LANDOVER, Md. (USA Today) -- Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers took the first step towards salvaging their 1-6 start, with a 21-13 victory vs. the Washington Redskins.
On the other side, rookie Robert Griffin III's Redskins saw their relatively-charmed first half of the season end in a sixth loss, and severely diminished playoff hopes in Griffin's rookie season.
But more than anything, the day was about comparing two dynamic quarterbacks at the onset of their NFL careers.
As passers, both played well enough, with an 82-yard Newton bomb to Armanti Edwards separating his performance from Griffin's. The Redskins never seemed to find a groove offensively, with drive-killing penalties and a couple of red-zone stalls: One resulting in a failed fourth-down and the other in a 25-yard field goal.
As runners, both Newton and Griffin performed as expected. The Panthers' second-year man plowed home a fourth-quarter touchdown to earn a double-digit lead, and Griffin optioned and scrambled his way to a hard-earned 53 yards on 11 carries. On a quiet day for the home crowd, one of the biggest cheers came when Griffin, concussed once this season, slid in timely fashion on a nine-yard scramble.
Conversely, there were major gasps throughout a half-empty stadium when Griffin launched himself on a fourth-quarter scramble, and was flipped by charging defenders, Any Given Sunday-style. The drive culminated in a Redskins touchdown which cut the lead to eight points with 1:28 to play. The following onside kick failed.
Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft, cut down on the poor decisions which earned him two interceptions in a one-point loss to the Chicago Bears a week ago, Carolina's fifth in a row. He completed 56% of his passes without a turnover.
Once again for the Redskins, the defensive backfield gave up the backbreaking big play, doing nothing to mend the reputation of the league's lowest-ranked pass defense. Washington also turned in a poor performance in run defense, allowing 129 yards and a 30-yard first-quarter touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams. That run, which forced a referee huddle after several Redskins appeared to hear a whistle during the play, gave Carolina its first lead, 7-3.
On the next drive, the Redskins drove from their own 24 to the Panthers 2, where they went for it on fourth down and saw Griffin denied at the line of scrimmage in a decision coach Mike Shanahan is sure to answer for in the coming week.
The loss drops to the Redskins to 3-6 in the NFC East, which the New York Giants will lead after Week 9 no matter the result of their Sunday meeting vs. Pittsburgh. The Panthers (2-6) still rank last in the NFC South, which the Falcons lead at 7-0.
Story by: Robert Klemko, USA TODAY Sports