NFC South: 2013 Week 3 NYG at CAR

Big win takes big heat off Rivera

September, 22, 2013
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera was running off the field following Sunday's 38-0 victory over the New York Giants when he stopped, looked into the stands and pointed.

"That was my wife,'' Rivera said with a smile. "She has been with me through all of this. She needs to know that I appreciated it.''

This, as Rivera referenced, has been speculation he may not have had another chance to run off the field as the Carolina coach if the Panthers had fallen to 0-3.

The thought was team owner Jerry Richardson, who fired general manager Marty Hurney during a 1-5 start last season, would make the change during the upcoming bye week.

[+] EnlargeRon Rivera
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesRon Rivera could breathe a sigh of relief after Carolina's victory.
Rivera never admitted how tough the speculation has been beyond saying he'd reached out to friends and coaches around the league -- and his wife -- for support.

That he stopped to point to his wife on this sun-splashed day when his team dominated every phase spoke volumes.

That he didn't dwell on the security the win gave him -- at least for a few weeks -- also spoke volumes.

"It's knowing that we can do these things, and that we have that type of ability,'' Rivera said. "Now we have something to build on, something to go forward [with]. Now we have a chance to keep rolling.''

Richardson has been quiet about his coach's future. But after seasons of 6-10 and 7-9, he was in the position of almost having to make a change if Carolina started 0-3.

Players seemed to sense that.

"You never know what's going to happen,'' left tackle Jordan Gross said. "You never know what decisions are going to be made. But the players all believe in [Rivera] and he believes in us.

"There's a business to this game, but there's also relationships. Everyone wanted to win because we knew it meant a lot to him.''

That was the message up and down a locker room in which the grim smiles of two heart-breaking losses to Seattle and Buffalo were replaced by smiles.

"We have a really eloquent players' coach,'' defensive end Greg Hardy said after sacking Giants quarterback Eli Manning three times. "He basically came down [this week] and said, 'You know what? Screw me. I'm here for you guys. This is what we're going to do. We're going to win because we're a team.'

"... He gives you something like that, it makes you want to play 10 times harder.''

That would have been the shame had Richardson been put in the position of making a change. The players really do, to quote Gross, love Rivera.

Not every coach in the league has that type of admiration.

At the same time, the Panthers had blown two fourth-quarter leads this season to fall to 2-14 in games decided by seven or fewer points since 2011 under Rivera. That number alone gets coaches fired.

Now, with the most-lopsided win in franchise history, that speculation will die down.

But the pressure doesn't end for Rivera because all of the pieces came together against a Giants team that appears to be falling apart. The Panthers were 1-1 a year ago after a 35-27 victory over New Orleans and then lost five straight.

That team had more questions than answers, though. This team's biggest questions before Sunday were the injury-riddled secondary and the lack of a go-to second or third receiver.

The secondary stepped up, holding Manning and the league's top pass offense to 119 yards. Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. stepped up with three catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Brandon LaFell had three catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns.

There really does appear something for Rivera to build on, to prove he can succeed as a head coach.

So when asked what personal satisfaction he got out of the win, Rivera looked forward instead of behind, as you would expect him to.

"In all honestly, I can't worry about that,'' he said. "I have to worry about the next game. So the satisfaction is that we won. I'm happy for those guys in the room. They deserve it. These guys have been through a lot.''

So has Rivera.

The point said it all.

Rapid Reaction: Panthers 38, Giants 0

September, 22, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 38-0 victory over the New York Giants:

What it means: That owner Jerry Richardson won't have to decide whether to keep coach Ron Rivera during the bye week. That perhaps the Panthers are, as Rivera has insisted on Friday, better than their 0-2 start indicated. Or maybe the Giants are worse than their 0-2 start. Regardless, the message all week has been to squash the opponent before the fourth quarter where the Panthers have blown two leads. Carolina did that with a touchdown on its final drive of the first half and first drive of the second half to make it 24-0. This was complete domination. Carolina has hope.

Stock watch: Offensive coordinator Mike Shula finally unshackled quarterback Cam Newton's legs and everything else fell into place. It didn't hurt that the Giants' defense was horrid, but Newton had something to do with it. He scrambled for a couple of big gains early. He ran the pitch-option. He used his 6-foot-5, 250-pound body to pick up a first down on fourth-and-1. He ran for a touchdown. He threw for three. He was efficient. Other than a few passes on out patterns -- one that was intercepted -- he played like the top pick of the 2011 NFL draft is expected to.

Unleash The Kraken: Greg Hardy, aka "The Kraken,'' adjusted his preseason sack goal from 50 to "a couple" after going sackless in his first two games. He may have to adjust again. Hardy had a couple of sacks in the first quarter and finished with three. It might be time for his agent and the Panthers to get together during the bye week to extend that contract.

Kudos to secondary: I know everyone on Carolina's front four had at least one sack, but give the much-maligned secondary some credit. This group that was missing two starters, that ranked next-to-last in the NFL in opponent's completion percentage at 72.2, held the league's No. 1 passing attack in check better than anyone could have imagined.

What's next? The Panthers have a bye week, and it won't mean bye-bye to their head coach. They need the time off to heal injuries to several starters -- DT Dwan Edwards (thigh), SS Quintin Mikell (ankle) and CB Josh Thomas (concussion) -- before resuming the schedule at Arizona on Oct. 6.