The Big Headline
Sunday was supposed to be an opportunity for the Panthers to get back on track. After three straight losses, Carolina was facing a two-win Redskins team with a rookie quarterback under center.
Instead, three straight turned to four, and the Panthers fell to 5-7 on the season after the 29-21 loss.
After two touchdowns to start the game, the Panthers were unable to get anything going on offense until the game's final two minutes. By then, it was too little too late. Defensively, the Panthers allowed 249 yards on the ground – 163.1 yards more than Washington’s average 85.9 rushing yards per game.
Sunday’s loss marks a huge missed opportunity for a Panthers team desperately looking to turn things around. Carolina’s odds to make the playoffs were already slim prior to Sunday’s loss, but now, any hopes of advancing to the post season are virtually lost.
Allen’s second quarter meltdown
The Panthers couldn’t have started the game any better.
The offense was moving, quarterback Kyle Allen was a perfect 6-for-6 and the Panthers jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead after the first two drives.
Big plays from wide receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel helped move the Panthers down the field, as well as running back Christian McCaffrey's vicious juke moves, before Allen connected with Moore and Samuel for touchdowns.
If the early possessions were any indicator, all signs pointed to Sunday’s game against the Redskins turning into a blowout.
But then Allen’s hot hand cooled off. After starting the game 8-for-8, he completed just one of his next eight passes and Carolina’s offensive production screeched to a halt. During that time, Washington answered with two field goals and pulled within eight.
Then, late in the second quarter and backed up at the Panthers own 4-yard line, Allen misfired on a pass to Moore and was picked off by cornerback Fabian Moreau, setting the Redskins up inches from the goal line.
After racking up 115 yards and two scores on its first two possessions, the Panthers offense could only muster 23 total yards on the next five drives combined.
Suddenly, things went from a would-be blowout to a two-point game at half – and it was all downhill from there.
A nonexistent rushing attack
It’s no secret McCaffrey is the Panthers biggest threat.
CMC entered Sunday leading the league in rushing yards, and a matchup against one of the NFL’s worst rush defenses looked to be an opportunity for him to continue his stellar season.
Instead, the Panthers running back saw just nine carries in the first half for only 37 yards. The rest of the offense added just two rushing yards before the break.
Things didn’t get any better in the second half. McCaffrey only got five more touches on the ground and the run game never came together.
McCaffrey finished with 14 rushes for just 44 yards.
With a player like McCaffrey in the backfield and a defense that gives up an average of 137.6 rushing yards per game, big plays are destined to break. That can’t happen, though, when the run game is abandoned as early as the Panthers did on Sunday.
Olsen enters concussion protocol
Late in the third quarter, Allen completed a third-down pass to tight end Greg Olsen short of the sticks. While fighting for extra yards to get the first down, Olsen took a scary shot to the head from Redskins linebacker Ryan Anderson, who was flagged for illegal use of the helmet and ejected from the game.
Olsen immediately crumpled, dropping the ball and prompting the Panthers training staff to sprint onto the field. After a few seconds, Olsen sat up and was helped to the sideline before jogging his way into the locker room.
To no one’s surprise, it was later announced Olsen had entered concussion protocol and would not return to the game. With the veteran sidelined, second-year tight end Ian Thomas stepped in to replace Olsen.
View photos from Week 13 as Carolina hosts Washington.