ReFo: Panthers @ Redskins, Week 9
It seems the Panthers had finally had enough of losing close games. Owners of one of the worst records in the NFL, Carolina had become a desperate team and, as the Redskins found out, desperate can mean dangerous. Led by a defense that forced Washington into five fourth-down attempts, Carolina held the Redskins to six points through the first 58 minutes of play. The offense looked better than in past games too though, with its three-pronged rushing attack playing well. While 2-6 isn’t going to impress many fans, the Panthers are still a dangerous team that could play spoiler down the road.
Washington is also starting to see its playoff hopes vanish. After a sensational upset in New Orleans to start the season, the Redskins have more or less traded losses for wins up until their current three-game losing streak. The offense, and the rushing game in particular, has failed to generate the same success in recent weeks. Washington has a bye next week to mull things over before trying to turn things upside down in the NFC East — five of their last seven games are against divisional opponents.
Carolina – Three Performances of Note
Efficient and Effective
He wasn’t overly flashy, but Cam Newton (+2.4) was a big part of the Panthers’ win. In a game where the Redskins dominated in time of possession, Newton threw the ball only 25 times. He made the most of them, though. The biggest game-changer was the 82-yarder to Armanti Edwards, and though it was blown coverage that didn’t require a great throw, credit Newton for identifying it early enough to make the play. Easily the most impressive of his 13 completions was his sole touchdown to Steve Smith. Facing a quickly collapsing pocket, Newton delivered a perfect ball for Smith to go up and grab despite tight coverage. He made plays when they were available and avoided turning the ball over. Not a lot more you could ask from the sophomore quarterback.
Tackling the Issue
It’s a tough task to shut down a run game with a quarterback as athletic as Robert Griffin III at the helm. But the Panthers did alright, holding the Redskins just below their season average in rushing yards. Carolina’s defenders routinely swarmed to the ball carrier, and it’s a good thing they did. The Panthers collectively missed 16 tackles, often needing a cleanup crew when the first on the scene had failed. Nine different players had a part in that figure, with Dwan Edwards, Greg Hardy, and Thomas Davis leading the team at three apiece. Hardy and Edwards at least got some pressure on Griffin to make up for it, but Davis (-2.5) responded with his worst showing of the year, highlighted by an inexcusable late hit call that would give Washington another crack at a touchdown.
Two-Man Wrecking Crew
They took a little while to get going, but the defensive line that had such a productive day last week in Chicago came to life in the second half. Down two scores and struggling to get much going offensively, Washington abandoned its running game and allowed Carolina’s pass rushers to pin their ears back. Frank Alexander (-2.3 pass rush) couldn’t carry over the magic from Week 8, but Charles Johnson (+3.9 pass rush) and the aforementioned Hardy (+1.4 pass rush) were there to pick up the slack. The duo accounted for 70% of Carolina’s pressure, with Johnson laying a beat down on Tyler Polumbus. Six of Johnson’s seven pressures and all three of his sacks came against the Redskins’ right tackle.
Washington – Three Performances of Note
Having given up 70 or more yards receiving in each of his past six games, you’d be forgiven in thinking that DeAngelo Hall was the one that gave up 109 yards through the air. But Hall (+2.6 coverage) was excellent in coverage, not allowing anything his way to be completed and defending two passes. Josh Wilson (-2.9 coverage) was the guilty party here. The touchdown he surrendered to Smith was decent coverage, but turning Edwards free in the secondary to pick up 82 yards is a huge mental lapse. The Panthers scored three plays later (aided by one of Wilson’s two pass interference penalties). Had they not, Washington could have been a two-point conversion away from overtime, instead of being reliant on an onside kick that was not to be.
Business as Usual
William Montgomery (+3.2) continued to impress, with his ninth straight grade in the green. Other than giving up his first sack of the year, he was solid in pass protection and even better in the run game, relocating the Panthers’ interior line with ease. He saw quite a bit of Hardy and Alexander, but Trent Williams (+4.3) escaped with a perfect day in pass protection (aside from a single holding call). Over on the right side, though, Polumbus (-5.7) had more than he could handle with Johnson, conceding 11 of Washington’s 20 quarterback disruptions en route to his lowest grade of the year.
Rumors of his Decline Have Not Been Exaggerated
He’s had a fantastic career largely shadowed by Pro Bowl snubs, but London Fletcher appears to have found the proverbial cliff, and perhaps even stumbled off of it. His -2.6 grade is the eighth negative grade he’s received in nine games this year. Fletcher failed to record a stop for the first time this season and was generally ineffective against the run. Carolina’s tight ends had success through the air in Fletcher’s vicinity, as all four balls thrown his way were completed for 36 yards. It’s sad to see, but it looks like the 15-year veteran may finally have to think about hanging up the cleats.
– Louis Murphy recorded a season-high 48 snaps, but tallied only four receiving yards, making this the sixth game this year he’s been held under 10 yards receiving.
– Halfback Evan Royster stayed in to pass protect twice, and gave up a hit and a hurry on those two plays.
– After dropping seven passes last week in Pittsburgh, Washington’s receivers dropped six more against the Panthers.
PFF Game Ball
He made life rough for Griffin and came through with some pressure in the clutch. This one goes to Charles Johnson, showing Carolina’s front office exactly why they pay him the big bucks.