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Monday, October 21, 2013
A silver lining from Bradford play

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sometimes you find something good in something bad.

That's what Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera took from Sunday's fourth-quarter play in  which St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending ACL knee injury.

Before we go any further, Rivera wasn't happy to see Bradford injured. No coach wants to see a player, particularly a star like the first pick of the 2010 NFL draft, hurt.

It's what happened while Bradford was down on the sideline, injured far more than anyone realized at the moment, that pleased Rivera. It's specifically what free safety Mike Mitchell, who pushed Bradford out of bounds and then stood on the sideline celebrating with both arms spread wide, did.

Mitchell
He ran away from trouble.

With Rams guard Harvey Dahl approaching fast, Mitchell ran towards midfield. And there isn't much Mitchell, as he told me later, "runs from.''

This was one of several examples -- but perhaps the best because of Mitchell's proneness to finding trouble -- of Carolina keeping its composure in a game that included four personal fouls on the Rams.

"Unfortunately, that happened,'' Rivera said of Bradford's injury. "[But] Mike got out of there and stayed away from it. Again, it's about maintaining composure in certain situations in the game.''

The Panthers (3-3), looking to get their record above .500 for the first time since 2008 on Thursday night at Tampa Bay, did a good job all day of not crossing the line in a game that saw the Rams repeatedly lose their composure.

They also did a good job of having one another's backs when skirmishes began, such as the one that resulted in the ejection of Rams defensive end Chris Long in the third quarter.

Mitchell's issues with Dahl actually began earlier in the game over what Mitchell called a "cheap shot he put on Luke,'' referring to middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.

"I told him about it, and I think he had something against me the rest of the game,'' Mitchell said. "I got up in his face and told him he won't do that to one of our players.''

That's something Rivera has been looking for from his players since he arrived three years ago. He recalled how as a player for the 1985 Chicago Bears there was that type of mentality, and how a year later with basically the same team there wasn't.

The '85 Bears went 15-1 and won the Super Bowl. The '86 Bears went 14-2 and lost in the first-round of the playoffs.

Rivera calls it a pack mentality, something he has seen in practice but until Sunday not in a game because no other team tested Carolina like the Rams with their physicality.

"The time to draw the line came and the guys did,'' Rivera said. "That's part of being a team, is having of having each other's back. ... You're playing for one another. You have to have a little pride in who your teammates are.

"Those things are important."