for a one-yard touchdown run that put his team up 21-6 with 12 minutes 47 seconds left in the game, Newton grinned and blew a kiss to Redskins fans, who already had begun streaming out of FexEx Field.

Newton wasn’t particularly impressive with his arm, completing 13 of 23 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. But he did direct two 90-plus-yard touchdown drives — the first time in Panthers’ history a team had two of that length in one game — and lifted his team to victory.

“It was very big. Very big. It was a way for us to impose our will and just make a big impact,” said Newton, who led a three-play, 91-yard drive that was highlighted by an 82-yard pass to Armanti Edwards and Newton’s one-yard touchdown dive. The other long drive went 98 yards in 12 plays, capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith.

Meanwhile, Griffin and his offense found ways to move the ball, gaining 151 rushing yards and 215 yards through the air, but couldn’t score much.

The Redskins moved into the red zone three times, but managed just one touchdown — a two-yard Evan Royster run that made the score 21-13 with 1:28 left in the game. The Redskins reached the Carolina 2-yard line in the second quarter, but were denied on fourth and goal. Later, they reached the 8-yard line but wound up settling for a field goal.

Royster’s score was difficult. On the same possession, Griffin scored on a three-yard run that was nullified by a holding call. Two minutes later, Griffin completed a touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson with 1:49 left. But an illegal formation call wiped out that score as well.

The team finally scored on the third attempt, but an onside kick attempt failed. The Panthers held the ball until 29 seconds remained and punted, but Washington could muster no late-game heroics.

The penalties weren’t limited to Washington’s late-game scoring drive. While dropped passes proved the Redskins’ undoing against Pittsburgh last week, penalties were to blame against Carolina. Washington was flagged 13 times for 97 yards with infractions impeding their progress on offense and aiding the Panthers on two scoring drives.

“They weren’t doing nothing different than what we saw on film,” said Hankerson, who had three catches for 49 yards. “We have to make plays and capitalize on third down and not commit penalties. We had penalties, we didn’t capitalize on third downs. We had the opportunity to get points in the red zone and didn’t get them.”

Said Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan: “That’s what gnaws at you, when you stop yourselves. . . . You’re very disappointed right now, very emotional right now, as everybody would be. You take a look at who made the mistakes and what we need to do as a staff to improve and eliminate those mistakes. But yeah, we’re very disappointed with how we played because I thought we would’ve played very well today. We just made too many mistakes.”

The Redskins now enter their bye week, then return to the field Nov. 18 against Philadelphia. A Thanksgiving day game at Dallas follows before a “Monday Night Football” game against the Giants.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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