Tarik's Take: 5 observations after the Redskins-Panthers game
Road woes are still very much alive
1-One of the persistent problem areas for the Redskins in recent years has been the team’s inability to win on the road. After Sunday’s 44-16 beatdown at the hands of Cam Newton and the Panthers, they fell to 0-5 this season, 1-12 under Jay Gruden and 2-19 since the start of 2013. In just the last three road games (Jets, Patriots and Panthers), the Redskins have been outscored 105-46. Sure, they’ve lost a lot of games regardless of the venue the past three years. And maybe it’s just that simple; they've been bad. But we know this for sure: if Gruden and Co. hope to capitalize on a subpar NFC East this season, they’re probably going to need a road win (or two) in their final three games away from FedEx Field (at Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas).
Another week, another must-win on the way
2-Speaking of the subpar NFC East, it’s crazy to think that the Redskins (4-6) will be playing for a share of the division lead when they host the Giants (5-5) next week. So far this season, the Redskins have faced two ‘must-win’ type games (against the Buccaneers and Saints). Both games came on the heels of a blowout on the road, and both games resulted in the Redskins breathing life back into a season that was on life support. If they can’t pull it off a third time against Giants, their 2015 postseason hopes will officially flatline. Eli Manning and the Giants, by the way, will be coming off a bye.
Cousins' contract talks look a bit foolish
3-A week ago, the speculation around town centered on the length and value of Kirk Cousins’ next contract. Seemed a little premature at the time, considering he's still looking for back-to-back wins. And it definitely feels premature after Sunday's lopsided loss. Fresh off a pair of NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in a span of three games, Cousins—and the offense he directs—took a big step backward at Bank of America Stadium. The two fumbles weren’t all on him; protection issues contributed on both. But...the ill-advised interception on his third attempt of the game? Bad decision that put his team in a bad spot. It was just his second interception in four games (and first if you discard Pierre Garçon’s bobble in New England), but given his turnover prone history, it stoked some old concerns about his decision-making. For the record, I was told by a league source prior to the game that talks with Cousins' agent have not progressed past the exploratory phase.
Redskins run game historically underproduces...again
4-After being one of the league’s best running teams in 2012 and 2013, the Redskins’ struggles on the ground reached a new low Sunday. And to think, this was supposed to be their strength this season. In fact, their 14 rushing yards against the Panthers marked the second fewest in franchise history (per Elias) and the second fewest in the NFL this season. And in the immediate future doesn’t look all that bright. Alfred Morris left Sunday’s game with a lingering rib injury and Matt Jones can’t be trusted to hold onto the football. Jones’ four fumbles are tied for the second most in the NFL and are underscored by the fact that he has only 90 carries. Adrian Peterson has five fumbles on 208 carries; Frank Gore has four on 162; and Melvin Gordon as four on 129. Jones’ talent and versatility is undeniable. But he’s got to shake a bad case of fumble-itis if he’s going to realize his potential and become the Redskins’ No. 1 running back.
The Culliver flag was bad, but Skins messed up elsewhere
5-And, finally, after watching the controversial Chris Culliver hit on Greg Olsen about a dozen times, it certainly swung the momentum squarely in favor of the Panthers. But I also think there were three plays over the next few minutes that had just as big of an impact: No. 1) Bashaud Breeland's dropped interception in the end zone; No. 2) Jones’ fumble deep in Washington's end; and No. 3) Jordan Reed's holding penalty on a long Cousins run inside the Panthers' five-yard line. Three momentarily lapses in concentration/execution that turned the game. Winning on the road is difficult enough...without all the mental miscues.