Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had an 82-yard pass play to set up the dagger in a 21-13 victory over the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday.
Robert Griffin III had fewer total yards than the previous Washington quarterback to face the Panthers (John Beck), no touchdowns and was sacked four times.
Edge: Newton. Not bad for a guy who Griffin said he’d rather pattern himself after Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers than Newton days earlier.
“You want me to be at his head because he said he didn’t want to be like me?” Newton asked reporters. “No. That’s nothing I want to frown upon. That’s him, the way he thinks. That’s what makes him Robert Griffin III. The way I think makes me Cameron Newton.”
Griffin had the upper hand in passing yards (215 yards to Newton’s 201), a good chunk of which game as the Redskins looked to get back into the game with a no-huddle. Griffin also had more rushing yards (53 on 11 attempts) vs. Newton (37 on eight attempts.)
Newton, however, had the higher passer rating and more touchdowns — two to Griffin’s zero.
“We’ve just got to punch it in,” said Griffin, who led an offense that was 1 for 3 in the red zone. “That’s the bottom line. We get down there and we work hard to get down there. We’ve got to come away with seven points.”
This matchup — where everybody seemed to compare the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners’ speed, arm strength, leadership and personality — was eyed so keenly for what their teams haven’t had.
Neither the 2-6 Panthers nor the 3-6 Redskins are likely playoff-bound. Carolina hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008 and the Redskins haven’t had a postseason berth since 2007.
"When you lose a game like that, now you’re playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "Now, we have a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at. Obviously, we’re not out of it statistically. Now we find out what kind of character we have and how guys keep on fighting throughout the rest of the season.”
The Panthers halted a five-game skid, the last four games of which Carolina lost by a total of just 12 points. Carolina won this one with the aid of two drives of 90 yards or more yards, the first time in team history the Panthers had done that in a single game.
The first came after a 16-play, 77-yard drive in the second quarter by the ‘Skins which came to an end as Griffin was halted for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the 2 in the second quarter. The Panthers countered with a 98-yard drive capped a 19-yard TD pass by Newton, who found receiver Steve Smith for his first touchdown catch of the season.
“Everybody will have different peaks throughout their career,” Smith said. “For some of the young guys, this is depths of the valley. At the same time, when you go through things like, you are going to learn. You have no choice. You rarely learn things when you are successful. This is an opportunity.”
Smith has done his best to mentor Newton, who added after the game he’s been getting the advice of former NBA great Michael Jordan. As much as his stats have fallen off last year’s pace, questions about his demeanor haven’t. His lapses into sulking mode led Smith, a captain on the team, to confront Newton last season and again in September.
While many have hammered Newton for his perceived lack of leadership, Griffin has been complimented for it. We are in greater Washington, DC. — an area known for talking points — but the ‘Skins players and coaches have been universal in their praise for Griffin.
And Griffin wasn’t about to question himself even after the ‘Skins third consecutive loss.
“No one is ever going to question the fight I have inside myself to be the greatest and help lead this team to victory,” said Griffin, who had X-rays on his bruised his ribs after the contest. “It doesn’t matter what it is. I will make sure that I continue to help my team win games.”
Griffin and Newton had grown tired about the comparisons before Sunday, although the two did greet each other afterward.
“He gave me his number (and) told me to contact him,” Griffin said. “Basically, we are both two young quarterbacks in this league trying to get better, trying to lead our teams to victory. I told him I think his team has a lot of talent and the possibilities are endless for them. I feel the same way about our team.”