Wrap-up: Panthers 33, Redskins 20

Thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 33-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

What it means: The Redskins are spiraling downward. Washington was dealing with several key injuries this week, but this game shows us that the Redskins are not a true playoff contender in 2011. They just don’t have enough on their roster.

BeckWatch: So how did Redskins quarterback John Beck do in his first start of the season behind center? He didn’t do much to get real excited about on a play-by-play basis, but he did finish with good numbers. So, in a way, this is progress over what Rex Grossman has been doing at quarterback -- but that isn’t saying a lot, either. Beck does seem to have a real good on-the-field relationship with Fred Davis, Washington’s best receiver, in my opinion. That is promising. The Panthers’ defense played better than it has probably all year, but the Redskins with Beck behind center are not all that difficult to play against. Beck was impressive with his ability to improvise on his rushing touchdown, which got the Redskins right back into the game.

Time of possession: Carolina possessed the ball about 10 minutes more than the Redskins. Of course, the Redskins’ three turnovers had a lot to do with that, but the offense for Washington still isn’t helping a strong defense nearly enough. It seemed as though as the game went on, the defense tired and just couldn’t keep up with Cam Newton & Co. as well as it did early in the game when Washington consistently made the Panthers settle for field goals in the red zone. But Newton’s playmaking ability was really on display Sunday -- there is no denying that. The Panthers have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, but Washington could muster only 92 yards on the ground on 23 attempts. Just when it looked like Ryan Torain would be the lead back for Mike Shanahan, the Redskins coach goes the other way, relying on Tim Hightower once again Sunday. To me, Torain brings much more to the table as a runner, so this was a curious decision.

Pressure! Redskins fans have to love the way their team got after Newton. Adam Carriker is clearly a much better fit in a 3-4 than the 4-3 he played in St. Louis. He once again showed up as a pass-rusher. Washington was effective getting to Newton with defensive back blitzes, and of course Brian Orakpo did what he usually does. This was probably the brightest spot of the game for the Redskins, as their run defense let them down and they struggled a great deal to keep up with Panthers receiver Steve Smith.

What’s next: The Redskins travel next week to Buffalo. The Bills were off this week and should be very well-rested. Washington really needs to get a win on the road.