CHARLOTTE, N.C. — — Mike Shanahan's switch from Rex Grossman to former Ravens backup John Beck as starting quarterback couldn't ignite the Washington Redskins, who suffered another series of critical injuries to their starters Sunday as they lost, 33-20, to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
A week after Grossman got the hook during a loss to the struggling Philadelphia Eagles, Beck took over — making his first start since December 2007 — but he and his increasingly battered team were defeated, 33-20, by a one-win team for a second consecutive week.
The once-promising Redskins (3-3) trailed the entire game. Washington — which suffered its third loss in the past four games — couldn't slow the Panthers or match their offensive firepower.
Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton — the first overall pick in April's draft — embarrassed Washington with his arm and his legs, completing 18 of 23 attempts for 256 yards and a touchdown, and rushing for 59 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Newton's Panthers (2-5) racked up 407 yards, 175 on the ground.
Beck — who hadn't started a regular-season game since his rookie year — completed 22 of 37 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown to Fred Davis. He threw an interception and lost a fumble. The Redskins recorded 353 yards of offense, 92 on the ground.
"I've got to do a better job of getting these guys ready to play," a disheveled Shanahan said at the lectern after the game.
"We should've played better than that. But I take my hat off to Cam Newton. He did some things with his legs and made some throws that not even [seasoned] pros make."
Even when fully healthy, Washington's offense has struggled to execute consistently and put points on the board. But the Redskins' efforts were hampered as they opened the game against the Panthers by the absence of injured offensive starters: tight end Chris Cooley, guard Kory Lichtensteiger and left tackle Trent Williams.
Then the Redskins lost leading wide receiver Santana Moss to a left hand injury late in the first quarter of Sunday's defeat.
And in the third quarter, they lost starting running back Tim Hightower, who was having a strong game with 17 carries for 88 yards, to a left knee injury. The Redskins didn't know the severity of Hightower's injury Sunday evening, but he was on crutches and wore a large brace in the locker room. He was scheduled to have an MRI today.
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On defense, where Washington already was without starting free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, it lost inside linebacker London Fletcher with what the team said was a hamstring injury.
Along with the injuries, a late first-half turnover and failed third-quarter gamble served as the lowlights of Washington's loss. The first came in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
After tying the score at 6 on a 49-yard field goal by Graham Gano with 1:02 left, the Redskins got a stop from their defense and took possession with 46 seconds remaining.
But on first down, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney dropped a deep sideline pass from Beck. On second down, Gaffney caught a pass over the middle but fumbled at his 34-yard line, and the Panthers recovered. Carolina kicker Olindo Mare made a 45-yard field goal with two seconds left, giving the Panthers a 9-6 halftime lead.
On the first possession of the third quarter, Shanahan rolled the dice on a fourth-down play that ended up leading to the Panthers' first touchdown. Facing fourth-and-2 from the Carolina 40-yard line, Shanahan chose to go for it rather than punt, but Beck was swallowed up and sacked for a 7-yard loss, and the Panthers took over.
Newton and his offense needed only two plays to score. First the rookie connected with wideout Brandon LaFell on a 37-yard pass down the left sideline. He then took a shotgun snap, faked the handoff and dashed 16 yards for a touchdown, giving his team a 16-6 advantage.
"When you get these losses like this, either you wake up from it, or you keep going down that tunnel," said Davis, who had six catches for 80 yards. "I don't think we're that team that's gonna keep going down that tunnel."