Rapid Reactions: Panthers can't overcome sloppy start

ROUGH start

The Panthers forced Washington to go three-and-out on their first series of the game, but disaster struck on the ensuing punt return.

Rookie DJ Moore fought off tackle attempts and tried to make something happen. and he fumbled the ball away in the process. Redskins quarterback Alex Smith connected with tight end Vernon Davis for a 22-yard touchdown on the next play.

The Panthers then went three-and-out, and Washington doubled the lead with a 12-play drive that ended with Smith connecting with wideout Paul Richardson on third-and-goal.

Just like that, Carolina was in a 14-0 hole at the conclusion of the first quarter.

It got worse for Moore and the Panthers moments later. Cornerback Josh Norman punched the ball out of the rookie's grasp at the end of a 19-yard gain. Washington recovered the fumble and turned that into a 49-yard field goal conversion to push the lead to 17-0.

A rookie moment(s) if there ever was one for the first-round pick.

INCREDIBLE catch by Funchess

Carolina finally got on the scoreboard when wide receiver Devin Funchess went up and snagged a jaw-dropping 23-yard catch in the end zone over cornerback Quinton Dunbar.

Dunbar interfered with Funchess' facemask, but the the big wideout simply reached over the corner in spectacular fashion.

But instead of Funchess' score cutting the deficit to 10, kicker Graham Gano missed the extra point wide left.

Torrey featured as Carolina claws back

The Panthers went no-huddle to cut into the deficit, and in the latter stages of an impressive comeback they went to a guy who has had a slow start to the 2018 season. Newton connected with wide receiver Torrey Smith four times, and the last connection resulted in a 3-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

Newton then found Smith again for the two-point conversion. Smith didn't have a single reception prior to that drive, which cut the Redskins' lead to 20-17.

Final drive

Fourth-and-5 from the 16-yard line. That's what this one came down to in the final minute.

But instead of a second consecutive dramatic victory, it was a gut-wrenching defeat for Carolina. Newton's pass for Jarius Wright was off the mark, and Washington celebrated after hanging on. The Panthers were one play short of staging the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history.

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