The Carolina Panthers just played their best game of the season, breaking a five-game losing streak by whipping Washington, 21-13, Sunday on the road.
What was most impressive about this victory? How many contributors there were for Carolina. The Panthers' defense, first and foremost, was the key.
It didn't allow the Redskins and dangerous rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III into the end zone for the first 58 minutes. And when Washington did finally score with 1:28 to go, Steve Smith recovered the ensuing onside kick and Carolina ran out most of the clock. Washington (3-6) finally got the ball back with 18 seconds left, no timeouts and on its own 17-yard line, and only got one play off for a loss before the game was over.
The Panthers got a strong rush with just their front four for much of the game -- Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy both had huge afternoons. The Panthers also made a key stop early in the game on a fourth-and-goal run by Griffin in which cornerback Josh Thomas blew up the play by forcing Griffin away from the sideline so the pursuit could catch him. Santana Moss was also no factor for Washington. Give defensive coordinator Sean McDermott some credit for this one.
On offense, it wasn't just Cam Newton. DeAngelo Williams scored on a 30-yard rushing TD. Steve Smith scored his first TD of the season on a tough catch and forced two important pass interference penalties.
Most unlikely of all, Armanti Edwards -- yes, that guy -- took advantage of a blown Redskins coverage and went 82 yards with his second career NFL catch. Armanti didn't score, but he set up a touchdown with the play, which went from one 9-yard line to the other.
The Panthers' offensive line was much better (albeit against a Redskins defense that doesn't scare much of anybody). And Newton scored on a rushing TD, gleefully doing his "Superman" routine before the jeering fans. Two of the Panthers' three scoring drives were more than 90 yards -- the first time in franchise history they have had two 90-yard-plus TD drives in the same game.
The Panthers (2-6) should have won last week, too, when they nearly doubled Chicago in yardage and still managed to mess the game up in the fourth quarter. This time, they finished the game the way a team should.
There were quibbles certainly -- Brad Nortman seems to shank one punt per game, Newton's throws were on and off and Hardy and Thomas Davis both picked up silly penalties -- but that's all they were Sunday. Just quibbles. The main things went right, as the Panthers won for the first time since September 16th.
One other note: According to the "Redskins Rule," which has worked 17 of the last 18 presidential elections, the Redskins' loss in their final home game before the election means the incumbent party will lose the presidential race and that Mitt Romney will be elected president Tuesday. If that actually happens, a lot of Republicans owe the Panthers big. (The rule didn't apply in 2004, however -- that was the one miss -- so Democrats can take heart in that).
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