Although head coach Mike Shanahan declared the Panthers game a must-win for the Redskins, the team didn’t quite show up with the same idea in mind. And while I told myself all week that I wouldn’t look at the game tape, I slipped up, watched it, and realized that coaches didn’t exactly have Shanny’s same idea in mind either.
As you’ve seen before, the following screenshots from Sunday’s 21-13 loss are a direct punch to Jim Haslett’s gut. Not that he’ll see this or even give a lick if he did, but just a forewarning of yet another week of Beating Up Haslett — supported by visual evidence.
After failing to score from two yards out on fourth down by way of a pitiful quarterback stretch play, the Redskins turned the ball over and had the Panthers pinned deep in their own zone. To make space, Mike Tolbert gets a yard on first down and then Cam Newton hits Tolbert for a short pass on second.
Faced with a crucial 3rd-and-2, Newton and the Panthers come out with three wideouts and a man in the backfield. The screenshot above is prior to the slot receiver coming in motion and bunching on the right side of the line.
Already heavy to the left, the Redskins listen as Newton calls for his slot receiver to come down in motion.
As a result of the motion, the Redskins defense shifts to defend — what they believe to be — the strong side. Remember, the Panthers need only two yards to convert.
If this was something like a 3rd-and-10, perhaps a heavy blitz from one side works. But the distance on this play is extremely important. And Haslett doesn’t appear to care.
This view gives you a better idea of what Newton sees. The Redskins are bringing four guys on the strong side and their safety has moved from inside the box to the deep middle in order to prevent the big play. DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson remain in tight coverage on the outside.
It doesn’t take much to glance towards the weak side and see a gaping hole left by the Redskins’ unbalanced defense. Newton sees it, the Panthers offensive line sees it, and the right guard will pull to the left — leaving four Redskins rushers on two Panthers players, but giving the Panthers a 6-on-4 advantage to the weak side.
The pulling right guard is really the icing on the cake. The Redskins blitz is a disaster, consuming more than a quarter of their defensive unit and leaving a hole the size of the Atlantic for Newton to run through and pick up not only 11 yards, but a first down too.
Would the Redskins defense had stopped Newton if they were better aligned, better prepared? No one can answer that. But their chances would have certainly improved.
I won’t attempt to breakdown Haslett’s thinking on this play. Clearly the Cam-Newton-Keeper isn’t a play used very often by the Carolina Panthers, right? And on short yardage downs, Ron Rivera doesn’t really call on his freakishly-built quarterback to pick up the yards, right?
Nine plays later, the Panthers would score on a 19-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith. This play was part of a 12-play drive that went 98 yards and gave Carolina their 14-3 lead over the Redskins heading into halftime. What a momentum builder!