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Instant Analysis: Panthers 21, Redskins 13

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Instant Analysis: Panthers 21, Redskins 13

The Redskins have a lot to overcome each week. A struggling secondary. Occasionally spotty special teams. Lack of a consistent pass rush.

The officials shouldn’t be on that list.

On Sunday, however, a crucial inadvertent whistle led to the Panthers’ first touchdown, and the Redskins never recovered en route to dropping their third straight game, 21-13, at FedEx Field.

As a result, the Redskins (3-6) enter the bye week searching for answers instead of looking forward to a second half filled with endless possibilities.

Coaches and players agreed this was a “must win” game. And it got off to a nightmarish start.

Late in the first quarter, Panthers’ running back DeAngelo Williams sprinted down the sideline -- carefully keeping his feet in bounds -- and into the end zone to put Carolina ahead 7-3. 

As Williams scampered toward the goal, a number of Redskins – linebacker Perry Riley in particular – slowed down as they pursued him. As it turns out, Riley and others let up because they thought an official had blown a whistle. On replays, it appeared as through Riley could have tackled Williams around the 10-yard line. 

But he didn’t – and the Panthers seized a lead they would not relinquish.

“In WSH/CAR even though he didn’t step out of bounds the official should’ve admitted he blew the whistle and ball should have been dead there,” tweeted Mike Pereira, the former NFL vice president of officiating.

The controversial touchdown wasn't the only reason the Redskins lost, of course. But it certainly wasn't any help to a scuffling, injury-depleted team that's got little room for error. 

For most of the afternoon, Robert Griffin III (22 of 38 for 224 yards and no touchdowns), Alfred Morris (13 carries for 76 yards) and the rest of the Redskins’ offense couldn’t get much going against the Panthers’ middle of the pack defense. 

Meantime, Cam Newton (one passing touchdown, one rushing) and the Panthers were exactly what Washington feared: A much better team than their 1-6 record indicated. Indeed, Newton connected with Steve Smith late in the second half to give the Panthers a 14-3 lead -- and all they would need to snap a five-game losing streak.

The Redskins thought they had caught the break they needed in the third quarter as trailed they 14-6. Panthers' punter Brad Nortman shanked a kick, which traveled only 14 yards and set up Washington at its own 40-yard line.

But 10 plays later, the drive stalled and Sav Rocca punted.

Newton and the Panthers clinched the victory on their next drive. Newton connected with Armanti Edwards for 82 yards, kickstarting a three-play scoring drive that culminated in a Newton one yard run for a touchdown.

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Trent Williams was definitely not playing Sunday against Houston, but now he might

Trent Williams was definitely not playing Sunday against Houston, but now he might

On Wednesday, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said that six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams would not play on Sunday against the Texans. 

"That's for sure," the coach said. 

By Friday, the tune had changed. Drastically. 

Gruden said that Williams' status on Sunday will come down to the medical staff. The coach added that Williams has to be comfortable in whatever cast will support his dislocated thumb.

As for Williams, he would not say for sure that he's going to play. But after talking with him for a few minutes in the Redskins locker room, it seems like the medical staff will be hard pressed to keep him off the field. 

Williams missed the Redskins last two games after injuring his thumb in a victory over the Giants. Without him, the Redskins offensive line performed admirably, but both tackles Morgan Moses and Ty Nsekhe are fighting through a number of injuries. 

The thumb injury required surgery, which happened about two weeks ago and came with a rough four-week timetable for recovery. Williams is attempting to cut that in half. 

Asked about Williams possibly playing Sunday, Redskins running back Adrian Peterson said he wants his friend and teammate to be smart about his future. Peterson said "there's a lot of football left" but the running back also added that there were situations watching Texans film this week where "it'd be real nice to have Trent out there."

Williams himself said that it must be tough for Peterson, as the two are close friends. Obviously, the running back wants the star tackle out on the field, but he also cares about his long-term future. 

Notes: Redskins K Dustin Hopkins landed on the injury report earlier with a groin injury in the week and the team brought in other kickers for tryouts on Tuesday. On Friday, Hopkins said he was pain-free and planned to "give it a go" Sunday against Houston. 

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With Samaje Perine ruled out for Week 11, expect Byron Marshall to be activated off IR

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With Samaje Perine ruled out for Week 11, expect Byron Marshall to be activated off IR

The main news on Friday at Redskins Park was the surprising return to the practice field by Trent Williams. 

That wasn't the only notable development when it comes to injuries, though. 

During his end-of-the-week podium session, Jay Gruden ruled Samaje Perine out for Sunday's game against the Texans. The second-year back has a calf injury and won't be able to go in Week 11.

As of Friday afternoon, that leaves the 'Skins with just two healthy running backs in Adrian Peterson and Kapri Bibbs. Chris Thompson is on the active roster as well, but he's dealing with rib issues and he's going to be absent when Houston visits.

This means you should expect to see Byron Marshall in Burgundy and Gold come kickoff. Marshall has been on IR with an ankle injury since the start of the year but said he's been healthy for a while now and would be ready to step in as the third back.

The majority of offensive snaps the past few weeks have gone to Peterson and Bibbs, so Marshall shouldn't figure into things too much when the Redskins have the ball. He showed flashes in some spot duty in 2017, though, so if need be, he could be productive for Gruden.

With Trey Quinn already back on the 53, if/when the team elects to bring back Marshall, the Redskins will be out of IR activations. NFL rules stipulate each club only gets two per season.

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