While dual-threat quarterbacks Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III are two of the most exciting players in football, their impressive skill sets haven't translated into many wins for their respective last-place teams.
In a matchup featuring the last two Heisman Trophy winners, Newton and the visiting Carolina Panthers try to snap a five-game losing streak Sunday as they square off against Griffin and the Washington Redskins.
Selected No. 1 overall in the 2011 draft, Newton turned heads during his record-setting rookie season, rushing for 14 touchdowns - the most by a quarterback in NFL history. Carolina, though, went 6-10 behind the former Auburn standout, and appears headed for an even worse finish this year.
Aside from a 36-7 defeat to the New York Giants in Week 3, the Panthers (1-6) have stayed close in each of their other five losses, dropping those games by a combined 18 points. Carolina was handed another heartbreaking result last Sunday at Chicago, falling 23-22 on Robbie Gould's 41-yard field goal as time expired.
"It's unfortunate, but we have to keep pounding," said coach Ron Rivera, whose team was outscored 16-3 in the fourth quarter. "We have to keep at it. We did the types of things we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win. At some point along the lines we will get that opportunity and we will win. But right now we have to keep the commitment."
Newton completed 20 of 39 passes for a season-high 314 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
"This was a challenging week, not only for myself, but for any Carolina Panther fan that has been following us," said Newton, who has committed eight turnovers during his team's skid. "We just have to come out and keep enduring and keep going and keep going. It tells a lot about the teammates and what type of team you have (when you're) faced with adversity."
Things haven't gone very smoothly for Washington (3-5) of late, either. After suffering a 27-23 road loss to the Giants in Week 7, the Redskins were limited to their lowest scoring output of the season last Sunday in a 27-12 defeat at Pittsburgh.
Griffin entered that game having completed 70.4 percent of his passes to lead the NFL, but he was just 16 of 34 - a season-low 47.1 percent - for 177 yards and a touchdown. Last season's Heisman winner while at Baylor would have posted significantly better numbers if not for 10 dropped passes.
"We lost the game, that's all that matters," he said. "You're judged by wins and losses. I feel as bad as anyone else in that locker room right now."
The Redskins have fallen three games behind NFC East-leading New York, and they know another loss this weekend could prove costly.
"Everybody knows it's a must-win game when you're 3-5," coach Mike Shanahan said. "If you have any chance at the playoffs, everybody understands at the midway point that you've got to start playing your best football or you're eliminated awful quick."
Washington almost certainly needs to pick up the pace defensively. The Redskins, surrendering an NFL-worst 314.3 passing yards per game, are on pace to become the first team in league history to allow 5,000 in a single season.
Injuries to starters Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker and Brandon Meriweather - as well as safety Tanard Jackson's season-long suspension - certainly haven't helped.
"That doesn't mean that we're not going to improve in the second half of the season," Shanahan said. "I think we've got some guys playing in a couple of positions that hadn't played there, and we'll work as hard as we can to change it up for the positive. When you do change six, seven people that would normally be dressing, you're not the same team."
While Washington's troubles could lead to a big day for Newton through the air, the Redskins are also likely concerned about slowing down Carolina's rushing attack. It remains to be seen if they'll have to face DeAngelo Williams, who could be moved prior to Thursday's trade deadline.
"The thought of staying a Panther never really crossed my mind because the thought of leaving never crossed my mind," he said. "In my mind, I'm going to continue being a Panther until told otherwise."
Carolina dropped the first six matchups in this series before taking three of the last four - including a 33-20 victory Oct. 23, 2011. Newton threw for 256 yards and a touchdown in that game, adding another 59 and a score on the ground.
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