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What We Learned: Panthers vs. Redskins

1. FUNCHESS MAKING MORE STRIDES: Rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess' first career start was a good one.

The second-round pick hauled in a 5-yard touchdown catch (his second score in three weeks) and finished with four receptions for 64 yards.

His best play came early in the fourth quarter when he rose up to secure an impressive 35-yard reception.

"I like routes he ran. More importantly though, I like the way he went after the football, very 'Kelvin-esque' in terms of trying to make plays," said head coach Ron Rivera, referencing last year's rookie phenom Kelvin Benjamin, who is on injured reserve.

Funchess, who started in place of Philly Brown (out with a shoulder injury), didn't make a big deal of his increased role prior to the game, and he wasn't about to say he had "arrived" after another solid outing.

"I'm just trying to make the plays as they come to me," Funchess said. "Don't try to do too much."

Funchess knows he is just scratching the surface of his ability, but quarterback Cam Newton has noticed significant growth.

"I kind of took him under my wing talking to him and giving him that big brother guidance," Newton said. "He's growing up to be the player that we all want him to be."

2. RUN DEFENSE WAS HISTORICALLY GOOD: The Panthers' run defense was impenetrable Sunday. Washington ran 12 times for 14 yards – the fewest total rushing yards Carolina has ever allowed.

At halftime, the Redskins had just three rushing yards. They were running into a brick wall, and when they found themselves trailing by multiple scores, they became completely one-dimensional.

"Anytime you can make a team one-dimensional, it makes our job a lot easier," linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "A lot of that has to do with the offense, too. They put points on the board, and we put ourselves ahead and they had to throw the ball. (Passing) was all they could really do."

The Panthers' ground game, meanwhile, was solid yet again. Running back Jonathan Stewart rushed 21 times for 102 of the team's 142 rushing yards.

"I think Jonathan really is playing at a very high level right now," Rivera said. "I like the way he is playing. I like the way he is doing things. Our guys feed off of his energy in terms of the running game.

"One of the things we have to be weary of is to not overuse Jonathan. It was great to be able to get him out of the game once we got into the fourth quarter and give him a break. But he has been very vital to what we do on the offensive side. Again, to be able to rush for over 100 yards that is big for us."

3. BIG PLAY BENE RETURNS: Cornerback Bene Benwikere finally made the big play he longed for. He's still without an interception this season, but on the first play of the second half, he got his hands on the ball.

Benwikere blitzed off the blind side and hit quarterback Kirk Cousins before he could throw, forcing a fumble that he recovered himself.

"It felt great. Just touching the ball felt great," Benwikere said. "I haven't really had a touch on it besides a PBU. I'm happy and I'm excited."

Benwikere, Carolina's nickel cornerback, started at outside cornerback in place of veteran Charles Tillman, who was out with a knee injury.

He started four games at outside corner as a rookie last year and had rotated outside throughout this season. Sunday was another chance to prove he could handle responsibilities on the outside, and he performed well.

"I was told all week by (people) that I only play nickel," Benwikere said. "Everybody can see that I can play outside."

4. OLSEN OWNS NEW RECORD: Greg Olsen broke Wesley Walls' franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end. He was 32 yards away entering the game finished with 54 yards on three catches.

"It's a great accomplishment," said Olsen, who now has 3,925 yards in a Carolina uniform.

Next up for Olsen is the team record for receptions by a tight end. He is six catches away from breaking Walls' record of 325.

5. KEY STARTERS EARNED VALUABLE REST: Carolina pulled its starters when Washington started a possession with 10:36 remaining in the game in a 44-14 game.

It allowed the Panthers to get some valuable rest, especially considering the short turnaround for Thursday's game at the Dallas Cowboys.

"That's exactly what we talked about as a coaching staff," Rivera said.

View game action photos from Carolina's 44-16 win over Washington.

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