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5 Takeaways: Redskins-Panthers

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Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' Week 15 game against the Carolina Panthers that took place at FedExField in Landover, Md.


1. The Redskins slipped up with an opportunity to take control of the final wild card spot with just two games to play.
After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, the Redskins were back in the driver's seat for the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC.

With three games remaining – including Monday night's return to FedExField – Washington had an opportunity to get a slight head up on the competition for that final seed.

But the Redskins had an all-around frustrating performance against the Panthers, falling by a final of 26-15 in a game that they never had a lead in.

"It's very disappointing," Redskins defensive end Chris Baker said. "A lot of times we just felt like we were just remedial on offense and defense, which was like, 'Why are we not putting this stuff together?' It's like, 'We're too good to be playing like this on the national stage.'

"We've got to find a way to be better, situational football, four minutes to go and we're on the field on defense, we can't keep allowing teams to run the ball all the way down the field and settle for a field goal or whatever."

The Redskins got into striking distance in the fourth quarter following two Dustin Hopkins field goal conversions. But the score wouldn't get closer than eight before the Panthers drove 48 yards to extend their lead to 11 with less than two minutes remaining.

The offense, meanwhile, found the end zone just one time on the evening.

"Obviously we wanted to take advantage and we knew what that spot we had got, not with us losing and winning games, but we didn't do it," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "So like I said, we can't even talk about that. Now we're once again in the same position we was at before the game [on Sunday] when the Bucs lost. Guess we just take care of what we need to take care of and win."

2. Josh Norman was happy to see old teammates, but wasn't pleased with the final outcome. Now he's focused on the BearsDuring pregame warmups, Norman – a former Carolina Panther of four seasons – got to see some of his former teammates for the first time since his franchise tag was rescinded in April.

Check out the top images from the Washington Redskins' offense in their 2016 Week 15 matchup against the Carolina Panthers Dec. 19, 2016, at FedExField.

There were happy stories and hugs exchanged, but once the ball was in the air, Norman was focused on the Redskins getting another win in their pursuit of a playoff spot.

Norman had his moments on defense – he nearly had a diving interception on a deep third down throw – but the defense's collective performance wasn't enough to slow down Cam Newton and Co.

"You've got to tip your hats off to them," Norman said. "Definitely thank God for us coming out here and preparing and to play this game and no real major injuries, I'm know we probably had a concussion here or there, but just got to take an understanding and knowing that we have an opportunity to do the things that we're taught to do, we just got to go out there and execute to best our abilities and just didn't have enough of those plays."

Norman finished the game with seven combined tackles and a pass defensed while mixing his coverage between Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr.

"Not going to sit here and wallow in this," Norman said. "They beat us, they beat us. I don't know what else more there is to say about it. They're the victors today. Now, going to get ready for Chicago, they on our schedule on Saturday. Can't sit right here and worry about what we did wrong here. It's hogwash, got to ready for the next opponent, got to be prepared cause I guarantee one thing, Chicago don't care. They don't' care."

3. Washington struggled to run the ball against a stout defensive front.
The Redskins knew going into Monday night's game that running the ball against Carolina's defense would be tough, as the Panthers had allowed just 3.7 yards per carry to opposing runners.

After falling into an early 3-0 hole in the first quarter and then down 13-3 early in the next frame, Washington had to go more pass-heavy than they liked. It was a situation that continued throughout the evening when the Redskins fought for multiple comeback attempts.

But even when the Redskins had opportunities to run the ball, they couldn't get any traction.

Between Chris Thompson, Robert Kelley and Kirk Cousins, the Redskins managed just 29 rushing yards on 13 carries.

"[We were] down basically the whole game," tackle Trent Williams said. "We weren't in position to run the ball. [Carolina] did a good job when we did run the ball. Obviously it's tough to get it going when we had [13] attempts in four quarters."

And on the runs the Redskins did have, there were a few that were "mistargeted" according to head coach Jay Gruden.

"We've got to look at our running game and try to figure out ways to get [Kelley] more involved," Gruden said. "That's part of the issue. We had second-and-10 or 11 probably five, six, or seven times at least. Try to get half of it back, we got half of it back and we're stuck at third and four, which we're usually pretty good at throughout the year but we weren't good today."

4. The passing game had its opportunities, but they weren't able to produce any touchdowns.
On a night in which the Redskins were forced into passing situations, drops and off-target throws kept a usually potent group at bay.

Not only did Kirk Cousins throw an interception that would be turned into points, but the receivers struggled keeping possession of the ball.

"We had some uncharacteristic drops and some misses on some third down and two to three," Gruden said. "Some very makeable third down and twos. We missed a guy in the flat, we overthrow a guy, and then we drop a ball on the sideline."

While Cousins would finish the game with more than 300 yards once again, he didn't throw a touchdown pass for only the second time this season. They also were just 1-of-3 in red zone appearances and 2-of-12 on third down.

"Each time we're down there it has a different reason, so it's not just one thing, but whether it's a penalty or we just didn't execute or just missed an opportunity, whatever it may be, those yards are precious as you get close to the end zone," Cousins said.

5. Slowed by a shoulder injury, Jordan Reed's tough night ended early.

Check out behind the scenes images from Tight End, Jordan Reed's 2016 Redskins Photo Shoot.

Through three quarters of play, Reed – who entered the game questionable as he continues to deal with a Grade 3 shoulder separation – managed just one catch for six yards before an uncharacteristic moment resulted in a 15-yard penalty and an ejection.

On a 1st-and-goal play from the 10-yard line with just seconds left in the third quarter, Reed got tangled with Panthers safety Kurt Coleman on a running play.

After the conclusion of the play, the two briefly exchanged words – with Coleman holding the tight end's facemask -- before Reed threw a fist at Coleman's helmet.

Reed would be assessed an unnecessary roughness penalty and would be disqualified for the remainder of the game.

"I think he has it figured out, just made a mental mistake, heat of the moment," Jackson said. "I can't go into his brain what he was thinking, but things happen. I've been in a situation like that where you kind of let your cool take advantage of the moment and the situation and that's what happened."

Not only did the penalty set the Redskins back to the 27-yard line on second goal, his removal from the game also took him out of red zone action where he's so dominant.

"We definitely missed him out there," Jackson said. "When he got thrown out the game, we definitely needed him, but you know whatever it is throughout the course of the game, whatever it is that we need him to do, he's always there and he's always making a plays, it's just hard. He's not physically able to do what he's capable of doing because he's not fully 100 percent healthy, so hopefully he'll figure it out."

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