The Redskins are a desperate team entering Sunday’s game.
But so are the Panthers, who, like Robert Griffin III and his teammates, believe they’re better than their record indicates.
There may be some truth to that. At 1-6, Carolina shares the NFL’s worst record with Kansas City and Jacksonville. But the Panthers have dropped their past four contests by a combined 12 points. In any of those games, a first down here or a forced turnover there, and the outcome could have been totally different.
Last Sunday is a prime exacmple of the Panthers' prowess. They gave the NFC North Division leading Bears all they could handle at Soldier Field before Robbie Gould booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired to lift Chicago to a 23-22 victory.
“We do need a morale boosting victory,” Carolina Coach Ron Rivera said this week on a conference call with local reporters. “It has been hard. It’s been very hard for a lot of guys because we’ve come so close and it’s been one thing or another. It’s something along the lines of, ‘It’s got to give.’”
Which is how they’re looking at Sunday’s game at FedEx Field.
There's also a sense that second-year quarterback Cam Newton is to break out of his season-long funk at some point. This season, Newton has thrown five touchdowns and rushed for three; last season, he tossed 21 touchdowns and ran for for 14 more.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Newton said, asked if he’s frustrated. “I’ve been learning so much about myself. Has it been humbling? Yes. But I feel as if there’s things I’m getting better at. I just have to keep growing.”
When the teams met in Week 7 last season, Newton directed the Panthers to a 33-20 victory in Charlotte. Carolina snapped a three game losing streak, while the Redskins saw their season-wrecking slide accelerate. It was the second of six straight losses for Washington.
The Redskins' find themselves at a similar crossroads this time. The Panthers, meantime, sense a chance to make good on some opportunities they've let slip.
“Every time you play is an opportunity to win and that’s how we have to look at it,” Rivera said. "This is an opportunity for us to go out and play well and hopefully get the win."