Did the Redskins lose to the Panthers because they came apart at the seams after ending up on the wrong side of a borderline penalty call?
First of all, let’s look at the call that nullified Chris Culliver’s pick six. The rule is Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7. There was no question that Greg Olsen was a defenseless player as he was “a receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner.”
So, the question was if Culliver was guilty of “forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder.” Looking at the replay several times, it seems to me it’s a matter of how you define the “neck area”. Yes, Culliver did hit him high but it didn’t appear that he made contact with either Olsen’s head or his actual neck. But it was kind of close to the neck so I suppose that could be called. However, it didn’t appear to be the kind of dangerous hit that the rule is designed to prevent.
Unlike some of his teammates, the man who was flagged took it in stride. “Whether you think it’s right, I think it’s right—whoever thinks it’s right or wrong, the ref made his call,” Culliver said. “And we moved to the next play just like we move to the next game.”
The Redskins still had a chance to minimize the damage caused by the penalty. After the penalty was marked off, Carolina had the ball with a first down at the Washington 13. On second down from the 11, Cam Newton scrambled around and then fired for wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery in the back of the end zone. The ball bounced off of Cotchery’s hands. Bashaud Breeland got both hands on a potential interception. But he lost the ball when receiver Devin Funchess came in and hit him. That would have made it a tough interception but it was an opportunity nonetheless.
On third down from the eight the Redskins rush got to Newton but he got the ball off in the direction of Ted Ginn in the right side on the end zone. Rookie safety Kyshoen Jarrett lost his balance and fell on the receiver’s feet as he went for the ball. He may or may not have been able to reach it but it was a moot point after the pass interference call.
The Panthers scored two plays later to take a 21-14 lead. Then the Redskins had a chance to respond offensively but two plays into their ensuing possession Matt Jones fumbled after taking a pitchout and Carolina recovered at the Washington 24. Even though it was a short field, the defense had a chance to force a field goal try on third and two but Carolina converted on a pass from Newton to Ginn. Then with another chance to keep them out of the end zone, the Redskins let Olsen get wide open on third and goal at the five. Newton rifled the pass to the tight end for the score. The rout was on.
Did the Redskins get so riled up over the borderline call that they forgot to play football? They were upset but the flag didn’t cause Breeland to lose the handle on the potential interception and it didn’t make Jarrett draw the PI flag and it didn’t make Matt Jones fumble. You could have taken that sequence of plays, stuck it in at almost any point during the Redskins 0-5 skid in games not played at FedEx Field, and you couldn't have told the difference.
While there may be come cause and effect there, to me it just looked like another chapter in the sad saga entitled “On the Road With the 2015 Redskins.”