CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Washington won consecutive games for the first time this season and Ron Rivera got to smile after his first trip back to face the Carolina Panthers.
Cam Newton showed up and showed out, but Rivera's squad got the last laugh and the very important 27-21 victory.
There was a lot to like for Washington fans in this game but perhaps the most important - in Taylor Heinicke's last three games without a turnover, Washington is 3-0. Could another late season run be happening for the Burgundy and Gold? It's too early to tell but it can't happen without winning two in a row coming out of the bye. That much has now been accomplished.
- Best of the best - Terry McLaurin absolutely balled out against the Panthers. He finished the game with five catches, 103 yards and a touchdown. Any time it seemed Washington needed a big play, McLaurin delivered. He crossed the 100-yard mark for the fourth time this season as his star continues to rise across the NFL. There's really only one question when it comes to McLaurin - how fast does Washington work to get a contract extension done when this season concludes.
- Changing in motion - For the second straight game Taylor Heinicke protected the football and made great passes in and out of the pocket to deliver a strong performance for Washington, finishing with 206 yards on 16-of-22 passing with three touchdowns. Heinicke used his feet when he needed to and gives Washington a gutsy flair with the ball in his hands. He's not scared of any moment, and it appears Washington feels that with him as their signal caller. One complaint from Sunday's game is a tendency to hold the ball a bit too long in the pocket.
- Next man up - It's NFL cliche but it's been very true for the Washington offensive line. As injuries continue to pile up on the front for the Washington offensive line, the group continues to play strong football. Against Carolina the Washington offense kept mostly clean pockets for Taylor Heinicke and the team ran the ball well, going over 100-yards before the fourth quarter even began. They finished with 190.
- Not done yet - Two weeks ago Cam Newton was out of the NFL, but on Sunday, he reminded the whole world he can still play. With his legs and his arm. Newton finished the game with 189 passing yards and two TDs to go with 46 yards on the ground and one rushing TD.
- Remember the name - Ron Rivera made two big-time fourth down decisions in this game, and the offense converted both on drives that eventually resulted in scores. Riverboat Ron showed up in Charlotte. Some will question a late fourth quarter decision to kick a field goal rather than go for it on 4th-and-2 in a tie game, but that proved to be the game winner and they added one more after a defensive stop.
- Dumb and dumber - This game saw its share of dumb penalties, and for Washington, they're happening with some frequency. For the second game in a row Daron Payne logged a 15-yard penalty and two Washington defenders got flagged for facemask penalties trying to make tackles on Panthers all-world running back Christian McCaffrey. Payne, to his credit, did get credit for half of the game-ending sack of Newton.
- Cheap shot - Panthers safety Juston Burris blasted Heinicke after the quarterback slid and was on the ground. It was a clear cheap shot and Burris should expect a fine.
- Somebody to blame - Whether it's Washington's linebackers or safeties, nobody could stop McCaffrey. He finished with 119 total yards and got crucial first downs for Carolina all afternoon. In fact the only person that really limited McCaffrey was Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady. How does McCaffrey not get 20+ carries? He had just 10.
- Must stop - Antonio Gibson found himself benched for the entire second quarter after a fumble deep in Carolina territory in the first quarter. Fumbles have been a problem for Gibson this season and while the second-year running back was otherwise impressive in this game, 95 yards on the ground, the fumbles must stop or will keep him off the field. Then he compounded things by running out of bounds on Washington's final scoring possession thus saving the Panthers 40 seconds and giving them a shot to drive for the win. It didn't happen, but it was an egregious mistake that easily could have.