Panthers vs. Redskins: Struggling 'Skins Have to Begin Auditions for 2013

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 4, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 04:  Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers and quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins talk following the Panthers 21-13 win at FedExField on November 4, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

It appears the Washington Redskins have simply lost the magic they possessed early in Robert Griffin III's rookie season. But magic is intangible, while what's ailing the young Redskins is no mystery. In their third straight loss Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, the same old bad habits killed Mike Shanahan's team.

Griffin delivered another ho-hum performance, but it's very difficult to tell if he's becoming less effective as the season wears on because defenses are adjusting or because he's getting less support from everyone else on the roster. 

Mental mistakes again plagued the 'Skins in a loss that probably ended their hopes of returning to the playoffs this season. Dropped passes were a major issue for the second straight week, and the defense was again killed by a back-breaking deep ball. 

The shame is that the much-maligned D kept Cam Newton and Co. under wraps for the majority of the day, but DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson failed to account for Armanti Edwards—of all people—on an 82-yard catch-and-run, setting up a touchdown after some sloppy red-zone coverage. 

It was only the second catch of Edwards' three-year career, but it might have been the difference between a win and a loss. 

So the 'Skins prevented Steve Smith from busting out and limited Newton to only 13 completions, but a lack of focus cost them dearly on one play, and with Griffin no longer able to find that so-called magic, that was all the Panthers needed.

Everyone deals with injuries, but nobody in the NFC East has been victimized by the injury bug like the Redskins have. Without Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis and with no one really emerging to fill those shoes, Griffin's suffering. Opposing defenses have been able to play it safe and focus on preventing RG3 from making game-changing plays with his legs, and he's been held to just 61 yards on 17 carries the last two weeks.

This won't likely change. What we saw early this season wasn't a mirage, but this is just as real. And with Davis and Brian Orakpo out for the year and Garcon a big question mark and the secondary unlikely to improve until—at the very least—this offseason, this Washington team will continue to lose games like these in 2012. 

The apt approach now will be to work on the maturation process and to begin the audition process for 2013. Because while this team has plenty of excuses for its struggles, fans, media and the owner won't likely be as forgiving in year No. 2 of the RG3 era in D.C.