4 takeaways from the Panthers’ 27-21 loss to Washington

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

If momentum is an actual thing, the Carolina Panthers seemingly had all of it heading into Sunday. Or maybe it’s not real, because it didn’t do them any good on their bottomline.

Even the homecoming of the greatest player in franchise history couldn’t prevent a painful outcome, with Carolina taking a 27-21 loss from the tough Washington Football Team. Their effort, while admirable at times, simply wasn’t efficient enough.

But, hey, at least we have a few encouraging takeaways—along with some not-so-great ones—from the Week 11 defeat.

Cam Newton looks good in his first start

AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

We don’t even have to thrown in the “all things considered” preface for Newton’s short-notice performance. Cam looked good . . . like, pretty good.

Although he’s a slightly different version of himself—one who isn’t as athletically ignorant with his arm strength nor as physically willing on the run—this version was still impressive. The zip on his throws are present, his touch showed up plenty—specifically on his fourth-quarter touchdown pass to running back Christian McCaffrey—and his legs remain a lethal weapon.

Newton finished the day having completed 21 of his 27 attempts for 189 yards and two scores while adding in another touchdown and 46 more yards on 10 rushes. As old friend and Washington head coach Ron Rivera said after the game, his team was lucky to get Cam before he learned more of the offense—which is an encouraging prospect for Carolina moving forward.

Defense doesn't tighten up enough

AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

One of the many beneficiaries of Newton’s signing was the team’s defense, which finally had some stable quarterback play to help complement them. But on Sunday, it was they who did not complement the stable quarterback play.

Carolina simply wasn’t sharp enough. Washington not only converted on a solid six of their 13 third-down tries, but they were also successful on both of their fourth-down attempts.

That lack of resistance, in part, allowed the visitors to clean up on the time-of-possession battle (Rivera’s favorite!)—35:53 to 24:07. It also helped Washington finish with 369 total yards and zero turnovers.

Excruciatingly enough, defensive coordinator Phil Snow was bested by Washington offensive coordinator and former Panthers quarterbacks coach Scott Turner. He helped scheme open stud wideout Terry McLaurin for a game-high 103 receiving yards and cooked up a clean game plan for the frisky Taylor Heinicke—who connected on 16 of his 22 throws for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

Poor game management emerges again

AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Perhaps we can chalk the indecision up to Newton still picking up on the team’s install, but we saw some indecision nonetheless. And it was concerning.

With the Panthers down 24-21 at the 3:32 mark of the fourth quarter, Newton’s pass to McCaffrey on a 3rd & 7 came up three yards short. At first, head coach Matt Rhule tried to send out his punt unit on the impending 4th & 3. Then, he changed his mind and sent his offense back out.

That would then result in Carolina having to use their first timeout of the second half—one they certainly could have found useful soon after in trying to limit Washington’s possessions.

Again, there may have been some doubt as to how much Newton could do in that pinch of a situation. Regardless, this less-than-ideal moment does not shed a positive light on this coaching staff.

Playoff hopes are still alive

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, the Panthers really could’ve used this one—especially against a 3-6 squad. And even though this defeat stings, the season isn’t over just yet.

At 5-6, the Panthers currently sit in 10th place—three spots behind the seventh and final playoff seed. They’re now looking up at the 5-6 Philadelphia Eagles, 5-5 San Francisco 49ers and the holders of that coveted position in the 5-5 New Orleans Saints.

A run at the division title isn’t out of the question either. Assuming the first-place Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the New York Giants on Monday night, Carolina would be 3.5 games behind with seven weeks to go. Two of those weeks, by the way, include a pair of matchups with those Bucs to close out the campaign.

[listicle id=645279]

1

1