Fedex Field (85,000) / November 4, 2012 • 1:00PM / PANTHERS.COM
PANTHERS & REDSKINS FACE OFF IN WASHINGTON
Charlotte, NC – With losses by a total of 12 points over the last four weeks and five straight losses overall, the Carolina Panthers must regroup Sunday when they meet the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
That is a challenge after last week’s 23-22 defeat to the Chicago Bears. The Panthers nearly doubled the Bears in total offense with 416 yards compared to Chicago’s 210, and twice had the lead in the fourth quarter, only to succumb to a last second field goal.
An inability to get into the end zone proved costly as the Bears scored three touchdowns and a field goal to the Panthers one touchdown and five field goals.
“It was very disappointing because we did so many things well,” says head coach Ron Rivera. “However, we didn’t make the plays at the end and that has been our challenge throughout the season.”
Before the end of the game, the Panthers made plenty of plays. Quarterback Cam Newton threw for 314 yards on 20 completions in 39 attempts. Wide receiver Steve Smith caught seven passes for 118 yards for his 41st career 100-yard receiving game. Kicker Justin Medlock converted all five of his field goal attempts, including a 45-yarder to put the Panthers ahead with just over two minutes remaining. Defensive end Greg Hardy had three sacks and cornerback Josh Norman picked off a pass.
The statistical advantage against the Bears reflects the positive numbers the Panthers have over their opponents for the season, but the result also is reflective of Carolina’s year. Carolina has more total yards, more passing yards and more sacks than its opponents and is equal in yards rushing and touchdowns, but brings a 1-6 record
Finding a winning formula remains elusive, but Rivera can take heart in several of the individual performances against the Bears:
- After trying only two field goals in the first six games, Medlock converted all five of his field goal attempts in the windy Soldier Field conditions and is now seven for seven for the season.
- Hardy, a sixth-round pick in his third season, recorded three sacks at Chicago to raise his season total to five, one better than the four sacks he had last season.
- Smith, in his 12th season, continues to enjoy a rejuvenation that began last season with seven catches for 118 yards against Chicago and is now on pace for another 1,000 yard season with 589 yards through the first seven games.
- Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, a late roster addition after being waived by Buffalo on the final roster cut, recorded a sack in Chicago and now has 4.5 for the season.
- Quarterback Cam Newton accounted for 351 yards of total offense against the Bears tough defense, passing for 314 and rushing for another 37.
Then there was the collective effort of an offensive line that included two inexperienced guards in Jeff Byers, making his first professional start, and rookie Amini Solatolu, who was starting his seventh NFL game, as the unit continues to play without Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil.
The Panthers defense is also without two of its mainstays in linebacker Jon Beason (knee) and cornerback Chris Gamble (shoulder) who both went on injured reserve last week, but has climbed to 15th in yardage allowed after finishing 28th last season. The unit may face one of its sternest tests to date against a Washington offense that is ranked sixth in total yardage. The Redskins offense is led by rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III while the Panthers defense is led by rookie middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Kuechly leads the Panthers in tackles with 78 and is one of two rookies to start on the defensive unit along with cornerback Norman, who had his first career interception against the Bears. It was one of three takeaways by the Panthers to go along with six sacks and two touchdowns allowed. For the Panthers, it was the third straight game in which they have allowed two touchdowns or less.
“The progress is there, but now we have to find a way to convert it into wins,” says Rivera.