QB JOHN BECK: Beck was better than I initially thought. He threw in rhythm, on time and accurately for most of the second half. He threw 25 of his 37 passes after halftime when the Redskins ran play-action off their first-half rushing success and, eventually, had to throw to make up a large deficit. He wasn’t nearly as dangerous as his Carolina counterpart Cam Newton, but he gave the Redskins a chance to win.
Beck had 22 completions and 15 incompletions. Of those 15, four were dropped; two were batted down at the line; one was intentional grounding; and one was the interception on which rookie WR Leonard Hankerson ran a different route than Beck expected. Who knows how many of those eight throws might have been completed, but his numbers could have been even better than those that produced an 80.8 passer rating.
One of his finest moments was an 18-yard completion over the middle to WR Jabar Gaffney on third-and-9 in the second quarter. With good pass protection out of the shotgun, Beck moved OLB Thomas Williams out of the middle by staring down WR Niles Paul, who was running a cross short of the line to gain. When Williams slid to his left, Beck came back to a wide-open Gaffney for a first down.
Beck put his touchdown pass to TE Fred Davis in perfect spot away from LB James Anderson, who stumbled when Davis broke away from him just short of the end zone. Beck’s 4-yard touchdown run was a play Rex Grossman would have struggled to make. All four receivers were covered, and he simply relied on his athleticism to make a big play. He was flushed to his left and outran Williams, who was spying him, to the goal line.
Beck wasn’t perfect, of course. His worst decision was a first-quarter throw to Davis down the left seam that Anderson should have intercepted. Beck later said he initially thought he could fit the ball into a tight window, but his throw was on Davis‘ back shoulder into real danger. Anderson was trailing in coverage and a safety was over the top. He also threw behind WR Terrence Austin on first-and-10 in the fourth quarter because he didn’t set his feet in the face of the pass rush.
Beck fumbled once and was intercepted, but the blame for those lies elsewhere. RT Jammal Brown was beaten on the sack/fumble, while Beck held the ball for a reasonable 3.0 seconds. And coach Mike Shanahan said Hankerson ran a go route when Beck expected a back-shoulder fade. Overall, the positives outweighed the negatives and provide Beck with a decent foundation on which to build this week.
FB DARREL YOUNG: Young’s quality lead blocks were a big reason why the Redskins averaged 4.6 yards on 18 first-half rushes. He knows his assignments and is violent executing his blocks at full speed.
He helped capture the edge by blowing up S Charles Godfrey and then sealing him inside on RB Tim Hightower’s 10-yard opening carry. On first-and-10 on the next series, he motioned from fullback to receiver and drove S Captain Munnerlyn back, helping clear the way for Hightower’s 17-yard gain around the left edge. Young’s second-half contribution was minimized because the Redskins fell behind and called only four running plays.
TE FRED DAVIS:Davis‘ six receptions for 80 yards all occurred in the second half. The Redskins capitalized on their first-half rushing success with some play-action throws from which Davis benefited. His superior athleticism created some mismatches with linebackers that QB John Beck exploited.
On his 7-yard touchdown catch, he ran a slant to the left before breaking back out toward the right sideline. LB James Anderson stumbled when Davis changed direction, and that was all Davis needed to separate. He also caught an 11-yard pass down to Carolina’s 4-yard line despite S Captain Munnerlyn draped on his back and arms. Davis’s upper body strength helped him haul in the pass.
Davis made some quality run blocks in the first half, too. He helped RB Tim Hightower gain 17 yards with a combo block on which he ended up driving Anderson onto the sideline. Davis dropped an easy completion in the second half, but he was one of the Redskins‘ only offensive playmakers in a game in which their shortage of them was exposed.
RB TIM HIGHTOWER: Hightower had one of his better games of the season before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the third quarter. The Redskins‘ line successfully opened holes for him, and he had a good feel for cutbacks. He also ran downhill and got his shoulders squared to the line of scrimmage, which is Hightower at his best. He threw a quality pass block out of play action in the first quarter, which helped QB John Beck hit WR Santana Moss for a third-down conversion. Hightower isn’t a particularly explosive back, but he’s solid in many areas, and the Redskins will miss him.