- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 22, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Seeing Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen in the flat, Washington Redskins cornerback Chris Culliver broke forward. He banged into Olsen with his shoulder and a portion of his helmet, striking Olsen in the neck and head area. The hit was not hard enough to knock the 6-foot-5 Olsen to ground, but it did pop the football thrown toward him into the air.

Culliver grabbed the ball. He ran down the field with no pursuers, only teammates, then into the Carolina end zone, flipping the Panthers out of the edge of the red zone and into a 20-14, second-quarter deficit. Or so he thought.

There was a flag 80 yards behind Culliver. Unnecessary roughness, the officials ruled. Helmet-to-helmet hit. Automatic first down. They regained the ball from Culliver, then placed it at the Redskins’ 13-yard line. Five plays later, Carolina scored to take a 21-14 lead. That touchdown started a 30-0 scoring run by the Panthers.

Reaction in the Redskins’ locker room ranged from conspiratorial to irritated to dismissive following the Redskins’ 44-16 loss. Veteran Jason Hatcher began his comments by saying the Redskins were outplayed. Asked about the rescinded touchdown, he said it swung momentum. He conceded that one can’t predict what would happen if that play stood. Then, he said the Redskins’ controversial nickname is influencing the calls of referees.

“We’ve just got to check [ourselves],” Hatcher said. “Everybody got to look themselves in the mirror. This is a team sport. We lost as a team. Everybody got to get themselves together, get mentally and physically tougher if we’re going to go in here and win. It’s going to be hard.

“We’re fighting against teams and the referees. It just is what it is. … I don’t know if it’s about the name or what. But, you know, at the same time, we play football, too. We work our butt off, too. Don’t single us out. At the end of the day, it’s the name. Don’t worry about the name. We’re players and we work our butt off, too.

SEE ALSO: Redskins’ series of blunders lead to thrashing by Cam Newton, Panthers

“So, I’m just frustrated with it. We shouldn’t have to be punished for that. Every game, you know, calls after calls should have been made in our favor, but it goes to them. And, it’s just not right. We are in the league, too. We’re National Football [League] players. We got a team, too. We go out there and we sweat and we work hard, too. I don’t give a crap about the name. We are players and we got feelings, too, and we want to win, too.”

Culliver, for his part, was short and direct with his comments.

“There ain’t really much to talk about,” Culliver said. “They pretty much beat us in all phases. That’s why we lost today. Got to come together and get up and going next week.

“I don’t really think about the reversal. They [are] refs, so they make whatever call they want to make. Like I said, we play ball. So, go to the next play.”

Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan pointed to the scoreboard in order to rationalize any thought about the call.

“That call didn’t give them five touchdown passes and 44 points,” Kerrigan said. “But, you do wonder if we go up 21-14 there and they don’t have the ball on the red-zone fringe, like where they had it, you wonder what happens. But, you can’t you blame officials when you get beat by 30 points.”

Kerrigan’s line of thought was seconded by his coach.

“Yeah, I mean, it had an impact, but we still could have done enough after that play, whatever happened, to recover from that,” Jay Gruden said. “Unfortunately, they went down and scored, and then we came back and I think we had a turnover right away and they went down and scored again. Then we had another turnover and they got the field goal late in the half.

“It was a huge deal for us. We talk about it all the time — the peaks and valleys of pro football in a game, in the course of a game, and how you react, and we didn’t handle it very well. We didn’t handle it very well as a staff and we didn’t handle it very well as a team, and that’s what we have to do.”

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