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On QB Cam Newton’s 16-yard touchdown run, he beat Fletcher to the point of attack after Fletcher froze on the fake inside handoff to RB Jonathan Stewart. ROLB Brian Orakpo crashed down on the play, and he later said his responsibility was the running back. Regardless of Fletcher’s responsibility, Newton beat him to the end zone. LT Jordan Gross keyed a 12-yard screen-and-run to the Redskins‘ 11 yard-line by sustaining his block against Fletcher in space. I had Fletcher down for a few missed tackles, including one on Newton’s early 25-yard scramble.

On the plus side, Fletcher helped keep Newton out of the end zone by knocking him out of midair when he tried to leap over CB DeAngelo Hall in the first quarter.

NT CHRIS NEILD: Neild has gotten a game ball for playing his limited role well in previous games, so he has to end up here when he plays poorly, even if the impact on the game is minor. Two-time Pro Bowl C Ryan Kalil always was going to be a challenging matchup the seventh-round rookie. Kalil’s superior hand placement and leverage frequently resulted in Neild being pushed back when he was in the game. There’s no shame in that. Learn and move on.


The play that stood out to me the most was ROLB Brian Orakpo‘s sack of QB Cam Newton and his failure to strip the ball despite a free blindside run. Because Orakpo was unblocked, he had time to measure his hit and really attack the ball. But he never hacked down on it or tried to strip it. He simply wrapped Newton up. It was the difference between a potential game-changing play and a mere 7-yard loss. Two plays later, Carolina still got its three points.


The Panthers ran six read-option running plays out of the shotgun. They gained 14, -1, 0, 16, 7 and 2 yards. The 16- and 2-yarders were touchdowns. The uncertainty about the quarterback’s option significantly slowed the Redskins‘ linebackers at times.


CB DeAngelo Hall avoided the gassers list because of his touchdown-saving tackle in the first quarter. When QB Cam Newton decided to run for the right pylon, Hall switched into run-stopping mode, shed WR Brandon LaFell’s block and made sure Newton didn’t jump over him.

Hall, however, missed a chance to make a big play on third-and-13 from the Carolina 17 late in the first half. He read Newton’s intent to throw short to TE Greg Olsen in the right flat, so he left his receiver and tried to jump the route. Newton’s high throw was in a difficult place to intercept, but intercepting those passes is why Hall is a Pro Bowler. It’s why he’s a team captain. The Redskins needed their playmakers to change the game on Sunday, and they came up empty.

Hall also surrendered several completions while playing off coverage. Again, Carolina’s receivers got off the line easily all game. Coaches are OK with that depending on certain calls, which we can’t be sure of. But we can be sure that the Redskins don’t want to give up completions and yardage, which is what Newton and WR Steve Smith consistently piled up.


Despite everything that went wrong for the Redskins in this game, they would have been in OK shape if they had recovered RB Jonathan Stewart’s fumble at the 1-yard line trailing 23-13 with 9:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. FS Reed Doughty forced it, and the ball rolled free directly in front of SS LaRon Landry. It’s still rather shocking that he didn’t fall on it. But NT Barry Cofield, who was on the ground, swung his left arm as he turned to the find the ball. His arm hit Landry and stifled him just enough to give Panthers TE Ben Hartstock an opening to dive and fall on it.

The Redskins‘ 15 forced fumbles are the second-most in the NFL, but they have recovered only three. That’s a stat you’ll get to know intimately this week.


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