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Rivera says loss to Redskins ‘won’t define’ Panthers season

October 15, 2018
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Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman (24) carries the ball after pulling in an interception as Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) pursues him during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers coach Ron Rivera is eager to make sure his players put an ugly loss to the Redskins behind them before packing their bags and heading to Philadelphia to face the defending champion Eagles.

“Learn and grow from it and move on,” Rivera said matter-of-factly on Monday.

The Panthers seemed to have all of the momentum on their side entering the game at Washington.

Not only were the Panthers coming off a dramatic win against the Giants on a 63-yard field goal, but they were also getting tight end Greg Olsen back from a broken foot and linebacker Thomas Davis from a four-game suspension. Meanwhile, the Redskins had just been exposed in an embarrassing 43-19 defeat to the Saints the week before, a game in which cornerback Josh Norman was benched at halftime.

Instead of carrying that momentum over, the Panthers (3-2) turned the ball three times in a lackluster 23-17 loss to the Redskins, leaving them one game behind the Saints in the NFC South.

“When you look at games like this, losing is not going to define us,” Rivera said. “How we handle it next week, that’s what is going to define us. If we take advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow from it, we have a chance to take a step forward. If we don’t, we will get beat again.”

The loss to the Redskins is a microcosm of what is happening around the league this season.

One week a team looks awful; the next week it looks like world beaters.

“The thing that is happening is you see more parity,” Rivera said. “You look around at teams that didn’t start very well and all of sudden they’re playing well. Look at what Dallas did. They played a very talented Jacksonville team on Sunday and scored 40 (points). That is a sign of what is happening. ... It’s all over the place and each week it will be something different.”

For the Panthers, the loss further exposed some lingering problems that have been overshadowed by wins.

Most notably, the team has struggled defending the run.

Carolina’s defense allowed 33-year-old Adrian Peterson to run for 97 yards on 17 carries and continued to struggle getting off the field on third down. The Panthers offense, as it has been prone to do all year, had lengthy lulls in production, and the three turnovers were critical.

Olsen said the Panthers have been inconsistent this season.

“When you are 3-1 everyone thinks everyone thinks everything is great, but the reality is it’s not,” Olsen said. “And that game is a microcosm of that. There was a lot of bad, but also a lot of good. It’s just really hard to overcome all of the bad” turnovers.

Quarterback Cam Newton called the loss a tough pill to swallow, but is eager to play the Eagles.

“When you put so much energy, time, effort into something and you don’t get the turnout that you want. ...,” Newton said. “But at the end of the day, no one is going to feel sorry for you. We don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for us. We just got to get right for next week.”

Rivera added that he’s not lost faith in rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore, the team’s first-round draft pick who fumbled twice which led to 10 Redskins points.

“D.J. is going to be a part of what we do for a long time, as is Curtis Samuel, as is pretty much anybody on this football team,” Rivera said. “If we believe in them, we’re going to keep putting them out there. That’s the only way these guys are going to learn and develop into the players we believe they can be. We will stick with them.”

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