Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at email@example.com.
Redskins’ Loss To Panthers Shows Robert Griffin III Can Only Do So Much
LANDOVER, Md. – It didn’t matter earlier in the season that the Washington Redskins were allowing their opponent to score seemingly at will, or that they were allowing 400 yards a game, or that they couldn’t pressure the opposing quarterback into making a bad play.
They had Robert Griffin III on offense, and in Griffin they’d trust.
On Sunday, the luster of having an exceptional playmaker at quarterback continued to fade. For all of Griffin’s talent, his acumen, his ability, he can only do so much – and that was apparent against the Carolina Panthers.
In a meeting of former Heisman Trophy winners and the pioneers of the option play in the NFL, Cam Newton demonstrated that experience counts, leading the Panthers to a 21-13 victory over the Redskins at FedEx Field.
The loss allows the Redskins to enter the bye week with a 3-6 record – a mark they also held last season, despite the fact that this team was supposed to be harder, better, stronger and faster than the last.
“People are going to criticize,” Griffin said. “They’re going to criticize the coaches, they’re going to criticize the players, they’re going to say a drastic change needs to be made. I don’t feel that way. I feel it’s on us, the players, to make sure that we go out there and play, regardless of what Coach calls.”
Griffin completed 23 of a season-high 39 passes for 215 yards and ran the ball 11 times for 53 yards – a dimension of his game that worked so well early in the season but was de-emphasized after his concussion a month ago.
But he struggled for the second consecutive week with his accuracy, occasionally missing his targets high and behind. His protection was also an issue as he was sacked four times, and it wasn’t until the Redskins went exclusively to the triple-option attack with receivers and tight ends in the backfield in the third quarter that any true momentum could be gained.
Newton, meanwhile, kept the Redskins off balance with his own option attack early, then eased off it as his own selection of designed runs proved productive. He went 13-for-23 for 201 yards through the air and ran eight times for 37 yards, scoring a touchdown both ways.
His signature play came on the first play of the Panthers’ first drive of the fourth quarter when, at his own 9-yard line, he found receiver Armanti Edwards down the left sideline for an 82-yard gain.
Carolina (2-6) was holding a 14-6 lead, but three plays later, Newton ran the ball one yard into the end zone.
“It was a play we had drawn up this past week, but it has been kind of a base pass for us,” Newton said. “It was me going through all my options … Armanti seized the moment and had an opportunity to make a big play for us, and he did.”
The Redskins took the 3-0 lead on a 47-yard field goal by Kai Forbath with 4:20 to play in the first quarter before DeAngelo Williams ran 30 yards for a touchdown four minutes later.
Washington could have taken the lead on the next possession, driving 78 yards to the Panthers’ 2-yard line, but Griffin’s run on fourth down was stopped for no gain.
Newton then led the Panthers on a 12-play, 76-yard drive before halftime that gave them a comfortable 14-3 lead before halftime following a 19-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith.
Forbath made a 25-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, and Evan Royster scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 1:28 for the Redskins’ final points.
Royster’s touchdown came on Washington’s third venture into the end zone on that drive; two previous touchdowns – a scramble by Griffin and a pass to Leonard Hankerson – were called back because of penalties.
In fact, the Redskins finished with a season-high 13 penalties for a total of 97 yards.
“It’s not the discipline,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “We’re a disciplined team. Some of the calls were real touchy, but we can’t do nothing about that. That’s out of our hands. I mean, we definitely can focus in better and trim down on the penalties.”
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said losing a game he termed a must-win earlier in the week means the team is now “playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come.”
Five of Washington’s remaining seven games are against NFC East opponents, though, and nose tackle Barry Cofield said the players aren’t willing to give in just yet.
“We’ve got a week to get away and really dig deep to find something, some purpose, some professional pride, some personal pride, and hopefully guys will come out and play their best football down the stretch,” Cofield said.