Washington Redskins vs. Carolina Panthers: Washington Grades, Notes and Quotes
What a difference a week makes. Or a quarter, for that matter.
Carrying over the momentum from their blowout 47-14 victory over the New Orleans Saints, the Washington Redskins went toe-to-toe with the Carolina Panthers at the start of their Week 11 bout.
Then the first quarter ended. Behind a bevy of turnovers, the Skins would be outscored 30-2 over the final three quarters, culminating in a 44-16 loss. The Panthers held a 368-186 advantage in total yards and possessed the ball for over 38 minutes.
Washington's loss extended the team's road losing streak to nine games and prevented it from sharing the NFC East lead.
Moving past the recap, here are the postgame grades, notes and quotes for the Redskins.
Position Grades for Redskins
Following the game of his life, Cousins regressed to the mean against the Panthers. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 172 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Intent on making plays down the field, he uncharacteristically held the ball too long, and the result was two lost fumbles. With Cousins unable to find a rhythm, the offense was only able to convert twice on third down.
Running Backs: F
Prior to its outburst against the Saints, Washington had managed 172 yards on the ground in a four-game stretch. In Week 11, we learned this wasn't rock bottom for the team's rushing attack.
Rookie Matt Jones couldn't build on his performance last week. He finished with zero yards rushing and lost his fourth fumble on the season.
As a result, before garbage time, Cousins stood as the leading rusher with four yards. By game's end, all the offense mustered was 14 yards on 11 carries.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C-
Showing he's fully recovered from the hamstring injury that sidelined him much of the season, DeSean Jackson started the scoring for Washington in a manner only he could. Jackson hauled in a 56-yard touchdown reception.
For the game, he finished with 87 yards on five receptions. Looking at his supporting cast, Pierre Garcon contributed 43 yards, while Jordan Reed hauled in six receptions. Unlike the previous week, the Skins receivers were unable to garner yards after the catch.
Offensive Line: F
The team's struggles on the ground are well-documented. But despite a shuffling lineup, the offensive line had at least managed to keep Cousins upright on passing downs, allowing just 12 sacks in 2015.
Then Carolina happened. A top-10 defense in sacks, the Panthers harassed Cousins from the outset. Their defense tallied seven quarterback hits and five sacks, two resorting in fumbles.
Factor in a nonexistent running game, and the offensive line is more than deserving of a failing grade.
Defensive Line/Linebackers: D
Living up to its dubious ranking (29th against the run), Washington was hammered by Carolina's running game. Johnathan Stewart was responsible for 102 of the team's 143 yards on the ground.
A familiar theme all season long, an inability to get off blocks and missed tackles were the root causes of the front seven's struggles defending the run.
The pass rush did get pressure on Newton early, registering two sacks and three quarterback hits. But once the Panthers countered with max protection, Cam Newton was provided ample time to survey the secondary.
Defensive Backs: D
Newton's MVP campaign has been driven by his team's undefeated record and his ability to hurt defenses with both his arm and legs. Against Washington, Newton's arm did the brunt work—and in record-setting fashion.
Newton threw for a career-high five touchdowns. On the game, he completed 21 of 34 passes for 246 yards. More frustrating than anything on the Skins' part were missed opportunities.
Bashaud Breeland dropped an interception in the end zone, and Chris Culliver had a pick-six wiped off the board by a personal foul penalty.
Special Teams: A
Before you is the lone positive for the Redskins in this contest.
Andre Roberts' 99-yard kick return touchdown was the team's second return touchdown (Rashad Ross) of the year. As CBS DC's Brian McNally notes, this is only the fourth time in team history Washington has registered multiple return touchdowns in the same season.
Important Note No.1:
In the NFL, often times, a team will only go as far as its quarterback takes it. This is especially true of the Redskins and signal-caller Cousins.
Washington entered Week 11 undefeated in games in which he played turnover-free football and winless in contests he failed to secure the ball.
As you can estimate by the outcome and margin of defeat, Cousins had loose ball security in this one. He threw one interception and lost two fumbles, resulting in 17 Carolina points.
This is the type of performance we've seen from him way too often on the road. He's thrown five touchdowns and eight interceptions in such games this year.
This loss isn't all on Cousins, now. The defense had no answer for Newton, and Cousins himself was the team's leading rusher for most of the outing.
Still, with news Cousins is in the preliminary stages of negotiating a new contract, per NFL.com's Albert Breer, this is a trend that should give Washington's brass pause when it comes to signing him long-term.
Important Note No. 2: Injuries Strike Again
The scoreboard wasn't the only place the Redskins took a beating.
A theme all season long, injuries further depleted Washington's roster. Alfred Morris never returned after aggravating a previous rib injury in the first quarter.
Continuing their run of injuries, Reed and Trent Williams both suffered knee injuries, with Reed returning to action.
Ahead of a pivotal NFC East matchup against the New York Giants, it's a given the Redskins need to be at full strength on offense given the current state of their defense.
Williams' status as the only veteran on the offensive line makes his absence the most significant of the three, even against a lackluster New York pass rush. But with fumbles continuing to be a problem for Jones, Morris' injury status is also one to monitor going forward.
Quote No. 1: Washington Its Own Worst Enemy
Road losses are hardly foreign to the Redskins under head coach Jay Gruden. Deep into his second year in charge, he's still seeking his second road win.
Assessing how his team followed up its best performance of the year with its worst, Gruden pointed to self-inflicted wounds and himself took the blame.
"Too many penalties, too many turnovers....this is on me...we need to fix this," he said, per the team's official Twitter feed.
Washington's five turnovers saddled the Panthers with 27 points. On the penalty front, the team was flagged nine times for 68 yards. In one particular sequence, the defense committed consecutive offside penalties, inching a Carolina offense already in the red zone closer to the goal line.
With a five-game losing streak against the Giants already over their heads, the Redskins simply can't afford to replicate similar miscues next week.
Quote No. 2: Playoff Hopes Still Alive
While the 44-16 loss at the hands of the Panthers certainly serves as a reality check, all hope isn't lost for the Redskins just yet.
Gruden said as much postgame, per the team's official Twitter feed. "We're going to bounce back from this and play the Giants...our season is not over," he said.
With New York idle and the Philadelphia Eagles also losing in Week 11, Washington still remains in second place in the NFC East.
Considering the team's woes on the road and against winning opponents—can you say, winless?—this speaks to the ineptitude of the division.
Looking at the schedule ahead, it's more than feasible that the Skins could still win the division without accomplishing either feat.
A home win next week would put the team in a first-place tie atop the NFC east with the Giants. While Washington does have three road games left, none of its remaining opponents sport a winning record—save the Buffalo Bills upsetting the New England Patriots on Monday night.
New York, on the other hand, has dates with Carolina and the Minnesota Vikings remaining.
The Redskins will need their share of help should the status quo remain. But for the time being, any usage of former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora's infamous rant in reference to this team would be premature.