Playing spoiler to Cam Newton’s return to Charlotte, the Washington Football Team defeated the Carolina Panthers, 27-21. Defensive breakdowns allowed Ron Rivera’s team to have an offensive field day as they vie for a playoff bid.
Here are our studs and duds from Sunday’s game.
Stud: QB Cam Newton
Newton’s first start in his return to Carolina may have ended in a loss, but the team’s overall performance wasn’t his fault. The iconic quarterback led the Panthers all the way downfield on their first possession of the game, capping off a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to DJ Moore.
Then, in the second quarter, Newton took a quick 70-yard drive into the end zone with a 24-yard run. Immediately after, the energetic signal caller celebrated on the Panthers logo, emphatically marking Superman’s return to the Queen City. Newton’s final touchdown of the day came on a beautiful, 27-yard floater to Christian McCaffrey, who tied the score at 21 in the fourth quarter.
Overall, Newton recorded 189 passing yards on a 78 percent completion rate along with 46 rushing yards on 10 carries. He kept a clean sheet, too, totaling those three combined touchdowns to zero turnovers.
Dud: CB Donte Jackson
While the entirety of Carolina’s secondary allowed Washington quarterback Heinicke one of his best games as a starter, Jackson might have helped him the most. Jackson gave up a couple of chunk plays to wideout Terry McLaurin early in the game, finding almost no success in one-on-one coverage. Later, Jackson was embarrassed by DeAndre Carter on a four-yard touchdown score, which gave Washington a 21-14 lead in the third quarter.
Despite Jackson’s inability to guard him, the coaching staff continued to place a single cornerback on McLaurin (103 receiving yards) with little help. Also notable is that Stephon Gilmore (finger) continued to play on a limited snap count despite not being listed on the injury report ahead of Sunday’s matchup.
Stud: RB Christian McCaffrey
The one thing that is clear about the Panthers’ offense is that it runs through McCaffrey. The star running back put together another solid performance Sunday, meaningfully contributing in the rushing and receiving game.
Today, that versatility helped him break multiple records: passing tight end Greg Olsen for the fifth-most scrimmage yards in franchise history and becoming the fastest player in NFL history to reach 3,000 receiving yards and 3,000 rushing yards.McCaffrey broke those records through 119 yards from scrimmage today—59 rushing and 60 receiving.
Dud: Left tackle consistency
The Panthers have gone through eight offensive line combinations through 11 games this season. Dennis Daley, the latest player to fill the left tackle position, left the game in the first quarter with a glute injury. That forced rookie Brady Christensen to take his place blocking Newton’s blindside.
The line gave up five quarterback hits and a sack throughout the afternoon. Beyond the numbers, though, consistency along the line is crucial for a quarterback to familiarize themself with a new system.
Stud: DE Haason Reddick
Reddick continues to make his case as the bargain of the offseason. The fifth-year defensive end made it to double-digit sacks for the Panthers today, as he brought his season total to 10.5.
Like McCaffrey, Reddick also made franchise history. He became just the third Panthers player ever to record double-digit sacks in their first season with the team, following Kevin Greene’s 14.5 sacks in 1996 and Julius Peppers’ 12.0 sacks as a rookie in 2002.
Dud: Panthers’ third-down offense
If the Panthers want to win games, they need to start by extending drives into scoring territory. Sunday, though, they failed to extend many of their possessions beyond third down.
The team went zero-for-four on third down conversions in the first half and finished the game at a two-of-nine clip. Carolina is now 18-for-75 on third down in their losses and 34-for-72 in their wins.
Stud: DE Morgan Fox
Fox and Reddick were two of the few bright spots in an otherwise poor defensive performancy.
With just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter and Washington driving deep into Carolina territory, Fox forced running back Antonio Gibson into fumble. Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu recovered the loose ball at the Carolina 10-yard line, preventing Washington from lighting up the scoreboard.
Fox, who recovered a fumble last week, now has two consecutive games with a fumble forced or recovered. Overall, he also pitched in four total tackles with one coming for a loss.