By David Rogers. December 1, 2019. CHARLOTTE, NC — Whether the Carolina Panthers self-imploded or the Washington Redskins were able to put a lid on the Charlotte-based playmakers depends on from whom you are soliciting an opinion about the visitors taking home a 29-21 decision.
COVER IMAGE: Except for Carolina’s two opening possesions in the first quarter, the Redskins kept star RB Christian McCaffrey pretty well contained, limiting him to just 44 rushing yards on 14 carries. Photographic image by Bill Barbour for Blowing Rock News.
The Panthers’ two first quarter TD-scoring drives to open the game and their successful onside kick-inspired final drive that COULD have sent the game into overtime were simply not enough Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
That Carolina could not score after getting the ball to 1st-and-goal from the Redskins’ one-yard line was frustrating enough for the Panther faithful. And the sack fumble of Kyle Allen on 4th-and-3 to all but end the game (14 seconds left)…well, many viewed it as only fitting after what they had witnessed through the second, third and fourth quarters.
For most, the obvious problems were in the trenches, in both the offensive and defensive lines.
The Carolina defense allowed one Redskin running back, Derrius Guice, to almost quadruple his previous best rushing production of the 2019 season. The LSU alum now in his third year as a professional rolled up 129 yards rushing on 10 carries, finding the endzone twice for touchdowns.
Veteran RB Adrian Peterson, the ageless wonder out of Oklahoma now in his 13th professional season, was just one yard shy of the century mark, gaining 99 yards on 13 carries, including one TD.
Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, out of Ohio State, may be coming into his own in leading Washington past Carolina. It may not have been perfect, but the 6-4, 230 lb. signal caller was relatively efficient in completing 13-of-25 passes for a respectable 147 yards. He was sacked five times, but threw no interceptions.
For the Panthers on offense, the unit looked sharp on the two opening possessions before, apparently, Washington made some adjustments. Most of the remainder of the game, the Kyle Allen-led unit was under seige. Allen was sacked seven times, none more devastating that the final sack/fumble on the Panthers’ last play of the potential game-tying drive. While a good share of the blame for a lack of production must fall on the shoulders of a porous, makeshift offensive line that has been pieced together after injuries to some of the regulars, others might credit the Redskins secondary for outstanding pass coverage. With his receivers covered, Allen tended to hold onto the ball too long. Even the best offensive line has troubles holding off a strong defensive front for more than a few seconds of providing protection.
In spite of the sack-producing pressure from the Redskins’ defensive front, Allen managed to complete 27-of-46 passes for 278 yards and two TDs, vs. 1 INT. Six receivers got in on the aerial action, all of them for at least three catches and all of them for more than 20 yards. The receiving corps was led by running Christian McCaffrey coming out of the backfield to catch seven passes for 58 yards, and wide receiver D.J. Moore getting open six times for 75 yards and a TD. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel caught four passes for 65 yards and a TD.
Carolina head coach Ron Rivera was obviously frustrated after the game, but defended the Panther players for their effort and competitiveness.
“It’s disappointing,” Rivera said of the loss to a Washington team that has been struggling to find wins this season. “You lose a football game, it is (always) disappointing. (All losses) rank high (in disappointment), as far as I am concerned.
“We all seem to forget,” he continued, “that (Washington) may have struggled, but again, they are paid just like our players are paid. They go out , play hard, and give it their best just like our guys went out and gave it their best (today). And they fought to the very end.”
Rivera hinted that some of the Panthers’ problems are beyond anyone’s immediate control.
“All losses are disappointing…I just think that everybody needs to understand that these guys are trying. They are the doing the best they can. The coaching staff is working their asses off. But you look at the mix of players they have had to deal with, the guys have tried to work with (because of injuries). I think our guys are doing the things they need to do, giving themselves (and us) the best chance to win.
“Are there some things we need to do differently? Probably. Are there things we need to look at and correct? Probably. Are there things that we are doing well and need to continue to do well? Absolutely.
“At the end of the day, there are two teams out there competing. Those guys competed. They competed their butts off. They tried to win a football game and it came down, unfortunately, to the last play. We have had four (games) like that. That’s football.”
That Carolina’s players competed to the very end, even if not successful at the finish, was evident from first a 17-yard TD scramble with 1:51 remaining to tighten the score to 29-21. On top of that effort, the Panthers unveiled a perfectly executed onside kick that gave the offense possession with a short field, the ball recovered at their own 48-yard line.
Suddenly the offensive line that had been so porous throughout much of the game provided Allen with great protection. He found wide receiver D J Moore for completed aerials of 17-, 7-, and 21-yards to lead the Panthers to the Redskin one-yard line, first and goal to go.
Maybe the last drive play-calling was unimaginative and predictable: put the ball in the hands of star playmaker, McCaffrey. Maybe, though, it was just stellar play from a much-maligned Redskins defense that was tired of the criticism.
Next up for Carolina is a rematch in Atlanta with the Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, December 8th. Subsequently, they will host the Seattle Seahawks (December 15th) before traveling north to take on the Indianapolis Colts (December 22). They finish the regular season at home against the New Orleans Saints on December 29th. All games are slated for 1:00 pm kickoffs.