Here are four takeaways from the Redskins’ 23-17 win over the Panthers:
Defense contains Christian McCaffrey: Cam Newton had the Panthers in position for the go-ahead score in the final seconds, but the Redskins’ defense forced three consecutive incompletions from the Washington 16-yard line to turn the ball over on downs and seal the win. Newton’s final three incompletions came after a 15-yard reception by Christian McCaffrey, the running back’s longest of the day. After giving up countless big plays against the Saints, Washington’s defense effectively shut down Carolina’s most dynamic playmaker. McCaffrey had 18 yards rushing on four carries on Carolina’s first drive and two yards rushing on four carries the remainder of the game. McCaffrey’s 66 total yards from scrimmage were 27 fewer than his previous season-low and 64 fewer than his league-leading season average. The Panthers’ top-ranked rushing offense was limited to 81 yards on 18 carries.
Special teams were special: The Redskins are usually envious when one of their placekicking castoffs returns to FedEx Field, but that wasn’t the case in Sunday’s win. While Panthers kicker Graham Gano missed his first extra point of the season, Dustin Hopkins drilled all three of his field goals, including a career-long 56-yarder that gave the Redskins a 20-9 lead early in the fourth quarter. Rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton forced a fumble on a punt that was recovered by Washington in the first half and two of Tress Way’s four punts were downed inside the 20, including one at the Carolina three-yard line just before halftime. Settling for field goals almost burned the Redskins, but the Panthers’ final drive would’ve been even more harrowing had Hopkins not converted on the opportunities he was given.
Josh Norman bounces back: Coming off one of the worst games of his career in Monday night’s loss at New Orleans, a performance that included a brief benching and made him the target of criticism over the last few days, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman responded in a big way against his former team. Norman was responsible for two turnovers in the first half that helped Washington build a 17-0 lead. Norman’s interception of Cam Newton early in the second quarter was Norman’s first pick since Week 16 of the 2016 season and Newton’s first interception in five career games against the Redskins. On Carolina’s next possession, Norman went to his favorite weapon, the punch that his one-time Panthers teammate Charles Tillman popularized, to force a fumble by Carolina rookie D.J. Moore. Norman looked somewhat foolish talking trash to Newton toward the end of the Panthers’ long touchdown drive that cut Washington’s lead to three in the fourth quarter, but he ultimately got the last laugh.
Balanced attack keeps Panthers’ defense guessing: Alex Smith’s final numbers — 21 of 36 for 163 yards — weren’t especially pretty, and he committed an intentional grounding penalty just before the half that cost the Redskins a chance to add to their lead, but the veteran did just enough after a woeful performance against the Saints. Playing without two of his top three receiving threats in running back Chris Thompson and slot receiver Jamison Crowder due to injuries, Smith hooked up with his former 49ers teammate Vernon Davis and Paul Richardson Jr. for first-quarter touchdowns. Adrian Peterson got stronger as the game wore on and helped Washington dominate time of possession by nearly 11 minutes. Peterson rushed for 97 yards on 17 carries six days after being held to six yards on four carries in New Orleans.
Game updates and analysis
Final: Redskins 23, Panthers 17
The Redskins hang on: The Panthers used their first timeout with 47 seconds to play after a five-yard pass on first down moved them to Washington’s 16-yard line. Cam Newton took consecutive shots in the end zone, but overthrew Christian McCaffrey and Devin Funchess. On fourth down, Newton couldn’t connect with Jarius Wright and Washington took over on downs. (Redskins 23, Panthers 17, 0:37)
Carolina is on the move: Coming out of the two-minute warning, Carolina will have first-and-10 at the Washington 48-yard line and all three of its timeouts. This is only the Panthers’ third possession of the second half. They’ve scored on their previous two. (Redskins 23, Panthers 17, 2:00 4th Quarter)
Redskins extend lead to 23-17 with 3:15 to play: Washington answered Carolina’s touchdown with a long scoring drive of its own, but Washington was forced to settle for a 29-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal after Alex Smith’s third-down pass was batted at the line of scrimmage. Adrian Peterson, who is up to 97 yards rushing on the day, had runs of 10 and 12 yards on the latest drive, which burned more than five minutes off the clock. It’ll be up to the Redskins’ defense to stop Cam Newton. (Redskins 23, Panthers 17, 3:15 4th Quarter)
Panthers answer with a touchdown, tack on two-point conversion: After Washington’s time-consuming scoring drive, Carolina needed a little more than four minutes to go 75 yards on nine plays. Former Maryland star Torrey Smith had four catches for 34 yards on the drive, including a three-yard touchdown catch. Smith was also wide open for the ensuing two-point conversion. According to Fox’s broadcasters, Carolina has never overcome a deficit of at least 11 points in the fourth quarter. That deficit is now three, with plenty of time remaining. (Redskins 20, Panthers 17, 8:32 4th Quarter)
Dustin Hopkins drills career-long 56-yard field goal to extend Redskins’ lead: Washington caught a break when the ball bounced directly to Trent Williams after Julius Peppers jarred it loose from Alex Smith with a crushing blow. Dustin Hopkins capitalized on that good fortune a play later, booting a career-long 56-yard field goal to end a 12-play drive that burned more than seven minutes off the clock. (Redskins 20, Panthers 9, 12:40 4th Quarter)
Washington will take an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter: Brian Quick came into Sunday’s game with one catch this season. He’s got two through three quarters against the Panthers, including one on a third-down conversion that kept Washington’s current drive alive. The Redskins dominated time of possession in the first half and they’re on another five minute-plus march. It’ll be second-and-seven from the Panthers’ 40-yard line when the fourth quarter begins. (Redskins 17, Panthers 9, End of the 3rd Quarter)
Panthers make it a one-score game: Graham Gano capped an 11-play, 47-yard drive with a 32-yard field goal that pulled Carolina to within eight. Newton had 19 yards rushing on the drive, including a 15-yard scamper, and is now up to 34 yards on seven carries. (Redskins 17, Panthers 9, 5:08 3rd Quarter)
Redskins turn the ball over on downs: Jay Gruden elected to go for it on fourth down for the second time in the game, this time on fourth-and-four from the Carolina 38-yard line and after burning a timeout. (The Redskins probably won’t need that later.) Out of the timeout, Alex Smith backpedaled and looked for Jordan Reed along the sideline, but the pass was broken up by Thomas Davis. Brandon Scherff was shaken up on the play and limped off the field. It was a bad end to a promising first drive of the second half for Washington. (Redskins 17, Panthers 6, 10:40 3rd Quarter)
Halftime: Redskins 17, Panthers 6
The story of the first half was Carolina’s carelessness with the ball, as Washington turned three Panthers turnovers into 10 points. Josh Norman was responsible for two of those turnovers, including his first interception since Week 16 of the 2016 season. Alex Smith is only 10 for 20 for 96 yards, but he’s thrown a pair of touchdown passes. The Redskins’ defense has kept Christian McCaffrey in check, limiting the running back to 41 total yards.
Washington fails to capitalize on excellent field position: After forcing a three-and-out and a Carolina punt from its own end zone, the Redskins took over at the Panthers’ 33-yard line with 56 seconds remaining in the half. Alex Smith was flagged for intentional grounding on first down, which moved Washington out of field goal range and resulted in a 10-second runoff. Two plays later, the Redskins were forced to punt. Cam Newton was content to take a knee to get this game to halftime. (Redskins 17, Panthers 6, Halftime)
Redskins’ drive stalls across midfield: Looking for points before the break, the Redskins drove to the Carolina 41-yard line before their drive stalled. A sack on third-and-10 led to a Tress Way punt, which was downed at the Panthers’ three-yard line. (Redskins 17, Panthers 6, 1:33)
Devin Funchess puts Panthers on the board: Redskins cornerback Quinton Dunbar is probably going to appear on the “He Got Moss’d” segment of tomorrow’s “Monday Night Football” pregame show after he got beat by Devin Funchess on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton late in the first half. Dunbar nearly recovered thanks to Newton’s underthrown pass, but Funchess reached around Dunbar’s helmet to make an impressive catch. Former Redskins kicker Graham Gano, who hit a 63-yard field goal last week to beat the Giants, missed the ensuing extra point. Go figure. (Redskins 17, Panthers 6, 3:05 2nd Quarter)
Redskins add to lead on Dustin Hopkins field goal: A sack by Shaq Thompson derailed Washington’s march toward another potential touchdown, but Dustin Hopkins drilled a 49-yard field goal to give the Redskins a three-score lead. Washington has now scored 10 points off three Panthers turnovers. The 17-point deficit is Carolina’s largest this season. (Redskins 17, Panthers 0, 5:30 2nd Quarter)
Carolina commits third turnover: Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore is having a nightmarish first NFL game in the state where he starred in college. After the rookie made a 20-yard catch, the former Terp had the ball punched out by — who else? — Josh Norman. Mason Foster recovered for Washington at the Redskins’ 33-yard line. Norman is having quite the bounce-back performance after what was probably his lowest point as a Redskin in Monday’s loss. (Redskins 14, Panthers 0, 11:24 2nd Quarter)
Holding penalty hurts Washington: The Redskins went three-and-out after a 13-yard completion to Josh Doctson on second down was negated by a holding penalty on Trent Williams. The penalty was Washington’s first of the game. (Redskins 14, Panthers 0, 12:04 2nd Quarter)
Josh Norman makes an interception: No, that’s not a typo. The Redskins’ cornerback, who was benched for the first series of the second half on Monday and faced criticism all week, made his first interception since Week 16 of the 2016 season, a span of 20 games. The turnover came on a third-and-17 heave by Cam Newton that essentially served as a punt. It’s Newton’s first interception in five career games against Washington. (Redskins 14, Panthers 0, 14:04 2nd Quarter)
Panthers on the move as first quarter ends: Cam Newton has the Panthers in Washington territory after four completions on Carolina’s third possession. The Panthers are fortunate to still have the ball. D.J. Swearinger forced a Newton fumble near midfield, but the ball bounced directly to offensive lineman Greg Van Roten. (Redskins 14, Panthers 0, End of 1st Quarter)
Redskins take a 14-0 lead after Paul Richardson Jr. touchdown catch: Washington couldn’t have asked for a much better start. Alex Smith’s short touchdown pass to Paul Richardson Jr. in the back of the end zone capped a 64-yard touchdown drive that gave the Redskins a two-score lead in the first quarter. The key plays of the 12-play drive were a one-yard snag by Jordan Reed on third-and-long, a successful quarterback sneak by Smith on the next snap from Washington’s own 44-yard line and a 21-yard pass to Vernon Davis off play-action on third-and-one. Smith is 4 for 8 for 52 yards and two touchdowns. (Redskins 14, Panthers 0, 3:02 1st Quarter)
Panthers go three-and-out: Zach Brown stopped Cam Newton for a loss of one on second down and the Panthers’ second possession ended with another punt. Newton has yet to complete a pass. (Redskins 7, Panthers 0, 9:16 1st Quarter)
Alex Smith connects with Vernon Davis for 22-yard touchdown: One play after Washington recovered a fumbled punt, Alex Smith found Vernon Davis wide open down the seam for the veteran tight end’s first touchdown of the season. Smith and Davis hooked up for 30 touchdown passes during their time together with the 49ers. (Redskins 7, Panthers 0, 10:20 1st Quarter)
Washington recovers fumbled punt deep in Carolina territory: The Redskins went three-and-out after Kapri Bibbs dropped a short pass on third down, but Panthers rookie and former Maryland star D.J. Moore fumbled the punt return while fighting for extra yards, thanks to a swat by Redskins rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton. Jeremy Sprinkle recovered for Washington at the Carolina 22-yard line. (Redskins 0, Panthers 0, 10:26 1st Quarter)
Redskins force a punt: Washington’s defense didn’t force a single punt on Monday night, but it forced one on Carolina’s opening possession Sunday. Christian McCaffrey gained 17 yards on his first three carries before D.J. Swearinger and Jonathan Allen combined to tackle the Panthers’ running back just short of the sticks on third-and-two from the Carolina 46-yard line. Michael Palardy’s ensuing punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback. (Redskins 0, Panthers 0, 11:35 1st Quarter)
Panthers receiving opening kickoff: The Redskins won the toss and elected to defer, putting Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense on the field first.
Eric Reid continues his protest: Panthers safety Eric Reid continues to take a knee during the national anthem, just as he has done since his days with the San Francisco 49ers and alongside former teammate Colin Kaepernick. This week, he knelt before the game against the Redskins at FedEx Field.
Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder are among Washington’s inactives, so Kapri Bibbs and Maurice Harris could be busier than usual against the Panthers. Wide receiver Josh Doctson, who missed Monday’s game at New Orleans with a heel injury, is active.
Players from both teams made fashion statements before kickoff. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was rocking Washington D.C./mumbo sauce cleats during warmups, while Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger arrived at FedEx Field in a Sean Taylor No. 21 jersey.
Washington Redskins (2-2) vs. Carolina Panthers (3-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m., FedEx Field
TV: FOX | Radio: 630, 980 AM; 92.7, 94.3, 105.9 FM
Line: Panthers by 1
Box score: Updates every 60 seconds here
The Redskins will look to put one of their most embarrassing losses in recent memory behind them and retain their position atop the NFC East when they host the Panthers at FedEx Field. Alex Smith had his worst game as a Redskin in Monday’s 43-19 loss at New Orleans, while the Washington defense suffered communication breakdowns on multiple occasions, gave up too many big plays and failed to force a single Saints punt. Smith could be without two of his favorite weapons on Sunday, with running back Chris Thompson, who leads the Redskins with 26 receptions, and slot receiver Jamison Crowder listed as questionable.
Carolina has won five straight games in the series and quarterback Cam Newton is 4-0 with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions in his career against Washington. Led by Christian McCaffrey, who is averaging 130 yards from scrimmage, the Panthers boast the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense. Carolina tight end Greg Olsen is expected to return from the broken foot he suffered in Week 1.