Every flaw the Redskins had coming into this season was on full display in their 33-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The 3-4 defense was unable to stop the run, a banged up secondary wasn’t able to stop the pass, and the offense was hurt by its total lack of skill players.
Coming into the season these issues were known and if the Redskins were going to win games it was going to have to be by controlling the clock, running the ball, and getting pressure on the quarterback. Cam Newton and the Panthers offensive line made it hard for the Redskins to get any constant pressure and when they did Newton would either escape the pocket and create a play or stand tall in the pocket and deliever a sharp pass down field.
The Redskins secondary is suddenly banged up and the lack of depth is all but too apparent. Steve Smith found himself in man on man coverage, due to the Redskins need to blitz, and had no problem beating whoever the Redskins put on him. Newton showed no fear of the pass rush and was more than willing to take a hit in order to get a pass off. The Redskins were able to hold the Panthers to three field goals in the first half, but the Panthers constant running attack wore down the defense and turned them from bend to don’t break into a sieve.
The last of the Panthers three field goals in the first half shouldn’t have happened. The Redskins got the ball with under a minute to play in the first half and decided to try and march it at least into field goal range, but Jabar Gaffney fumbled a first down pass which allowed the Panthers to take on a field goal instead. That one mistake isn’t what cost the Redskins this game, but it didn’t help, and perhaps if that fumble doesn’t happen the Redskins take the lead or at least a tie game into the locker room for half-time and and don’t start the second half by being overly aggressive on fourth down.
The other big mistake of the day for the Redskins was being too aggressive on fourth down. The Redskins got the ball at the start of the second quarter and looked like they might be able to get a drive going after a 32 yard pass to Gaffney and a six yard run by Hightower. The Redskins rushed on second down and got to a manageable third and two, but were unable to convert the first down. Being around mid-field they decided to go for it on fourth and two. Beck ended up sacked and two plays later the Panthers had the first touchdown of the day.
The Redskins were able to respond and Beck started making plays with his arm and his legs, but by this time the Panthers had all the momentum and Cam Newton had found his rhythm. As Newton matures and can consistently have performances like he did against the Redskins he might be one of the more enjoyable players to watch in the NFL. There is no one like him. He isn’t just a good passer or a good runner. His size and strength give him advantages that make him a dangerous player. In order to see down field he doesn’t have to roll out he simply needs to stand-up, and to evade the rush he doesn’t have to run around defensive players he can run through them.
John Beck is nothing new at the quarterback position. He has some mobility, he can get the ball off in time, and if a receiver is open and he is looking that way he can deliver the ball. John Beck’s main goal in this game was to be better than what Rex Grossman has been in his past two games, and for the most part Beck did that. He had two turnovers, but the first was a fumble when an unblocked pass rusher came on his blindside and knocked the ball loose, and the second was on a passing play where he and rookie wideout Leonard Hankerson were not on the same page.
Turnovers are what the Redskins need to avoid, and to start causing, but all in all it was a good showing by Beck. He showed the ability he has to make plays with his arm and legs, and he had more sustained drives in this one game than Grossman has had in the past two. This was the first of the Redskins three losses where it wasn’t the quarterback’s fault. The Redskins lost because the Panthers offense wore out and beat down the front seven and took advantage of a lack of depth in the secondary.