It must’ve been quite the kick in the dick for Washington fans to root for Dallas on Sunday night, so the Skins could overtake Tampa for pole position for the second NFC wild-card spot, only to watch their team hand the advantage right back to the Bucs.
The Panthers, with nothing to play for, won 26-15 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score suggests, and should serve as a warning to any league or network exec who thinks the Skins, no matter how improved, should be aired in primetime. Washington couldn’t get much going—they had five three-and-outs in the first three quarters, after never going three-and-out more than thrice in a game this season. Kirk Cousins was meh, 32-of-47 for 315 yards, one pick, one fumble lost, and no scores, and he was the extent of the offense—Washington racked up just 29 yards on the ground, with Cousins their leading rusher.
Jonathan Stewart, meanwhile, ran wild for Carolina, carrying the ball 25 times for 132 yards. These Panthers looked a lot closer to last year’s than to anything this disappointing season, but it’s hard to know how much of that to chalk up to tonight’s opposition.
Here’s a good way to sum things up. When a Skins player put his hand to an opponent’s helmet, Jordan Reed was throwing a punch and got ejected:
But when Jonathan Stewart did the same to Greg Toler, it was in play and it was highlight reel stuff:
The loss drops Washington to 7-6-1, putting them behind both Tampa Bay and Green Bay in the wild-card race. They’ve got the Bears and Giants left, and while both are winnable (neither opponent is likely to have anything on the line, for different reasons), the Skins are going to need the Bucs and Panthers to lose. The NFL helps those who help themselves, but Washington appears incapable of that.