Rivera: Panthers might have got full of themselves

By STEVE REED - AP Sports Writer
    2013-12-09 15:55

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Coach Ron Rivera said Carolina's 31-13 loss to the Saints Sunday night was ''humbling experience'' and could help his team to refocus as it makes a playoff push.

''Maybe we needed a little bit of that,'' Rivera said. ''Maybe we got a little full of ourselves and thought we were capable of just showing up.''

Rivera said he thought his team's energy was good last week but added, ''I thought we'd know our opponent better and I thought we would play better situational football. We didn't. There were some basic fundamental things that we messed up, or like we like to say, football 101 things.''

It was Carolina's most lopsided loss of the season.

But while players were already talking about rematch with the Saints at home Dec. 22, Rivera said it's vital the Panthers focus on preparing for Sunday's game against the New York Jets, a team with playoff aspirations of their own.

Carolina and San Francisco lead all NFC wild card contenders at 9-4, but Arizona (8-5) and Dallas (7-5) remain in the hunt with three games left in the regular season.

The loss left the Panthers with a sour taste in their mouths.

After the game, third-year quarterback Cam Newton said of the Saints, ''Are they better than us? No.''

Newton has plenty of reason to be motivated.

He was sacked five times and couldn't get the Panthers in the end zone until a meaningless fourth quarter TD pass to Steve Smith cut the Saints lead to 18. The Panthers struggled inside the 20 on both sides of the ball, and Newton said that can't happen in big games.

The Panthers came in with the fourth most efficient red zone offense in the league but settled for field goals on their first two drives, costing them a chance to quiet the Superdome crowd and seize control of the game. Instead, the Saints scored the game's next 31 points.

The loss snapped a franchise-record eight-game winning streak.

Carolina's no-name secondary which had played so well all season was exposed.

Drew Brees threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns. To put those numbers in perspective, the Panthers had only allowed 209.6 yards passing per game coming in and had surrendered just nine touchdown passes in 12 games.

Even if the Panthers beat the Saints (10-3) in the rematch, they'd still need some outside help to win the NFC South and earn a first-round bye.

New Orleans holds the conference tiebreaker, so the Panthers would have to win out and have the Saints lose at St. Louis this week or at home to Tampa Bay in Week 17 to win their first division title since 2008.

''To know we can go out and play better and not have that happen - that's very disappointing,'' linebacker Thomas Davis said. ''But it's not the end of the world. We're sitting at 9-4 right now, and everything we set out to accomplish is still right ahead of us.''

The means beating the Jets.

''The best thing about this is we have an opportunity to face this same team in two weeks,'' Newton said. ''But our focus is not on that right now. Our focus is on the New York Jets and we will be ready for those guys this upcoming Sunday.''

The Panthers did suffer a key loss as running back Jonathan Stewart torn the MCL in his right knee. Rivera said Stewart's ACL is fine and he will be evaluated in 10 days. Rivera said that means DeAngelo Williams will get the bulk of carries against the Jets.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org .

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Matt ForteNov 26 07:13p

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte (knee) is officially active for the Week 12 game against the Green Bay Packers Thursday, Nov. 26.

Corey BrownNov 26 03:43p

Carolina Panthers WR Corey Brown (shoulder) has been declared inactive for the Week 12 game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Corey BrownNov 26 03:33p

The Carolina Panthers have declared RB Brandon Wegher, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, CB Charles Tillman, WR Corey Brown, LS Danny Aiken, WR Kevin Norwood, DE Ryan Delaire inactive for Week 12.

Brice ButlerNov 26 03:33p

The Dallas Cowboys have declared WR Brice Butler, TE Geoff Swaim, LB Mark Nzeocha, CB Morris Claiborne, OG Ronald Leary, DE Ryan Russell, RB Trey Williams inactive for Week 12.

Timothy WrightNov 26 11:33a

The Detroit Lions have declared OT Corey Robinson, DL Gabe Wright, S Isaiah Johnson, DL Jermelle Cudjo, OT LaAdrian Waddle, WR T.J. Jones, TE Tim Wright inactive for Week 12.

Darrelle RevisNov 26 11:33a

New York Jets CB Darrelle Revis (concussion) wasn't spotted at practice Thursday, Nov. 26, and he's unlikely to play in Week 12 against the Miami Dolphins.

Calvin JohnsonNov 26 11:23a

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) is active Thursday, Nov. 26, against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Matt BryantNov 26 11:13a

Updating previous reports, Atlanta Falcons PK Matt Bryant (quadriceps) injured his quadriceps in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Sam BradfordNov 26 11:13a

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (concussion, shoulder) is inactive Thursday, Nov. 26.

Sam BradfordNov 26 11:13a

The Philadelphia Eagles have declared DL Brandon Bair, CB Denzel Rice, WR Jonathan Krause, RB Ryan Mathews, QB Sam Bradford, OT Tanner Hawkinson, TE Zach Ertz inactive for Week 12.

Peyton ManningNov 26 11:03a

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Devonta FreemanNov 26 11:03a

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (concussion) won't practice Thursday, Nov. 26, and the team is preparing to play without him in Week 12, according to head coach Dan Quinn.

Shayne GrahamNov 26 10:43a

Free-agent PK Shayne Graham (Saints) will sign with the Atlanta Falcons Thursday, Nov. 26, according to a source.

Mark SanchezNov 26 08:43a

Philadelphia Eagles QB Mark Sanchez will start Thursday, Nov. 26, in place of QB Sam Bradford (concussion, shoulder).

Doug BaldwinNov 25 07:43p

Seattle Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin (ankle) did not take part in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Tyrod TaylorNov 25 07:23p

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Malcom FloydNov 25 06:53p

San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates (hip) and WR Malcom Floyd (shoulder) were limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Case KeenumNov 25 06:43p

St. Louis Rams QB Case Keenum (concussion) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Dexter McClusterNov 25 06:33p

Tennessee Titans RB Dexter McCluster (knee) did not take part in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Kendall WrightNov 25 06:33p

Tennessee Titans WR Kendall Wright (knee) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Mark IngramNov 25 06:23p

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A. Seferian-JenkinsNov 25 06:03p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) was limited in practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Stedman BaileyNov 25 05:53p

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Danny AmendolaNov 25 04:43p

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Matt ForteNov 25 03:33p

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John BrownNov 25 03:13p

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Arizona Cardinals WR Michael Floyd (hamstring) is practicing Wednesday, Nov. 25.

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