Landover, Maryland- The Washington Redskins continued their up and down season jumping out in front and holding on for a 23-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers. The Redskins used their early season winning formula of jumping out to a huge lead then holding on in the second half. Quarterback Alex Smith led the offense to an efficient outing that saw the team jump to a 17-0 lead. Here are my quick observations of the game.
Rushing Offense- The Redskins ran the ball 28 times for 132 yards. The barometer has been set for this team when rushing the ball. When the team is over a 100 yards rushing the Redskins win when they don’t they lose. Adrian Peterson led the way with 97 yards on 17 carries and even when injured showed amazing ability running the football. The passing offense missed Chris Thompson but the Redskins proved that they are a running team on offense.
Defense- The Carolina Panthers came into today’s game scoring 31, and 33 points in their last two games, but the Redskins held them to 17 points. The showing was a complete 180 degrees from their showing on Monday Night. The defense held the Panthers to 81 yards rushing and made the Panthers a primarily a passing team coming from behind. Anytime you make Cam Newton throw the ball 40 times you have a chance to win. The communication was better and the defense played with a much better energy, the defense forced two turnovers in the win If the defense continues to show that type of effort the will a lot games.
Special Teams- Often a forgotten part of the team, the special teams excelled today. Whether it was pinning the Panthers deep in their own territory on punts, or forcing fumbles on punt returns, to converting long field goals, the special teams contributed to today’s win. Dustin Hopkins has shown the ability to make field goals when around the league kickers are missing a high number of field goals. Consistently pinning the Panthers back aided the defense and help keep the field flipped for the offense. Great performance from that side of the ball today.
Play Calling- With a lead in the fourth quarter, the Redskins did not give Adrian Peterson enough carries to seal the game. In actuality, this goes back to the second quarter where the Redskins had chances to add to their lead at the end of the half. On the drive where they failed to convert fourth down, Peterson should have gotten more carries. With the two Panthers turnovers in the first half, the Redskins probably left another 7-10 points on the field. If the halftime score is 24 or 27 to 6 the second half becomes a whole lot easier.
Quinton Dunbar- Dunbar has been out best cornerback this season so far. On Sunday Dunbar had his aggressiveness used against him when matched up against Devin Funchess today. Funchess was able to make some catches today including one touchdown on a spectacular reception over Dunbar. Dunbar is super talented and hasn’t reached his potential. Expect Dunbar to bounce back in a big way.
Second Half Scoring- This topic has now moved to the bad category for the Redskins. The Redskins now have a grand total of 21 points in five-second halves this season. The Redskins only have one touchdown in the second half to add to five field goals. The Redskins have shown the ability to hold on to leads but in a game that is close or tied the Redskins need to get touchdowns in the second half. A touchdown today on that last drive would have effectively put the game out of reach and made the game easier.
Injuries- The offense was missing Chris Thompson, Jamison Crowder, and Shawn Luavao to start the game. Right tackle Brandon Scherff injured his knee and finished the game. Adrian Peterson played through shoulder and knee injuries. The Redskins need to heal on offense and hopefully, those players will turn around next week.
Night and Day- The Redskins continue their up and down trend with playing well this week. They have alternated wins and losses all season and continue to confuse and frustrate fans. Today the team looked energetic and focused today after looking lost and non-interested against the Saints. Hopefully, this does not continue into next week and that will show who this team exactly is.
Dallas Week- The most anticipated week of the season approaches as the Redskins will host the arch-rival Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins have a half-game lead in the NFC East with the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles tied at 3-3. A win with the New York Giants a week after could put the Redskins in the driver’s seat in the division. Alex Smith will need to do what the previous quarterback was unable to, beat the Cowboys at FedEx Field. The last Redskins win at home against the Cowboys was in 2012.