Cam Newton Beats RGIII: Washington's Biggest Winners and Losers vs. Carolina
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All eyes were focused on Carolina's Cam Newton and Washington's Robert Griffin III Sunday, as two of the NFL's youngest and most dynamic signal-callers led their teams into action at Fed Ex Field. But when all was said and done, Cam led the Panthers to a 21-13 win over the Redskins, with a mistake-free performance that was highlighted by a touchdown run.
Washington (3-6) was also stymied by a pair of Carolina players who were actually on the trading block last week.
As late as Thursday, rumors swirled about the future of Panthers receiver Steve Smith and running back DeAngelo Williams (per Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer). But both men suited up and scored against the Redskins, after Carolina (2-6) turned down multiple offers for their services.
There was one good statistic that came out of Washington's defeat. Early in the second half, Griffin and sixth-round draft choice Alfred Morris became the first rookie quarterback/running back combination to reach 500 yards rushing. That feat had never been accomplished before in NFL history.
To view Washington's winners and losers from Sunday's game, please continue reading our featured slideshow, which ends with a statistic that may surprise followers of Tuesday's Presidential election.
Biggest Winner No. 1: RB Alfred Morris
Morris rocked the Redskins' 1937 throwback uniforms. (Brad Mills/US Presswire)
The Redskins lost their third consecutive game, but Alfred Morris was not to blame. Washington's rookie runner rambled like a madman in the first half, with 54 yards on 11 carries. His highlight play was an 18-yarder that left would-be tacklers in his path.
Morris then burst out to a second 18-yard gallop on his first carry of the second half. Fred left the game at one point, after suffering a wicked shot to the head. But the ex-Florida Atlantic star returned to action to total 76 yards on the ground.
When Washington falls behind, Morris loses touches because the Redskins don't utilize him in the passing game. But the team's coaching staff should reevaluate that strategy.
Backup running back Evan Royster scored Washington's loan touchdown on a two-yard run in the final frame. But there is no excuse to limit Morris to just two rushes in the second half, especially when his first one was so impressive.
Perhaps, if the coaching staff gave him a chance to catch the football, Morris could match or better Royster's three catches for 30 yards.
Biggest Winner No. 2: Washington's Pass-Catchers
Josh Morgan showed toughness in Washington's loss.
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The pressure was on Washington's wide receivers Sunday, due in part to 10 drops a week ago against Pittsburgh. But, the unit's morale took another hit when more news was released about the health of free-agent acquisition Pierre Garcon.
According to CBS' Jason La Canfora, via NFL.com, Garcon could be shut down for the season if his foot injury doesn't improve by the end of the Redskins' Week 10 bye.
To make matters worse, Washington finished Sunday's game without veteran Santana Moss, who sustained a fourth-quarter head injury.
In an interesting development, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan made it known that he intends to give second-year pro Aldrick Robinson more reps because of his blazing speed. Robinson went on to catch one short pass for six yards. So much for that idea.
Robinson started the game over Leonard Hankerson, but it was Hankerson who stepped up. The second-year split end looked unusually comfortable in his role, with three catches for 49 yards, including one that went for 25.
A tip of the hat should also go out to Josh Morgan. Morgan played with passion and looked good on a nine-yard option run. He also hauled in six passes from Griffin for 46 yards.
With five more catches (for 59 yards) by tight end Logan Paulsen, Washington's pass-catchers should be commended for a much better showing this week.
Biggest Winner No. 3: QB Robert Griffin III
Griffin sustained heavy pressure in the second half. (AP)
Prior to Sunday's contest, some surprising quotes came from the mouths of Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, who refused to compare themselves to each other. But once they took the field, there was no hiding the similarities in their athleticism and the play calls designed for them.
Both signal-callers have the arm strength to stand in the pocket and fire downfield, but their offensive systems are based on bootlegs, options and strong running games that set up the pass.
Neither of them had a superior performance, but Newton came out ahead on the scoreboard, and that's all that mattered for Carolina.
RGIII makes our Redskins' list of winners because he overcame a so-so first half to play admirably in the second. He also did not turn the ball over against a defense that entered the game ranked 15th in the NFL.
Griffin was held scoreless on the ground and through the air, but it wasn't due to a lack of effort. According to Mike Jones of The Washington Post, he even sustained a rib injury that required x-rays after the game. Fortunately for Washington, the results of Griffin's test were negative.
Down 7-3, RGIII did all he could to score on a fourth-down quarterback sweep from inside the two. But Carolina's defensive front contained the play to the outside and left Griffin with no room to run.
I fault Kyle Shanahan's play call more than Griffin's inability to capitalize. The odds of scoring would have been better if Washington ran off-tackle with Morris or threw a high-percentage pass to a tall target like 6'5" tight end Logan Paulsen.
Griffin completed 10-of-15 passes for just 74 yards in the first half, but he finished the game strong, with 215 yards on 39 attempts. He also chipped in 53 yards on 11 carries.
Griffin actually ran for a score and threw for another, but both were overturned due to penalties.
In comparison, Cam Newton's numbers looked like this: 13-of-23 for 201 yards and one touchdown pass. He also scored on a one-yard run and gained 37 yards on eight rushes. Like Griffin, Newton did not throw an interception.
Biggest Loser No. 2: Washington's Offensive Line
DT Andre Neblett took advantage of holes in the O-line. (CSN Washington)
Washington's offensive line has had issues with consistency this season.
After giving up six sacks in the first half of last week's loss to Pittsburgh, the unit actually went four straight quarters without allowing a single one. But, that all changed in the second half against a Carolina team that snapped a five-game losing streak.
Led by defensive end Charles Johnson, the Panthers got to RGIII four times in all, as Washington's offensive line collapsed under relentless pressure.
Johnson mauled RGIII on his second pass attempt of the third quarter. He then dropped Griffin again, on RGIII's first attempt of the fourth. Defensive tackles Greg Hardy and Dwan Edwards chipped in on two more sacks, and Griffin was left battered and bruised.
Washington center Will Montgomery added insult to injury, when he was caught holding on a touchdown run by Griffin with just over two minutes to play in the game. Fortunately for the Redskins, they made up for it a couple of plays later when Evan Royster punched the ball in for his first touchdown run of the year.
The score came after the Panthers were penalized for roughing up Griffin and following the reversal of Leonard Hankerson's touchdown catch. Hankerson's score was negated when he and Josh Morgan were flagged for lining up together on the left side line of scrimmage.
Carolina's pass-rush success was telling because they pressured Griffin with just four down linemen throughout the game.
Biggest Loser No. 3: Washington's Secondary
Steve Smith outdueled Josh Wilson for a 19-yard score. (Nick Wass/AP)
Washington's secondary has been a thorn in the team's side all season. On Sunday, it gave an honest effort but failed to stop the NFL's 20th-ranked offense.
The game's final results don't lie. No interceptions, a huge pass play given up and more unnecessary arguing with the refs cost Washington another game it should have won.
Let's start with the big play that actually happened late in the game.
Panthers' rookie receiver Armanti Edwards entered the contest with just one NFL reception. But his second snag was one to remember, as he schooled the Redskins secondary for an 82-yard catch and run. Edwards started in the slot and ran wide-open past Washington's zone defense, which looked like it was standing still.
Meanwhile, Panthers star Steve Smith continued to show that he has a lot left in his tank. Just days after rumors ran rampant that he was on the trading block, Smith took advantage of Washington's secondary for his first touchdown catch of the year.
Smith also showed heart and determination, by racing from across the field to flatten Washington safety Madieu Williams. That block allowed Edwards to tack on at least 25 more yards down the left sideline.
Two plays later, Newton scored from in close, and Carolina was in command 21-6, with 12:46 left.
Washington cornerback Josh Wilson might want to learn a lesson from teammate DeAngelo Hall, who was fined after mouthing off to refs last week in Pittsburgh.
Prior to Newton's one-yard scoring run, Wilson was seen arguing with the officials. He debated so profusely, he almost didn't get off the field for the Redskins' goal-line package.
This season, Washington's defense has allowed a league-worst 98 points in the fourth quarter.
Biggest Loser No. 4: Washington's Pass Rush
Cam's jersey stayed clean on Sunday. (Google Images)
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is a former head coach and a respected leader of men. But something has to be done with his unit's beleaguered pass rush, which has been non-existent for weeks.
Washington's defense has clearly suffered since losing linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker to season-ending injuries. Without them, the Redskins appear short-handed, and opponents are taking advantage.
Offensive lines simply key on Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, and with no push from the defensive line, enemy quarterbacks have all the time in the world to find open targets.
Cam Newton didn't exactly set the world on fire Sunday, but his uniform won't need to be laundered this week.
Washington's defense went sackless against the Panthers and over the past three weeks (all losses), it has just three sacks, two interceptions and no forced fumbles.
Consistent pressure causes turnovers and turnovers lead to victories. Unfortunately for Washington fans, the Redskins are limited in all three categories.
Biggest Losers No. 5: Coaches Mike and Kyle Shanahan
Mike Shanahan is now 14-27 as coach of the Redskins.
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Last week, we placed Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on our loser list, after he put RGIII in harm's way (as a receiver) against Pittsburgh.
This week, Kyle's back on it again, but he's not alone.
Mike Shanahan joins his son for a collective lack of creativity against a mediocre Panthers defense.
Aside from some strong first-half running by Alfred Morris, Carolina dominated the Redskins, with a 4-3 defensive alignment that slowed Washington's option attack to a crawl.
Washington's second-half play calls were particularly disappointing. Why did the coaching staff alienate the running game?
Morris totaled 5.8 yards per carry in the contest, but he toted the rock just twice in the second half.
If the Shanahans made offensive adjustments at halftime, they were minor because Carolina's defense was more dominant in the second half.
Washington's staff should have known the Panthers were going to turn it up a notch. After being held to no sacks in the first half, Carolina's defense got to Griffin four times in the last two quarters. The Panthers now have 24 sacks in nine games.
Sunday's contest didn't have to end the way it did.
The Redskins were down 14-3 at the break, but there was no reason to get one-dimensional. By doing so, Mike and Kyle Shanahan gave Carolina an advantage and cost Washington a chance to rally.
Will Obama Be the Biggest Loser of Them All?
A "Redskins' Rule" favors Republican Mitt Romney for President. (CBSSports.com)
On Tuesday, America will make its choice for President, as Democrat Barack Obama tries to hang on to the title he won four years ago over incumbent Republican George W. Bush. But following Washington's loss to Carolina, the odds are looking favorable for a Mitt Romney upset.
According to CBSSports.com blogger Ryan Wilson, the Redskins entered Sunday's battle with a political tidbit hanging over them.
Going back to 1940, a Redskins victory in their last home game before the election has meant the party currently in power remained in power 17 of 18 times.
Wilson added that "the one exception came in 2004, when the Redskins lost to the Packers." Despite Washington's home defeat, George W. Bush won re-election over Democratic challenger John Kerry.
So, will Romney slip into the White House, by squeaking by Obama? Or are the last 72 years pure coincidence?
Tune into Bleacher Report on Wednesday morning to find out. And while you're at it, don't forget to carry out your right to vote.
Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage Takip et: @JoeVersage