By Ted Fleming
One thing about watching the tape after the emotions of a game have calmed is that you see more of what actually happened. While the obvious stood out when he addressed the media following the Panthers loss to the Seahawks on Sunday, head coach Ron Rivera got a little more insight as to how and why it happened and he was none too pleased.
“The disappointment is not necessarily that we lost, but how we lost,” said Rivera. “We didn’t play smart football, that’s what really bothers me more than anything else and I expressed that to the players. There were a lot of opportunities that were missed. Those are the things that have to be corrected and will be corrected.”
Rivera’s point was that when it is a team that loses a game, while not accepting defeat, it may simply be that the opposition was better on any given week. However, when it is a series of individuals, or as the coach said “one guy here, one guy here, one guy here,” it is unacceptable.
Burned into the minds of fans is a singular play, the one where DeAngelo Williams was stripped of the ball late in the game as he was headed toward the end zone with the potential go-ahead touchdown. They will talk about that until they are Carolina blue in the face as the reason their team lost. But it goes far beyond that and Rivera has the tape to prove it.
“If it’s one guy you replace him and move forward,” he said. “But if it’s a couple of guys here and a couple of guys there, they’ve got to continue to work, we’ve got to continue to coach them up and put them in a position to have success.” What that translates to is a tough first day when the team returns to practice to prepare for the Bills in Buffalo.
Rivera said the defense had a terrific day holding Seattle to just 12 points although they got lazy at the end, giving up some cheap yards especially after the Williams fumble. There was 5:25 left in the game when the Seahawks took over and the Panthers could have had one more shot on offense if they could get a stop. After all, they had given up just 14 first downs before that, but gave up four down the stretch as the clock wound down to zero.
There was no guarantee of success if the Panthers got the ball back especially if they were deep into their own territory. New offensive coordinator Mike Shula did not open up the entire playbook and that conservative approach led to a relatively clean game but lacking in scoring punch. Taking a few more shots down the field might just be high on Shula’s list of things to do this Sunday.
“There are some things that have to be looked at on both sides [of the ball],” said Rivera. “In terms of getting the ball vertical, we understand, looked through it and talked about it. Those are the things we look to do. We have to create more of those opportunities. Some of it too, is the quarterback having to pull the ball down and scramble a couple of times. We are aware of what has to be done.”
Rivera’s message to the team was simple. It’s not just good enough to go out and play hard, you also have to play smart.
Notes: When Garry Williams was carted off the field in the first half last Sunday, the Panthers were worried. As it turns out the fears were legitimized when it was confirmed the starting right tackle suffered a torn ACL and MCL and will be lost for the season. For the time being, Chris Scott is penciled in as his replacement moving over from left guard as Amini Silatolu should be ready to go for Wednesday’s practice.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.