Here are my five key observations from the Redskins 23-17 win over the Panthers.
1. Good start
For the second straight home game the Redskins scored a touchdown on their fourth play from scrimmage. Against the Packers it was a conventional four-play drive. Today it was three and out, recovery of a fumbled punt, and 22-yard TD pass from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis. The Redskins stretched the lead out to 17-0 midway through the second quarter before the Panthers got on the board. After doing nothing in New Orleans, it was the solid start the Redskins badly needed.
2. Alex Smith still sputters
While the Redskins started off well, Smith was erratic through the first half. He was good on 10 of 18 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Smith certainly had his good moments, hitting receivers for some key first downs during the Redskins first-half scoring drives. He also had some passes that were way off the mark, even when he apparently had time to throw. Late in the first half the Redskins got good field position after a punt from deep in Panthers territory. But after an intentional grounding flag the Redskins were moved out of field goal range.
Smith continued to flounder in the second half. After the Redskins moved into Carolina territory with their first possession of the third quarter, he threw third-and fourth-down passes late and inaccurate. He did hit a few passes in the drive that sealed the game for Washington but overall his day was spotty.
3. Inconsistent Offense
The offense took quick advantage of breaks, scoring in one play after recovering fumbled punt.
They got a 64-yard drive with a variety of runs and passes on third possession, capped with a two-yard touchdown pass to Paul Richardson. Then, things stalled. Well, they didn’t fall apart down entirely. They could start drives but they had trouble finishing. Several drives stalled in Panthers territory, forcing them go punt, go for it on fourth or, early in the fourth quarter, a 56-yard field goal.
The one constant was running back Adrian Peterson. He rolled for 97 yards on 17 carries, consistently gashing the Panthers defense for solid gains. While Smith was cold, he kept the offense afloat.
4. Defense gets the takeaways
The defense contributed two takeaways in the second quarter and Josh Norman had a hand in both of them. He picked off his first pass in 19 games and later he forced a fumble. The second turnover led to a field goal to put the Redskins up 17-0.
After that, however, they let Cam Newton get rolling and the Panthers got a touchdown and a field goal to make it a one-score game at 17-9 entering the fourth quarter. After a Redskins field goal, they let Newton and the Panthers march right down the field for a touchdown and two-point conversion to pull Carolina within a field goal.
The defense needed one more stop to clinch the game after a field goal made it 23-17. The Panthers easily drove into the red zone. On fourth down and five from the 16 with 38 seconds left, Newton’s pass fell incomplete and everyone was able to breathe.
5. The pattern continues
You know it’s your day when you get three takeaways and your kicker bombs one from 56 yards out after the other team has made it a one-score game. It seemed like a back-and-forth game, but the Redskins held the lead from the get-go. The Redskins continued their up-and-down pattern, winning after a bad loss for the second time this season. They can’t continue this pattern if they are going to contend for the playoffs. But they could only win one game today and they got it done.
They will have another chance to build an actual winning streak next week against the Cowboys.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
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- Redskins vs. Panthers: Good, bad and ugly
- Not a Happy Homecoming: Former Terp star D.J. Moore struggles against Redskins
- Redskins-Panthers: Best moments from the Skins win