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Samuels's injury underscored the woeful lack of depth along the offensive line and the unit's overall weakness. Tackle Mike Williams played right guard in place of Chad Rinehart, a third-round pick in the 2008 draft who replaced Randy Thomas after Thomas suffered a season-ending triceps injury Sept. 20. Rinehart lost his starting spot after only two weeks and was inactive in favor of Williams, who played guard only twice previously in his career.
With Batiste, a journeyman tackle, and Williams in the game and Heyer continuing to play poorly at key times, Zorn significantly pared down the passing game. The Redskins threw fewer deep passes than Zorn and Campbell would have preferred.
On the Redskins' first four pass attempts, Campbell was sacked three times. Overall, the Panthers had five sacks, including two by defensive end Julius Peppers, who broke out of his early-season slump. Peppers also was credited with three quarterback hits.
The Panthers cut the Redskins' lead to 7-2 in the second quarter when Portis was tackled in the end zone for a safety after Peppers pushed Heyer back into the end zone on a sweep play to the right. "Stephon got pushed back a little bit," Zorn said. "Clinton had no chance."
Poor line play again handcuffed the offense.
"It changes a lot," said Campbell, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 145 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. "You're talking about two experienced guys in Randy and Chris Samuels. When they're in the offense, we do a lot of different things. We do multiple things.
"When you got two new guys that's in there, and not a whole bunch of experience, it's tough, especially going against someone like Peppers, a guy that's a freak of nature. It's a tough situation to be in. It definitely changes what we do offensively."
The Redskins had 198 total yards and 74 yards rushing with a 3.1-yard average. Portis scored both of the Redskins' touchdowns but rushed for only 57 yards and three yards per carry against one of the league's worst defenses statistically.
The Redskins took a 15-point lead -- the biggest of Zorn's 21-game tenure -- early in the third quarter on Portis's one-yard leap into the end zone. Panthers wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad couldn't handle Delhomme's pass, and Hall intercepted and completed the long return.
Portis scored on the next play and Shaun Suisham, who also made a 38-yard field goal, converted the point-after attempt for a 17-2 lead with 10:09 to play in the third. Washington's two touchdown drives covered a total of 14 yards.
After a 55-yard kickoff return, it took the Panthers only 1:35 to get a 17-yard touchdown pass from Delhomme to tight end Jeff King. Rookie strong-side linebacker-defensive end Brian Orakpo was burned badly in coverage, and Washington's lead was cut to 17-9. Carolina also got a 45-yard field goal from place kicker John Kasay to pull closer at 17-12.
With a little more than 10 minutes to play in the game, Carolina punted from its 46-yard line. Standing at Washington's 23, punt returner Antwaan Randle El signaled for a fair catch. But Westbrook, moving into position to block for Randle El, was pushed into Randle El by Panthers safety Quinton Teal.
Dante Wesley recovered at Washington's 12. After the ensuing confusion about which team should have possession and coaches' challenges, the Panthers took possession and the Redskins were headed to 0-3 away from FedEx Field.
"What happened was, the two guys were blocking each other," referee Walt Coleman said. "The Washington guy got blocked into his own man, so there was no interference. All we had to figure out was who touched it first. If the Washington player is stationary and just standing there and not trying to block, then he can't do that.
"If they are both trying to block, then he can knock him into him. Because they were both engaged, then that's why there wasn't a foul or anything wrong with that play. If the Washington player is stationary and just standing there and the Carolina player had come down there and knocked him, then it would have been totally different."
Add that play to a long list of Redskins mistakes that could prove costly for Zorn.
"It's another game where, if we don't make the mistakes, we win, and the mistakes we've been making ain't on him," defensive lineman Phillip Daniels said. "I really feel for him. I really do think he's a good coach. I really think he puts us in good positions. I hope he's here."