By Ted Fleming
It’s a shame the Panthers had to play their best game of the season against a team who was wearing uniforms of their distant past–like all the way back to 1937. So because they didn’t have some old clothes of their own on Sunday, Carolina needed a different kind of throwback, even though it would only date back to 2011.
While the Cats will be hard pressed to duplicate their 6-10 record of a year ago, it was clear this was not the team that had but one victory in their seven previous games. The Panthers have been close in all but one of their defeats and played a terrific half against the Bears last week, however, this was about their most complete 60-minutes of football all year and they were rewarded with an eight point victory in the Nation’s Capital.
The defense keeps improving; Sunday only added to how much, and though the offense stumbled at times, they still impressed. And you cannot spread around the credit without including quarterback Cam Newton, whose postgame press conference will not be dissected nine ways to next week.
Coaching: Ron Rivera took a lot of heat after the Bears’ game because of his questionable kickoff squibs and taking his foot off Chicago’s neck when it appeared they had them down, but it was quite a different story against the Redskins. The head coach was near perfect in his plan against a very dangerous quarterback Robert Griffin III and the third leading rusher in the NFL, rookie Alfred Morris. Coordinators Rob Chudzinski (offense) and Sean McDermott (defense) were also on top of their game. Grade: A
Quarterback: While it may be a somewhat insignificant stat to some, Cam Newton had no interceptions. Why is that important? He had eight picks in seven prior games and on top of that he was making passes at the end of the half with a bloody throwing hand and still managed to keep his throws out of the hands of the opposition. While the numbers (13/23, 201 yards) do not jump off the page, he threw for a touchdown and ran for another, even breaking out his Superman impersonation in the end zone. The one play that may have stunned the Redskins more than any other was Newton flipping a pass from his goal line into the hands of Armanti Edwards that went for a whopping 82 yards leading to a Newton plunge for a TD and a 21-6 Carolina lead. Grade: A
Offense: A few more stats to chew on – Turnovers, none. Sacks allowed, zero. And the most interesting of them all was that DeAngelo Williams was not traded as many had believed. That was a good thing because he scored the Panthers first touchdown. The ground game was balanced with Jonathan Stewart (10), Newton (8), Williams (6) and fullback Mike Tolbert (3) having enough success to open up the passing game. In all the offense accounted for 330 yards with a total of 129 rushing yards, a 4.8 average. Grade: A
Defense: They had allowed just four touchdowns in their last four contests but things didn’t start so well as Greg Hardy, fresh off his three sack performance against the Bears in Week 8, got a little overzealous and went upside Robert Griffin III’s head on a play that should have resulted in a fourth down. From that point Washington marched down the field although it cost Carolina just three points. From that point on the defense was in control giving RGIII fits leading to four sacks led by Charles Johnson (2) and Hardy added 1.5 to his two game total of 4.5. Luke Kuechly led the team with nine tackles as well as six solos. Grade: A
- Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith had his first TD reception of the year in the first half,
- Head coach Ron Rivera threw the red flag for the first time this season at 12:47 of the 3rd quarter and is not 1-1 in challenges as a Redskins; catch was ruled incomplete.
- Tackle Jordan Gross played in his 143rd game for the Panthers, the most in franchise history bypassing Mushin Muhammad and Mike Minter.
- The game marked the first time in NFL history where the previous two quarterbacks who were Heisman Trophy winners faced off against each other the next season.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.