Panthers' struggles against the run magnified in loss to Washington

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CHARLOTTE – What more can be said?

The Panthers have had issues defending the run all season.

Those issues were painfully glaring in their 29-21 loss to Washington at Bank of America Stadium.

“We struggled, obviously, against the run,” head coach Ron Rivera said after his team dropped its fourth consecutive game.

The Redskins entered the week averaging 85.9 rushing yards per game. They piled up 248 against Carolina, who had been allowing 127.5 on average.

It’s the fifth-most net rushing yards allowed by Carolina all-time, and the most since the Steelers racked up 264 in 2014.

“We just do have to do our job,” linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “We took another one on the chin today.”

Interim head coach Bill Callahan, an offensive line coach for most of his career, brought his team to Charlotte fully intent on testing Carolina’s run defense.

And the Redskins were able to do that despite falling behind 14-0.

After going three-and-out with their first possession, Washington running back Derrius Guice took a handoff up the middle on second-and-6 and was off to the races for a 60-yard gain.

That was the first sign of trouble for the Panthers. Guice slipped away from safety Tre Boston and safety Eric Reid finally tracked Guice down at the 11-yard line.

It was the longest run against Carolina so far this season, and it set up a field goal for the visitors, who wound up scoring 29 unanswered.

After taking a 15-14 lead, Washington was pinned back at their own 1-yard line late in the third quarter. On the first play of the series, running back Adrian Peterson found a hole and burst through for a 21-yard gain to give the Redskins much needed breathing room.

“That was disappointing,” Rivera said. “We got out of our gap. Again, we have to play disciplined football.”

Early in the fourth, Washington did more damage on the ground. Guice ran for eight yards on consecutive plays before ripping off a 37-yard run where he stiff-armed linebacker Shaq Thompson and was finally forced out at the 1-yard line. Guice then punched it in to give Washington a 22-14 lead.

Peterson later extended the lead with a 12-yard touchdown run where he ran straight up the gut and was untouched.

“We can play hard and still be out of our gaps and get gashed. It’s rough,” defensive end Mario Addison said. “We have to trust each other. We have to trust every man to do their job.”

Peterson, the future Hall of Famer, finished with 99 yards on 13 carries. Guice, the second-year back, finished with 129 yards on just 10 carries.

All of that production on the ground make life much easier for rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who passed for just 147 yards to earn his second win in just his fourth career start.

“They just had a dominant day up front,” cornerback Donte Jackson said. “They were getting the point of attack moved early, the offensive line was getting downhill and creating lanes and we just have to execute and make tackles. I missed some tackles out there, and I know a lot of guys could say the same.”

And injuries sure made matters worse. Dontari Poe’s absence was felt. And when Gerald McCoy suffered an ankle injury, it was clear he wasn’t 100 percent. That meant a lot more action for newly-signed defensive lineman Stacy McGee and it forced defensive end Efe Obada to shift inside frequently.

“This week was completely different because of the players we had out there,” Rivera said. “We have guys I think who are capable of doing some good things. We, as coaches, have to make sure we are giving them every opportunity with the calls that we make.”

As we all know, with four games left, time is running out.

After it was over, the 34-year-old Peterson told the Washington media, “it seems like we found the right recipe.”

Unfortunately, The Panthers defense hasn’t been able to say the same.

View photos from Week 13 as Carolina hosts Washington.

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