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Five observations from the Redskins victory over Carolina

Five observations from the Redskins victory over Carolina

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.

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Redskins get Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan into Pro Bowl and another 5 to alternate team

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Redskins get Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan into Pro Bowl and another 5 to alternate team

The Redskins landed two players on the Pro Bowl roster in left tackle Trent Williams and outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. This marks the seventh and fourth Pro Bowl honors for the players, respectively. 

Williams has been named to the past seven Pro Bowls, a remarkable feat, and joins Ken Houston as the only Washington players to make seven straight Pro Bowls. He trails only Charley Taylor (8) and Chris Hanburger (9) in total Pro Bowl selections.

After a two-sack performance last Sunday in Jacksonville moved him into second all-time on the Redskins sack list, Kerrigan got named to his fourth Pro Bowl and third straight selection. He has 11 sacks on the season, his third straight year with double-digit sacks. 

Beyond Kerrigan and Williams, five other Redskins players were named alternates to the Pro Bowl: D.J. Swearinger, Josh Norman, Jordan Reed, Tress Way, and Adrian Peterson. 

Many thought Swearinger or Way would make the Pro Bowl for the first time in their careers, but both players came up just short. Things look good for Swearinger to make it to Orlando, as Giants safety Landon Collins made the Pro Bowl squad but will miss the game with an injury. 

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How Kirk Cousins' next two games will directly impact the Redskins' playoff chances

How Kirk Cousins' next two games will directly impact the Redskins' playoff chances

A week after it felt borderline irresponsible to talk about the Redskins' 2018 playoff chances, it now feels completely necessary. 

Sure, you can make a pretty easy argument that this team doesn't look like a postseason team. But the fact of the matter is they're in a position to possibly become one in a handful of days.

And who's going to have a lot of say in whether the 'Skins do advance beyond Week 17? Kirk Cousins, because DUH.

Thanks to Dallas' Week 15 loss, Washington isn't out of the division hunt yet. However, their far more likely path to the playoffs is via the wild card, a spot that Cousins and the Vikings currently occupy.

To take that spot, the 'Skins really need to win out (they could still take the sixth seed by finishing 8-8, but that would take a lot more help). That means, first and foremost, Josh Johnson has to lead the Burgundy and Gold to victories over the Titans and the Eagles, which would have them finish the year at 9-7.

If that happens, the Redskins will then only require one Minnesota loss in the next two weeks to steal the second wild card. The Vikings square off with the Lions and Bears to wrap up their schedule, with the former happening in Detroit and the latter taking place in Minneapolis. 

The Eagles are also a factor in all of this, but Jay Gruden's squad could make them less of one by beating them in the 2018 finale.

Earlier this season, when everything was going right for the Redskins, it looked like a January showdown between Cousins' former franchise and his current one could happen. Now, though, the two squads are vying for the same position. 

So, it's really simple, 'Skins supporters — root for your guys to win two more and root against Cousins as well. This time around, No. 8 coming up short down the stretch would really benefit Washington.

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