Defense Carries Panthers to Victory Over Washington

The Panthers cruised past the Football Team on Sunday evening.
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For the first time since November 22nd, the Carolina Panthers won a football game. Carolina defeated the Washington Football Team on Sunday evening by a 20-13 score and move to 5-10 on the season.

Coming into this game, both offenses were expected to struggle to move the ball efficiently and score points and that's exactly what we saw at the start of Sunday evening's game.

Washington started the game with the ball and had a quick three and out. Carolina moved the ball inside the Washington 34 without any explosive plays, but the drive came to a halt when Teddy Bridgewater was sacked on 4th down. Luckily for the Panthers, the turnover on downs was not costly as the Carolina defense forced a turnover on the ensuing drive. QB Dwayne Haskins was sacked on a combined effort from Marquis Haynes Sr. and Efe Obada with the fumble being recovered by linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. Carolina's offense was unable to gain a single yard following the turnover and was forced to punt the ball right back to the Football Team. 

At the end of the first quarter, Carolina grabbed the first points of the evening on a muffed punt by Steven Sims, which was recovered in the end zone by Brandon Zylstra for a touchdown. Panthers' kicker Joey Slye continued his recent struggles by missing the extra point attempt, leaving the score at 6-0.

Carolina committed to the ground game on their very next possession with 10 straight run plays leading to the first offensive touchdown of the day. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel lined up in the backfield and bounced a run to the outside and made a move on a defender in open space and took off for a big 45-yard gain. Five plays later, Mike Davis punched in a one-yard touchdown to tack onto the Panthers lead, making it 13-0.

Shortly after, Washington dug themselves into a deep hole as Dwayne Haskins threw an interception to linebacker Tahir Whitehead, leading to another Carolina score. Three plays after the interception, Teddy Bridgewater connected with Robby Anderson for a 14-yard touchdown, pushing the Panthers' lead out to 20-0.

Washington finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a 48-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins. The Panthers threatened to score one more time before the half, but rookie defensive end Chase Young rushed right through left tackle Trent Scott and was able to hit Bridgewater's arm on the throw, causing an interception. 

Haskins threw his 2nd interception of the day to Donte Jackson with just one second remaining in the half. The Panthers headed into the locker room with a 20-3 lead. 

Carolina chewed off the first eight minutes of the clock in the 3rd quarter, but could not muster up any points after Chase Young came up with yet another big play, forcing a Teddy Bridgewater fumble. On 3rd down and 2, the Football Team came up with a much needed explosive play as Haskins ran rolled out to the left, came back to the middle of the field, and found a wide-open Cam Sims for a 50-yard gain. The Football Team's offense stalled out inside the 10 and had to trot out Hopkins for his 2nd field goal of the day. 

Down two touchdowns, Washington needed to find a way to get into the end zone. The Panthers' defense got them to 4th and 2 and the Football Team had no choice but to go for it. Haskins was wrestled down to the ground for a sack by Yetur Gross-Matos, handing the ball back over to Carolina.

Haskins was benched for former Panthers' quarterback Taylor Heinicke midway through the 4th quarter and helped guide the offense down inside the five-yard line, but a loss of 7 and a holding penalty put Washington behind the eight ball. Heinicke threw one deep to Antonio Gandy-Golden on 4th down but fell incomplete.

With just three minutes remaining in the game, the Football was backed up at its own nine-yard line and needed to drive the length of the field to have a chance to win. Heinicke led Washington right down the field with a 23-yard pass to Cam Sims, a pair of 13-yard completions, and then a 29-yard touchdown pass to J.D. McKissic to cut the lead to seven, 20-13.

Washington's onside kick attempt was recovered by Carolina, allowing the Panthers to take a knee and secure their fifth win of the season. 

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