Brian Mitchell slammed his helmet to the ground and told everyone the fumble wasn't a fumble. If ever there was a reason the owners voted to bring instant replay back, this was it.
Coach Norv Turner asked for a review, and the reverse angle showed Mitchell's knee hitting the ground before the ball came loose on a punt return. The call was overturned, and the Washington Redskins drove 69 yards to set up Brett Conway's game-winning field goal from 31 yards with 6 seconds remaining Sunday for a 38-36 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
"I was clearly down," Mitchell said. "It shows you, instant replay was needed in this game, believe me. There were a lot of games lost last year because people made mistakes. Referees are human beings. They make mistakes, too. So I'm glad they have it. ... Shoot, I didn't want to be the one to do something to make us lose the game."
The Redskins (3-1), winning their third straight, piled up 418 yards, allowed 481 and were plagued by numerous special teams penalties, a fumbled kickoff and poor punting. They rallied from a 21-0 first-quarter deficit and blew a 35-24 fourth-quarter lead. Brad Johnson and his receiving corps had another outstanding game, and it was just enough.
"We played very sloppy on defense," defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "We've definitely got to be better than that."
Carolina (1-3) appeared on the verge of its second straight victory when Steve Beuerlein capped a solid game with a 6-yard TD pass to Wesley Walls with 7:57 remaining. Beuerlein completed 23 of 47 passes for 334 yards and one interception, Tshimanga Biakabutuka ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns, and Mushin Muhammad had 151 yards receiving his third straight 100-plus yard game.
"Everybody says you played so hard, so great, you were so close, way to go," said Beuerlein, noting that the Panthers lost nine of 12 games last year by a touchdown or less. "But you still feel like crap."
Johnson, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns, provided equal opportunity embarrassment for nearly all the Panthers defensive backs, picking on Eric Davis, Doug Evans, Michael Swift and Mike Minter with random ease.
Westbrook finished with eight catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns, while Connell had five receptions for 134 yards, making it the second time this season both receivers passed the 100-yard mark in the same game. Johnson has nine TD passes with no interceptions for an offense averaging 37.5 points.
"I think we can score 30 points on anybody in the league," Mitchell said.
Still, the Redskins spotted the Panthers the early lead on touchdown runs of 60, 1 and 45 yards by Biakabutuka, who had two 60-plus TD runs in a victory over Cincinnati the week before.
Then coach George Seifert, sticking with his plan to rotate his backs, took Biakabutuka out for two series. The Panthers offense lost momentum, and they didn't take it back to the end zone until the fourth quarter.
Berated by questions about the move after the game, Seifert kept defending himself and finally said: "Maybe I should have had him play defense you know, that was our real problem."
Down 21-0, the Redskins got on the board with Stephen Davis' 1-yard run. Then Johnson started throwing deep, and the cornerbacks paid the price.
Davis missed a tackle on a 47-yard completion to Westbrook, then Minter was called for pass interference against Westbrook. Davis then got turned around on a 17-yard TD to Westbrook, who just managed to get both feet inbounds.
Westbrook aso got his feet down in the back of the end zone, with Davis trailing badly, on a 25-yard reception. Connell's first TD, against Swift, gave the Redskins the lead. Connell's second, against Davis, made it 35-24.
John Kasay made field goals of 43 and 42 yards to close the Panthers to 35-30 before Walls' touchdown gave them the lead. The pass on the 2-point conversion attempt was batted down by Redskins backup cornerback Tim Denton.
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