Best and worst moments from the Redskins’ 26-15 loss to the Panthers on Monday Night Football.
Worst nightmare: The words “Redskins at home on ‘Monday Night Football’ ” should be enough to keep you up at night. Washington snapped a seven-game losing streak in prime-time home games with their 42-24 win over the Packers on Nov. 20, but that was a Sunday night. With a chance to win consecutive prime-time games for the first time since December 2012, the Redskins instead fell to 2-16 in “Monday Night Football” games at home since FedEx Field opened in 1997. Washington has been outscored 532-291 in those games, which translates to an average loss of 29-16. Hey, pretty close!
Best imitation of a team fighting for a playoff spot: You wouldn’t know the Panthers were the team with (almost) nothing but pride to play for. With a .0004 percent chance of making the postseason coming into the game, according to the Football Power Index, the Panthers were essentially playing spoiler, and they played the role well.
Worst playoff odds: Speaking of the playoffs, the Redskins entered Monday’s game in possession of the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC and a 53 percent chance to make the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight. A win over the Panthers would’ve bumped the Redskins’ playoff chances to 72 percent. After Monday’s loss, the Redskins are once again on the outside looking in with a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Best illustration of the Panthers’ dominance in one play: Jonathan Stewart abused Greg Toler with not one, but two stiff-arms on a 13-yard run in the third quarter. To add insult to injury, Toler, who was later evaluated for a possible concussion, was called for a face mask penalty on the play. Stewart’s run and the penalty helped set up a GrahamGano field goal that gave the Panthers a 23-9 lead.
Best hope: In a game the Redskins had absolutely no business being in, there was a glimmer of hope, anyway, when Gano missed a 38-yard field goal with 5:37 to play. The miss kept the Redskins deficit at 11 points. A 34-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins with 3:44 remaining made it a one score game.
Worst defense: When the Redskins defense sort of needed a stop, it couldn’t get one. When the Redskins defense desperately needed a stop, it couldn’t get one. Stewart, who finished with 132 yards on 25 carries, ripped off a 34-yard run on the first play of the Panthers’ next drive. Carolina marched 48 yards on seven plays before Gano’s 41-yard field goal with 1:12 to play iced the game.
Best illustration of the Redskins’ struggles in one cheerleader: Kirk Cousins took out a Redskins cheerleader when Panthers defensive lineman Kawann Short shoved him with a late hit out of bounds in the fourth quarter. She would be okay. The Redskins were worse than that.
Worst start to the second half: Will Blackmon’s 14-yard kick return was pretty bad, but it was nothing compared to what happened next. Cousins was sacked and fumbled on the Redskins’ first play from scrimmage and Carolina recovered at the one-yard line. Two plays later, the Panthers took a 20-9 lead on a Cam Newton touchdown pass to Mike Tolbert.
Worst rhythm: The Redskins’ next two possessions of the second half were only better in the sense that Washington held onto the ball long enough to punt after three plays. Cousins finished 32 of 47 for 315 yards, one interception and zero touchdowns. Washington’s offense was 2 for 12 on third down and Tress Way punted six times, the same number of times he punted in the Redskins’ previous three games combined.
Worst frustration: With the Redskins trailing 23-9 and facing first and goal from the Carolina 10-yard line late in the third quarter, tight end Jordan Reed was ejected for throwing a punch at Kurt Coleman. Reed, who is still recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered in the Redskins’ Thanksgiving Day loss to the Cowboys, was in obvious pain after making a six-yard catch earlier in the drive. It was clear Reed didn’t belong in the game, but his 15-yard penalty on his way out ultimately forced the Redskins to settle for a field goal. Reed should consider himself lucky if he doesn’t now also have a hand injury after catching Coleman in the facemask.
Worst coverage: The Panthers took a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter after Newton found Ted Ginn for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Ginn, who ran right past Redskins safety Donte Whitner, wasn’t exactly hard to find. He was the guy standing alone in the end zone shortly after Newton released the ball. Newton completed 21 of 37 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
Worst answer: Cousins promptly gave the ball back to the Panthers when he was picked off by Coleman on Washington’s next drive. Six of Coleman’s 21 career interceptions have come against the Redskins.
Worst reunion: Redskins cornerback Josh Norman almost had an interception and helped shut down Kelvin Benjamin in his first game against his former team, but that’s little consolation after a loss.
Best or worst penalty: On third and nine from the Redskins’ 27-yard line, Newton scrambled and went into a slide short of the first-down marker just as Redskins linebacker Trent Murphy delivered a questionable hit on the QB. The official nearest the play threw a flag, but it was for unsportsmanlike conduct on Newton, who flipped the ball toward Murphy after standing up. For what it’s worth, former referee Gerry Austin told the “Monday Night Football” broadcast crew that a flag should’ve also been called on Murphy. The first penalty of the game moved Carolina out of field goal range.
Best answer: The Redskins’ offense showed its first real signs of life on Washington’s ensuing 89-yard drive, which was capped by a five-yard touchdown run by Rob Kelley. “That’s reminiscent of the Hogs of yesteryear,” ESPN’s Jon Gruden said after “Fat Rob” plowed into the end zone to cut the Panthers’ lead to 13-9.
Worst kick: Hopkins, who made his first field goal attempt to tie the game with 6:18 to play in the first quarter, missed the extra point after Kelley’s touchdown.
Best elusiveness (see also: Worst tackling): DeSean Jackson kept the Redskins’ first touchdown drive alive with a 17-yard catch on third and seven. A pair of Panthers whiffed on chances to bring Jackson down short of the first down and force a Hopkins field goal attempt.
Best record: Cousins completed all four of his passes for 68 yards on the drive, breaking his own franchise record for passing yards in a single season (4,166 in 2015) in the process. Cousins also became the 15th quarterback in NFL history with back-to-back seasons of at least 4,100 passing yards.
Worst time for a drop: The Redskins went three and out on their next drive after the normally reliable Pierre Garcon dropped his first pass of the season on third and short. Earlier in the game, Garcon joined Art Monk as the only receivers in Redskins history with four consecutive 65-catch seasons.
Worst running game: Kelley’s touchdown run was by far his longest of the game. He finished with nine carries for eight yards. Washington had 29 yards on 13 carries as a team. Cousins, with 11 yards, was the Redskins’ leading rusher, which isn’t ideal.
Best catch: Jackson somehow snared this pass from Cousins before it hit the ground and got both feet down for a 17-yard reception in the third quarter. Officials initially ruled the pass incomplete and it’s hard to fault them given the degree of difficulty. Jackson finished with seven catches for 111 yards and two incompletions that were changed to catches upon replay review.
Best celebration: Chris Baker, who has been known to hit the Milly Rock after sacks, opted for the more QB-specific dab after sacking Newton late in the second quarter. Newton didn’t invent the dab, but it was his go-to celebration during the Panthers’ Super Bowl season last year. It was a rare moment of joy in a game full of despair for Redskins fans.
Best certainty: The official probably didn’t need to ask what the Redskins wanted to do after they won the opening coin flip for the ninth time this season. For the ninth time, the Redskins deferred until the second half.
Worst deficit: For the seventh time this season and the fourth consecutive game, the Redskins trailed before their third-ranked offense touched the ball. Six of those times were after Washington won the opening coin flip and deferred. While Washington’s defense kept Carolina out of the end zone, Gano’s 35-yard field gave the Panthers a 3-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Worst start: Cousins and Co. responded by going three and out for a third consecutive game. Unlike the last two games, the first series was a sign of struggles to come.
Worst gift: During the second quarter, Gruden told a story about the time his brother and Redskins Coach Jay Gruden gave him a “dirty rock from the yard” for Christmas. Jon could retaliate against his younger brother by putting a recording of Monday’s game in his brother’s stocking.
Worst absences: Both the Redskins and Panthers were without key members of their linebacking corps. Carolina all-pro and captain Luke Kuechly, who missed Carolina’s previous three games after suffering a concussion in a win over the Saints on Nov. 17, was declared inactive despite passing the league’s concussion protocol this week. Washington was without starting linebackers Will Compton and Su’a Cravens.
Best reading material: Cravens, who could see time at safety when he returns from his elbow injury, spent part of his night off reading about the life of one of the greatest to ever play the position, the late Sean Taylor.
Best footwear: Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois honored former NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager’s memory with a pair of custom cleats during warm-ups. Sager, who was known for his outlandish wardrobe and infectious personality, passed away last Thursday after a long battle with cancer.
Best hat: Newton dipped into his Darkwing Duck Winter Collection for prime-time. ESPN’s Lisa Salters later reported that Newton wore the hat in honor of Sager.
Best anthem: This is how we do it, it’s Monday night, and I feel alright. Montell Jordan sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before kickoff.