10 Takes: WFT Still in Control Despite Blowing Opportunity

Dwayne Haskins was awful from the start, never recovered and was benched midway through the fourth quarter as the WFT blew a golden chance.

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Washington Football Team did not deliver when they needed to the most and that's because their quarterback that they were forced to start was dead on arrival. 

The four-win Carolina Panthers were playing for nothing and have now won five games after beating the WFT, 20-13 at FedExField on Sunday afternoon. 

The WFT still controls their own destiny, and, with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday, will win the NFC East. A loss and they will be eliminated, leaving the winner of the Dallas-New York Giants game as the winner of the division. 

Now my ten takes on a bitterly disappointing performance. 

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1. Ron Rivera had a choice, but the decision he made was a poor one. That's a shame because it is understandable where Rivera was coming from. He was trying not to punish the entire roster by not giving them a chance to be successful. The problem is this - the guy he went out of desperation did not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

2. Dwayne Haskins refused to speak to the media after the game and Washington Football PR ultimately said they couldn't get a hold of him. That's one more log on the immaturity fire.

Haskins was finally benched in the fourth quarter after two awful interceptions and a fumble lost on a sack plus another sack on 4th-and-2, with a wide-open receiver underneath for a first down. 

"We didn't get anything going, so I decided to make the change," Rivera said. 

Update: Now, Haskins apparently will talk to reporters. He said he didn't answer his phone because he was driving. 

3. Haskins was dreadful from the start, misfiring on a couple of passes of the long and intermediate variety. That was fine as long as he built on that. He didn't. After finally completing his first third-down pass, he immediately threw his first interception. The second one was into triple-coverage along the sideline. He was dreadful. The numbers don't even tell you how bad he was. 

READ MORE: Haskins Named Starter

4. The one area that Ron Rivera certainly deserves much more valid criticism is why he waited so long. Starting him was one thing. Haskins should have been on a very, very short rope. Rivera said he didn't bench him at halftime because of Haskins's performance the week before. 

"Remember, last week we came out at halftime and put ourselves in a position to score. That's why I did what I did." 

The only problem with that explanation is that they didn't score until the fourth quarter last week, turned the ball over on the first series, and had a three-and-out on the second offensive series of the third quarter. Their offense didn't wake up until the five-minute remaining mark of the third, which is and was too long. 

5. Taylor Heinicke deserves the start next Sunday in Philadelphia if Alex Smith is not ready to go. Rivera said, "We'll have to see. We'll have to see how Alex is doing and we'll go from there." 

6. Chase Young, a new WFT captain was asked about the infusion that Heinicke brought to the field. He said "I love Taylor" and recalled a conversation the two had. Young said Heinicke told him to believe by saying 'this is what I do.' 

Young added Heinicke 'balled' on Sunday evening and "he's got some swag." 

Heinicke had a touchdown pass called back and one that could have been, yet was dropped. Heinicke was (12-19) for 137 yards and a 29-yard touchdown pass to J.D. McKissic. 

7. Young was the star of the defense. He forced an interception with a tomahawk chop to Teddy Bridgewater that wound up in the hands of Kam Curl. He also had a sack, another forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. 

We also found out that Young had been named a captain. "It's an honor," he said. He lost the coin toss in his debut. Young

"Nobody thought we were going to be where we are right now," Young said about the chance to still clinch the division in Philadelphia. 

8. The defense was both good and bad, depending on the circumstances of the game. They forced the turnovers that Young contributed to and they had an early fourth-down stop in which Daron Payne sacked Teddy Bridgewater.

They thought they had forced another turnover on a fumble by Carolina running back Mike Davis, but forward progress was judged to have been stopped. Replays showed something very different. "I disagreed (with the call)," said Rivera. "But it doesn't matter what my thought is because I'm not the one controlling the whistle." 

The defense was also bad at times getting gashed for a 45-yard run by Curtis Samuel, in which they missed two tackles. That was part of a ten-play, 80-yard drive in which every play was a run by Carolina. Ten plays, ten runs, and two penalties mixed in as well from Washington. 

They also gave up a 44-yard bomb to Samuel that set up another score, an easy pitch and catch to Robbie Anderson on 3rd-and-7. Carolina almost dialed up another long bomb for a touchdown but Bridgewater overthrew a wide-open receiver. 

9. Steven Sims Jr. muffed a punt at his own-13 and the ball immediately popped into his end zone, before being recovered by Brandon Zylstra. It set an ominous tone for Washington and it was a mistake that won't sit well with many on Sims, who was already struggling to fit back in. 

10. Rivera went for a field goal down 20-3 to make it 20-6, bypassing a fourth-and-two opportunity at the Carolina-8 with about four minutes left in the third quarter. Had Smith been available, he probably would have gone for it. Instead, they made it a two-score game. 

Rivera was correct in saying that the kick made it a two-score contest instead of three if they didn't make it, but it was still a surprising decision. 

Later, on Haskins's final play of the game, he missed a wide-open receiver over the middle on a sit-down route, taking a sack instead. It was a fourth-down-and-two play from the Carolina 36 yard line. It would have been a tough field goal to convert, so it is hard to argue with Rivera on that decision.