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Panthers 21 Washington 27: Defense collapses as Panthers lose to Taylor Heinicke-led Washington

The defense picked a bad day to have a bad day as the Panthers fall to 5-6 on the year.

Washington Football Team v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The Panthers came into this game following their biggest win of the season last week in Arizona with the hope that it would be a springboard for them to keep their playoff hopes alive. Cam Newton was back, making his first start in Charlotte since Week 2 of the 2019 season, and the energy at Bank of America Stadium was higher than it’s been in months.

The good news is that Newton looks healthy and looks like he has enough in the tank to lead the Panthers on a playoff run if the other two phases of the game can cooperate. The bad news is the defense decided they didn’t want or need to stop Washington from rolling over them, and the Panthers fell to 5-6 on the year thanks to a heroic effort from former Panthers quarterback Taylor Heinicke combined with a dreadful performance from Phil Snow’s defensive unit who forgot how to play defense.

There’s really not much more to say about this game other than the defense really laid an egg today. Cam played as well as you could expect him to, and the rest of the offense was good enough to leave with a win today. It’s unfortunate that the defense allowed themselves to get cooked by Taylor Heinicke, but that’s how the ball bounces sometimes, I suppose.

On to next week where the Panthers will try to get back to .500 with a win over the Dolphins.

If you’re interested you can read a more in-depth recap of the game, broken down by quarter, below.

First quarter

The Panthers started on offense after Washington won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Carolina drove down the field on a 9-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a Cam Newton 10-yard pass to DJ Moore for a touchdown to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead. Newton picked up a key fourth-and-1 conversion on a toss play to Christian McCaffrey that extended the drive and allowed the Panthers to find the end zone. The Panthers defense responded to the offense giving them the lead by forcing Washington to go three-and-out on their first drive to give the ball back to Cam and co. for their second drive of the game.

The Panthers weren’t as successful on their next drive after going three-and-out on their own and were forced to punt the ball back to Washington. After giving up a long pass play followed by an egregious 15-yard roughing penalty, the Panthers defense were suddenly defending inside their own red zone, but Morgan Fox took care of things by forcing Antonio Gibson to fumble at the Carolina 10-yard line and the Panthers were able to recover to give the ball back to the offense.

The Panthers were unable to take advantage of the turnover after going three-and-out on their second straight drive and were forced to punt the ball back to Washington. Washington were on offense when time expired in the quarter, but Terry McLaurin picked up a huge 39-yard gain on a circus catch just as the clock hit zero to set Washington up deep inside Panthers territory when the second quarter began.

Second quarter

Washington continued where they left off at the end of the first quarter and finished off their drive on a touchdown throw from Taylor Heinicke to Cam Sims. Joey Slye nailed the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 13:29 left in the half.

The Panthers failed to move past midfield on their next drive and had to punt the ball back to Washington to put their defense back on the field. The defense did their job and forced Washington to punt the ball back to the Panthers offense. Marquis Haynes came up huge with a big sack to force third-and-16 from the Washington 17-yard line prior to the punt.

The Panthers drove down the field and took the lead thanks to some great throws by Cam Newton and some crafty runs by Christian McCaffrey. The drive was topped off by an electric 24-yard touchdown run by Cam that gave the Panthers the lead, and Cam fired up the crowd by sprinting to the 50-yard line and doing his patented Superman celebration. The extra point was good and the Panthers took a 14-7 lead with 5:52 left in the half.

Washington fumbled the ensuing kickoff but managed to avoid disaster by recovering it. Julian Stanford did a good job forcing the fumble, but the Panthers weren’t able to take advantage of his solid play. Washington took advantage of their good fortune by driving down the field and scoring the game-tying touchdown with just nine seconds left in the half. The Panthers took a knee to run out the clock and ended the half with the score tied 14-14 with Washington set to receive the second half kickoff.

Third quarter

Washington received the opening kickoff and drove the length of the field to take the lead on a Taylor Heinicke touchdown pass to DeAndre Carter on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. The extra point was good and Washington took a 21-14 lead over the Panthers with 9:21 left in the quarter.

The Panthers stalled around midfield on their next drive and had to punt the ball back to Washington again. Washington were unable to put any more points on the board and faced a fourth-and-11 situation as time expired on the quarter with Washington leading the Panthers 21-14.

Fourth quarter

The opening play of the final quarter was a Washington punt that was fair caught by Alex Erickson at the Panthers 9-yard line. Cam led the Panthers on a 7-play, 91-yard drive that was capped off by a gorgeous 27-yard touchdown pass to McCaffrey to tie the game at 21-21 after Gonzalez nailed the extra point.

Washington responded with a scoring drive of their own, but they only managed to get three points from a 36-yard field goal by Joey Slye to take a 24-21 lead with 4:13 left in regulation. The Panthers were unable to generate any offense and failed to convert on fourth down to give Washington excellent field position with a chance to put the game away. Washington kicked a 29-yard field goal to give Washington a 6-point lead with 1:50 left in regulation, which gave the Panthers plenty of time to attempt a comeback.

The Panthers tried to make a valiant comeback but couldn’t put a drive together and the Panthers fell to 5-6 on the year after a disappointing effort by the defense in the team’s 27-21 loss.