Six games in, the season isn’t careening off the embankment. But after procuring front-row seats to the Cam Newton Show on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium — a day the defense was surprisingly worse than the offense, Santana Moss broke his hand, Tim Hightower twisted his knee and Mike Shanahan bristled when asked about his decision-making — this is no time to exhibit swag or feel good about scoring when the game is pretty much over.
If any player was going to give the ball to someone Sunday, it should have been the play-making Newton and it should have come with a black-felt tip Sharpie.
“We’ll let y’all panic this week, but we’re not panicking yet,” said veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall, trying to calm a few skeptical reporters around his cubicle in the visitor’s locker room. “We’re 3-3, going to Toronto to play a tough Buffalo team this week and we got 10 games left. That’s where we are. Our goals haven’t changed.”
On the face of it, he’s right. But inside of eight days, not many crumbs of optimism can be found. Leading the NFC East at the start of last weekend — off to a who-knew 3-1 and salivating at facing Michael Vick and a seemingly lost Eagles outfit — Shanahan suddenly needs to play his back-to-the-wall motivational card. Because clearly handling prosperity didn’t work.
From 1 p.m. last Sunday, prior to the kickoff vs. the Eagles to 4:24 p.m. Sunday here, the Redskins have lost so much more than two games. Also gone: five starters on offense, some out with injuries that may last the season; a cocksure defense, which has now given up 829 yards in back-to-back weeks; yes, Fred Davis, swagger; and, finally, any indication that the Redskins resemble what London Fletcher called “a special year and a special team” after their impressive opener against the Giants.
John Beck was competent in his first start in four years at quarterback. He put up a few nice move-the-chains drives, mixed with some growing pains and the occasional botched opportunity. Once inside the 20-yard-line on a third-down play, Beck never looked toward Anthony Armstrong, who was as wide open as the FedEx Field green lot in January.
But he was overshadowed by Newton, who was accurate and savvy for a rookie going up against a Jim Haslett-coached, aggressive defense.
There was this play at the end of the third quarter, a second and 17 from the Carolina 28-yard-line. Newton threw a beautiful out pattern to a stretched-out Steve Smith on the right sideline — for 18 yards and a first down.