Sports

Ron Rivera: Missed opportunities cost Panthers shot to lead NFC South


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Carolina Panthers are now in a must win situation to keep pace in NFC South division race.

After Sunday’s 31-21 loss to New Orleans Saints the Panthers no longer control their own destiny to win NFC South. With Falcons 20-17 win over the Saints on Thursday Night Football, both Falcons and Saints control their own destiny to win division because if either one of these team’s win out they’ll be on top of the division when its all said and done. But does this worry the 2015 MVP Cam Newton?

“We just have to move forward and be optimistic of our opportunities knowing the world doesn’t stop because the Panthers lost today,” Newton said after Sunday’s loss. “We just have to do the things that we can control and as we do that everything will fall as they may.”

In Sunday’s showdown against the Saints the Panthers lost the time of possession battle holding the ball for less than 27 minutes. Panthers typically win this battle and prior to the game led the league with an average time of possession at 33:32 which is something head coach Ron Rivera pointed out earlier this season as something that gives their top notch defense an edge.

With the Saints controlling the ball they had their way against Panthers defense accumulating 400 yards of total offense. They also made the Panthers look silly with a few crucial runs by both Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara.

Kamara’s ability to make defenders miss and maintain his balance after contact would make it a challenge for Panthers defense, Luke Kuechly said ahead of the game. Getting “population around the ball” is what the defensive will have to do to contain the Saints running back, Kuechly said.

While doing so, they couldn’t stop the Saints from capitalizing on a fourth down conversion near the goal line. Off a pitch Kamara was hit before reaching the goal line by Shaq Thompson but somehow, Kamara bounced back from the hit and crossed the goal line to put the Saints up early 7-0 in the first quarter. Ingram was able to break away for a 72 yard run early in the second quarter despite the Panthers having eight guys in the box to stop the run. Ingram later scored a touchdown to finish the drive to put the Saints up 14-7.

“We allow a big run on an eight man front, that’s disappointing,” Rivera said.

After Panthers found themselves down 21-7, Kuechly recovered a fumbled forced by a Mike Adams peanut punch. Panthers were able to score seven off the turnover after a 21-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Christian McCaffrey.

With Panthers down 28-14 in the fourth quarter they fumbled on a punt return that could have gotten them back into the game. Eventually, Saints were able to close out the game 31-21 with Kamara tallying a total of 126 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers fierce defense. After losing the showdown Rivera chalked it up as to not capitalizing on opportunities.

“We had opportunities to complete plays down the field and we get holding calls, facemasking calls, can’t do that against a good football team and that’s why you get beat,” Rivera said.

Not playing in sync on offense, defense or special teams was the deal breaker, Newton said.

“The three phases of football just didn’t come together today,” Newton said. “I have full faith that a type of game like this will not happen again…I don’t think we played complimentary football today [and] when you playing in a game like this…every single play counts and that showed more than anything today.”

Hosting the NFC’s top team in Minnesota Vikings will keep this team from dwelling off losing their NFC South showdown.

“We got Minnesota next, we’re going to focus in on who we play next,” Rivera said.

By Gino Terrell

This article was originally published in MCXV.

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