The Washington Football Team trails the Carolina Panthers, 20-3, at halftime. Here are three quick hits from the first two quarters.
1. Mistakes Put Washington In Another Second-Half Deficit
Mistakes in the first half have plagued Washington all year, and that was apparent once again against the Panthers. Like last week against the Seattle Seahawks, they came after it looked like Washington was starting to gain some momentum.
Thanks to a turnover on downs on Carolina's opening drive, the offense drove down to the Panthers' 30-yard line and looked like they would end with at least a field goal. But then Dwayne Haskins Jr.’s arm was hit while he was attempting a pass, which forced a fumble that was returned for 19 yards.
Two drives later, Washington's next mistake was more costly; the defense forced the Panthers to punt, but Steven Sims Jr. muffed kick that allowed the Panthers to recover the ball in the end zone. Then, on Washington's ensuing possession, Haskins threw an interception that ultimately led to a Panthers touchdown six plays later.
Washington is in a double-digit hole to start the second half once again, so the team will have to put together yet another comeback effort if it wants to win the NFC East.
Check out photos of the Washington Football Team during its Week 16 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. (Photos courtesy of Amanda Bowen/NFL, Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team and Elijah Griffin Sr./Washington Football)
2. Virtually No Passing Game
Antonio Gibson returned Sunday after missing the past two games with a toe injury, and the third-round carried a struggling offensive throughout the first half with nine carries for 67 yards.
But whenever Haskins dropped back to pass, Washington's drives stalled. He completed just 6 of his 15 passes for 36 yards and turned the ball over three times. His best play of the half was a 17-yard completion on the run to Sims on third down. On the next snap, Haskins threw the ball right to a Panthers linebacker for his third interception in five quarters.
Washington has been able to do whatever it has wanted on the ground, but in situations in which the team is forced to throw, Haskins needs to be able to have some sort of success if Washington has a shot at coming back.
3. Antonio Gibson Provides A Bright Spot On Offense
Washington's offense has missed Gibson for the better part of three games as he has recovered from a turf toe injury. Gibson was limited all week in practice, but it looks like he is still the dynamic player the team expected him to be.
Gibson's first run of the game was only for two yards, but since then he has been the offense's most productive player with nine rushes for 67 yards. He has carried most of the unit's production, as he has more than half of the team's 124 total yards. He even supplied a 22-yard scamper near the end of the second quarter, which led to a 48-yard field goal.
Washington still faces a tremendous deficit to start the second half, and it will need to get even more production from the running back to mount a comeback.