Against Denver on Sunday, the Carolina Panthers defense held the opposing offense to 20 points or fewer for the fifth straight game. The rest of the Broncos’ points in a 36-14 win came from the Denver defense or on special teams.
But for the fourth time in that span, the Panthers lost.
“I’m not taking anything away from the wins and losses. That’s the most important thing of our business,” defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. “But I’ve got a goal as a defensive coordinator and a vision, and we’re moving forward toward that vision.
“Anybody who was at the field yesterday I think saw that those guys played tough, aggressive football through and through until the end of the game. And when the game was going the way it was going, to keep coming back and keep coming back and keep coming back, that speaks about what’s going on the defensive side of the ball.”
Denver picked up 16 points Sunday via a special teams touchdown, an interception return for a score and a safety against quarterback Cam Newton. The Panthers held Denver nearly 40 yards of total offense below its average.
McDermott went so far as to say the defense gave up “really 13 points” until late in the game. Peyton Manning engineered a four-play, 54-yard drive in the closing minutes to make the final score 36-14.
“We could have gone five games in a row holding a team under 17 points,” McDermott said. “Any time you can hold a team to 13 points as long as we did yesterday, in particular a quarterback like Peyton Manning, you’ve got a lot working for you.”
KEEPING NEWTON IN: Once the game got away from the Panthers in the fourth quarter Sunday, Rivera said he considered taking Newton out.
The quarterback was sacked seven times and took a physical beating from the Broncos defense. Rather than put back-up Derek Anderson in during the closing minutes, Rivera stuck with Newton, who led a touchdown drive.
“I thought about (replacing Newton) at one point,” Rivera said. “We kept talking about what he needs to do and it was really good to see the second-to-last time we had the ball we went down a scored a touchdown. We felt that was a good opportunity.
“The next time we came out we thought we could do it again to try and build his confidence.
“He’s done some really good things at times. When he’s having success we want to build on it so the idea of keeping him out there was in my mind.”
TAKING SMITH OUT: Rivera said wide receiver Steve Smith, 33, was out of the game late in the fourth quarter for two reasons – to get him some rest and to look at other receivers.
In September, Smith played the entire game in a 36-7 loss to the New York Giants. Rivera said then it was important to keep Smith in the game so younger receivers could see his work ethic.
“We’re at a point now where we’re looking at guys,” Rivera said. “Steve’s a professional and he understands that. At this point in the season you have to look at opportunities to save guys’ legs. Take a few snaps off was the thinking behind it.”
Asked about Rivera’s comments, Smith responded, “That’s what coach Rivera said? Then that’s what coach Rivera said.”
Smith was targeted five times Sunday, but caught just one pass, his least productive game of the season.
“Tough Sunday? It’s been a tough November,” Smith said.
GETTIS USAGE: Rivera hinted last week that newly activated David Gettis could see time at kickoff returner, but the wide receiver only saw 12 snaps on Sunday.
Gettis hasn’t played since the 2010 season after suffering an ACL tear last preseason, and a hamstring injury had him on the physically unable to perform list until last Monday. Sunday, he saw limited time with the offense and no time on special teams.
“Would I like to have seen him get a few more? Probably. But at that point we’re working with our starters and trying to win a football game and give us a chance,” Rivera said of Gettis, who admitted last week his route concepts were still rusty. “There was also a point where I said it’s time, let’s throw him in a little more.”
Wide receiver Armanti Edwards and tight end Gary Barnidge also got additional opportunities, Rivera said.
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