For the third time this season, the Redskins gave an opponent their first victory of the season.
The difference between Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers and the previous two is that the Redskins led at halftime for the first time all season and squandered a 15-point lead in the third quarter.
Arguably the biggest momentum changing play of the game for both teams was the controversial botched fair catch. Redskins returnman Antwaan Randle El waved his arms to signal for a fair catch, but was knocked into by teammate Byron Westbrook, who was pushed back by Panthers safety Quinton Teal. Unfortunately for the Redskins, the ball bounced off of Westbrook’s foot and was recovered by Carolina deep in Redskins territory.
"I was in awe," said Redskins defensive end Andre Carter.
"I am not familiar with the rules in regards to special teams but in my head I was like: ‘are you kidding me?’ The ref made the call and we had to deal with it. That might have been the play that changed the course of the game."
That botched special teams play set up the game winning touchdown for the Carolina Panthers, who had struggled all day against the Redskins defense until late in the game.
The defense’s performance was led by Carter, who had the best showing of any Redskins defensive lineman this season, posting a career high 2.5 sacks along with a forced fumble, six tackles and one pass defended.
"Every week I have the same mindset when I compete. I pray and give God the glory for blessing me with the ability to play this game. I keyed the ball, as I always had, never stopped my feet and kept my hands moving against the offensive tackle. There was no secret sack juice but my will that the good Lord gave me. It always feels great when you hit the quarterback. Nothing can ever replace that level of excitement," Carter said regarding his outstanding performance against Panthers tackle Jordan Gross.
The Redskins defense undoubtedly carried the team and gave the offense great field position to work with on many occasions, including setting them up for both touchdowns.
"We are a prideful defense. Regardless of the circumstances of the offense, it's in our nature to control the field, create opportunities for big plays and win," Carter said.
The offense, who had succeeded at driving the ball down the field throughout the season but struggled in that department Sunday, suffered a crucial blow when left tackle Chris Samuels went down on the Redskins first touchdown of the game with a stinger. The injury will keep the stalwart All-Pro out at least one week and could possibly be career threatening. With his presence on the line gone, the dynamic of the offense and the mindset of the defense changed significantly.
"When Chris went down, our defense played for him because he is a leader and we respect him as a player and a person. It’s unfortunate he went down and I pray he heals quickly. I am sure our offense had to make adjustments in their scheme from the run to passing game. I am proud of (reserve lineman D’Anthony) Batiste for coming [in for] him and playing left tackle when Chris went down," Carter said.
Another player who suffered a tough injury on Sunday was fellow starting defensive end and THN contributor Phillip Daniels, who tore his right bicep muscle. It’s an injury that requires a long recovery for most players but Daniels will fight through it for the rest of the season, declining the option of surgery this fall. His decision to play through such pain is no shock to Carter.
"Phil playing hurt is not a surprise. As long I have known him he has played hurt during times he shouldn't have. He does it not for fame or recognition but for the love of the game, his teammates and the burgundy and gold. In the NFL, not everyone is going to be 100%. We learn to cope with injuries through prayer, rehab and each other."
Along with injuries to starters, another concern for Redskins fans is team chemistry amongst the players and coaches and whether it is still there on and off the field. Following the passing of safety Sean Taylor, the Redskins players epitomized the term "team unity." Now, almost two years later, with all of the rumors surrounding the team concerning a potential new head coach and the negative publicity directed towards the unexpected 2-3 start, the team chemistry has been challenged but Carter says the team is still tight-knit.
"I felt the locker room is still close. The emotions we went through in 2007 will never be forgotten. We will remember that experience yet this is 2009. I don't know what's happening but we will figure it out one way or another. We have worked too hard to hand the season over. It isn't in our nature to quit. We are prideful men who enjoy playing for one another and this game. Somehow it will resolve itself. The chemistry is there and we don't go through the motions when preparing for a game. We talk, have fun and enjoy working. We have to just finish a game our way."
"It's not hard to stay focused on our objective. All rumors do is develop negativity towards the team. It's important we prepare for our opponent and continue to stay driven," Carter said.
Continuing to maintain the drive is going to be very important to defeat the 0-5 Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday. With this matchup, the Redskins will become the first team in NFL history to start off their season facing six winless opponents.
Kansas City, who was the youngest team in the league in 2008, will face the oldest team in the NFL in 2009. They have added a proven general manager, a new coaching staff and a mix of young and veteran players to make improvements. The Chiefs are hungry for their first win of the season and considering the Redskins have been the supplier of three team’s first victories of the season, they view this week as a good chance to make that happen.
On the other hand, the Redskins yet again have a great chance to get their act together against another underwhelming opponent. Offensively, Kansas City is 30th in the league in yards accumulated per game and last in the NFL defensively in yards allowed per game.
Whether the commotion surrounding Redskins Park this week actually affects how the team performs will remain to be seen this weekend at FedEx Field.
Under the Helmet:
THN: Who do you think is the best musician/band of all time and why?
AC: I love music and some of the bands I enjoy listening to are Earth, Wind and Fire and a rap band called The Roots. Now musicians I admire are Miles Davis, Ray Charles, George Benson and Stevie Wonder.