The Washington Redskins entered Monday night controlling their path to the playoffs. They laid an egg.
The breakdowns came in every phase.
Veteran safety Donte Whitner continued to be a weekly liability at safety, blowing coverage on a 30-yard Ted Ginn TD pass. The front seven couldn't slow Jonathan Stewart, allowing the running back's first 100-yard game of the season. Kirk Cousins displayed the hiccups that characterized his play to start the season, missing open receivers and turning the ball over. The offense suffered drops, inconsistent play calling and could not get the running game going. For good measure, kicker Dustin Hopkins missed an extra point to make sure the special teams unit was represented on this list of failures.
Cousins was particularly disappointing. The free-agent-to-be looked rattled early and never settled into a rhythm. While there were some drops, his receivers also bailed him out on several off-target throws, including two incredible diving snags by DeSean Jackson on drifting sideline passes.
"I think he was having trouble seeing some of the coverage, and when he did see them I don't know if he just didn't have clear throws at them. I don't know, we'll wait and see. So I don't know," Gruden said of his quarterback.
Several reporters in the press box during the game noted Cousins missing wide-open receivers on potentially game-changing deep shots multiple times after the quarterback opted for shorter routes.
"We just never got any kind of rhythm whatsoever throughout the whole game," Gruden said. "Part of it was that the running game was atrocious, part of it was we had no deep passing game. The other part was Carolina was very good today."
We praise Cousins when he leads the Redskins to victory. The franchise-tagged signal-caller deserves equal ire after a failure in a big spot. Washington fell to 1-6-1 this season when Cousins has 36-plus pass attempts.