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Panthers beat Ron Rivera's Washington Football Team 20-13

The Panthers went into the half with a 20-3 lead in Washington.
Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel (10) runs with the ball as he is chased by Washington Football Team defensive back Jeremy Reaves (39) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — Carolina Panthers beat their old coach, Ron Rivera, and his Washington Football Team Sunday 20-13 thanks to a strong performance from Curtis Samuel receiving and rushing, and four takeaways by the defense. 

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel set career highs with 106 yards receiving and 52 yards rushing in Carolina's 20-13 victory that spoiled Washington's first chance to clinch the NFC East. All Washington had to do was beat a team long eliminated from contention to punch its ticket to the playoffs. 

Samuel broke off a 45-yard run to set up one of the Panthers' two offensive touchdowns and caught five passes from Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater threw for 197 yards to help the Panthers snap a three-game skid.

Samuel could be a highly sought-after free agent during the offseason with his rookie contract up. The 24-year-old insisted winning was more important than the numbers he put up.

Carolina (4-10) took advantage of poor play from Washington (6-8) starter Dwayne Haskins, who was stripped of his captaincy by head coach Ron Rivera earlier in the week. Haskins started less than a week after being fined for violating COVID-19 protocols and turned the ball over three times in the first half. Coach Ron Rivera benched Haskins early in the fourth quarter and put Taylor Heinicke in at quarterback. It remains to be seen who starts next week at Philadelphia. 

RELATED: Washington's Dwayne Haskins apologizes after photos show mask-less partying

 Alex Smith was out with a calf injury. Washington came in to the game in position to win the NFC East after a loss by the New York Giants earlier in the day. 

Rivera coached the Panthers for nine seasons, and is the winningest coach in Carolina franchise history.

RELATED: Ron Rivera finishes cancer treatment

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