LANDOVER – The late Dennis Green went on a famous rant after a 2006 Monday Night Football game in which his Arizona team blew a lead against Chicago.
Ten years later, Washington fans can utter the same words with disgust and passion in analyzing the home team following a soul-crushing MNF loss against Charlotte: The Skins are you thought they were. If you want to crown them, crown them. But they are who you thought they were.
Despite the depressing, 26-15 result, everything that was true about Washington entering the game remained true afterward.
The chain-moving offense never got in gear, but still flashed its weapons on occasion. The squishy defense was gouged for more than 400 yards, but continued to stiffen its back at key moments. Washington would’ve controlled its own destiny with a victory, but it’s still alive for the playoffs, albeit barely.
With a record of 7-6-1, the Skins are a half-game better than .500. They have a thin margin for error and unfortunately exceeded the boundaries on national TV. It was their first loss at FedEx Field since starting the season 0-2 with defeats against Pittsburgh and Dallas.
They had a bad night. It happens to the best of teams and Washington isn’t one of them. They’re too inconsistent with too little depth and not enough discipline to qualify as an upper echelon squad. But they’re the same resilient bunch that earlier won six of eight games – with the blasted tie included in that stretch – before losing three of their last four.
The Skins were ready for their close-up last month when the Green Bay Packers came to town for Sunday Night Football. Washington had lost 20 of its last 25 night games but came through with arguably their best performance this season. They reverted to primetime form Monday and produced one of their worst efforts from the start.
Carolina scored a field goal after the opening kickoff and scored a touchdown three plays after intermission. Among the very few bright spots were DeSean Jackson’s 10 receptions for 11 yards and the Washington’s defense forcing two field goals to keep the halftime score respectable at 13-9.
Hope lived in the fact that Washington’s adjustments worked well lately, leading to 20-, 17-, 20- and 29-point second halves entering Monday’s game. But when the Skins didn’t stop themselves with drops, errant throws or stupid penalties, the Panthers did the rest. Carolina held Washington on 10 of 12 third downs.
“It wasn’t good enough offensively,” coach Jay Gruden said. “The plan obviously wasn’t a good enough. The execution wasn’t good enough.”
Washington picked a terrible time for this dud, facing a Carolina that had just a 0.0004 chance of making the playoffs, according to the ESPN football power index. The betting odds were roughly 250,000-to-1 that the Panthers would qualify for a shot to defend their NFC title.
They were the looser team, unencumbered with thoughts of postseason berths and playoff runs. Quarterback Cam Newton was flashing his big smile and passing for 300 yards a pair of touchdowns. On the other sideline, Kirk Cousins was being intercepted and losing a strip-sack fumble on his own 1-yard line. He threw for 315 yards but only a 77.9 rating compared to Newton’s 101.2.
The frustrating part is as poorly as the Skins played, they were still in the game as the fourth quarter began. Dustin Hopkins’ second of three field goals pulled Washington to within 23-12. It might’ve been closer if Jordan Reed hadn’t thrown a punch on the drive, drawing a 15-yard penalty and ejection. Nonetheless, it was an 11-point game with 14:08 remaining, more than enough time if Cousins & Co. were firing as normal.
“I thought they did a really good job,” Cousins said. “I thought defensively they executed very well. … We didn’t play well enough to win. We just didn’t make enough plays.”
They were there for the taking, which has been the case most of the season. We were growing accustomed to the Skins coming through, but it has happened only about half the time. The Skins came close or failed miserably the rest of the time, but that wasn’t our mindset entering Monday night against a seven-point underdog.
Washington has one of the league’s best offenses and a defense that tend to bend but not break? True.
But the Skins are who we thought they were. That’s not necessarily good or bad; it depends on the day.
The Panthers served a reminder to everyone who forgot.