LANDOVER, Md. – With his unique ability to escape the pocket and turn a play going nowhere fast into a big gainer, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III can put defenses on their heels.
Sunday, the Panthers defense turned the tables on the talented rookie.
"We kept him on his heels," said defensive end Greg Hardy, who recorded 1.5 of the Panthers' four second-half sacks. "We didn't contain him; we attacked him. We just got after him, like we've been doing."
One game after missing out on the ultimate reward – a victory – despite sacking Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler six times, the defense finally got to celebrate after holding an opposing offense to fewer than 20 points for the fourth consecutive game.
"The guys have worked so hard without getting the result that we wanted, but we kept fighting every week to improve and finally got something to show for it," defensive tackle Dwan Edwards said. "It was a heck of a performance."
Edwards gutted it out on a sprained ankle that made him a game-time decision and shared in one of Hardy's sacks. Defensive end Charles Johnson recorded the other two sacks, and defensive tackle Andre Neblett got Griffin for a 2-yard loss on what was ruled a run play.
The defensive line set the tone but didn't do it alone, as rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly set the pace with 15 tackles. Linebacker Thomas Davis and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn brought Griffin down right at the line of scrimmage on separate occasions, and both finished with nine tackles. Rookie cornerback Josh Norman also had nine tackles, as well as two of the team's six passes defensed.
"He's dangerous," Kuechly said of Griffin. "He's one of those quarterbacks that is deceptive. He doesn't look like he's moving fast, but he's flying. He gets outside the pocket and you think you have an angle on him, and he'll run 12 yards.
"Our defensive line did a good job pushing the pocket and keeping him inside the pocket and not letting him escape. They played great for us again."
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, compared throughout the week to Griffin, had comparable numbers to Griffin on Sunday, with a couple of key differences.
Griffin completed 23-of-39 passes for 215 yards and rushed for 53 yards on 11 attempts, but his longest pass play went for 25 yards and his longest run for 9 in addition to suffering the four sacks.
Newton completed 13-of-23 passes for 201 yards and rushed for 37 yards on eight attempts, but he hooked up with Armanti Edwards for an 82-yard pass play and wasn't sacked a single time.
"I'm a big RGIII fan," Newton said. "His skill set and what he brings to the football field is very rare. I just told him to keep going, keep fighting. It's a long season."
Sunday, it was a long day for Griffin, thanks to the Panthers' blossoming defense.
"The one thing in talking with (defensive coordinator) Sean (McDermott) we didn't want was to give up a big run or a big play," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "For the most part, we were able to keep everything in front of us.
"Any time we hold an explosive team like this to what they got, I think that is a big victory for us."