CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Receiver Jabar Gaffney had two plays to forget in the final 36 seconds of the first half. What began with the Redskins' attempt to try to salvage a tiebreaking field goal before time expired ended with them going to the locker room trailing by three points.
The first was a drop. On first-and-10 from the Redskins' 31-yard line and the game tied at 6, John Beck targeted Gaffney down the left sideline. Cornerback Darius Butler initially had inside position on Gaffney, but Gaffney worked inside him. He dropped the ball, though, around the Panthers' 35.
"John gave me a chance," Gaffney said. "I should've went up for it instead of letting it come down and letting the defensive back come in."
The next play was worse.
Gaffney caught a pass from Beck underneath, but he fumbled after the hit from safety Captain Munnerlyn. The Panthers recovered at Washington's 34. Olindo Mare converted a 45-yard field goal 19 seconds later for a 9-6 lead.
"It was tough," Gaffney said. "They just wanted it more than we did in the second half."
Line gets mixed reviews
Will Montgomery believed the patchwork left side of the Redskins' offensive line played OK. Washington filled three-fifths of its line with new starters — tackle Sean Locklear, Montgomery at left guard and center Erik Cook - because of injuries.
The team ran for 83 yards in the first half but finished with only 92 after having to pass to try to erase a growing second-half deficit.
"I feel like we could run on these guys," Montgomery said. "Whether it was just a guy here or a guy there, it was one of those cases where 10 guys were doing their job and one guy wasn't. Everybody took a couple turns at it. It felt like we were moving the ball productively, and then, for whatever reason, would hit a roadblock every once in a while."
Montgomery thought he played well with the exception of three or four plays.
Cook was beaten for a sack in the second quarter. Nose tackle Ronald Fields lined up over him and faked a pass rush immediately after the snap. That caught Cook's attention.
But then Fields dropped in coverage and middle linebacker James Anderson blitzed up the middle instead. Cook did not recover in time, and Anderson got to John Beck.
Locklear was flagged twice for holding.
Hightower stays positive
Injured running back Tim Hightower delivered a motivational speech to his teammates inside the locker room immediately after the loss.
"What I remind the guys is that we came into the season with one goal," he later told reporters. "We want to focus. Whether we were 6-0 at this point or whether we were 1-and-whatever, we're still in the hunt right now.
"We're going to come back. I don't think it's time for anyone to get discouraged. I think it's time for us to stay motivated and stay hungry, and to just go back to work.
"Regardless of what happens outside the locker room, I know every guy in this locker room still believes in what we can do, in the team that we can be. We've got to show it."
• Backup quarterback Rex Grossman was active but spent the entire game inside the locker room with pneumonia, coach Mike Shanahan said. Grossman had a 103-degree temperature, and the Redskins wanted to keep him out of the sun. He could have played if John Beck went down. Receiver Terrence Austin would have taken snaps in an emergency, Shanahan said.
• Rookie receiver Leonard Hankerson was active for the first time in his career. He was the intended target of Beck's pass that was intercepted in the final minutes. Hankerson appeared to run a different route than Beck expected.
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