© Phillip G. Pavely

1st-And-10: Ron Rivera On Loss To Steelers: "At The End Of The Day...This Sh*t Happens"

Ryan Chell
November 09, 2018 - 2:39 am

Things were going so well for the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at Heinz Field. 

Too bad the game doesn't end after just five minutes. 

 After the Panthers' opening 9-play, 75 yard drive capped off by a Christian McCaffrey 20-yard TD, it took the Steelers just one play to tie the game back up - with Ben Roethlisberger finding JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 75-yard touchdown strike. 

From then on, Ben Roethlisberger was near perfect. 

Check that. He was.

The Steelers quarterback, who finished with a perfect passer rating, completed 22-of-25 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns in the Steelers win. 

It's the third time in franchise history that Carolina has allowed an opposing thrower a perfect rating through the air. 

Meanwhile on the other side, nothing went right for quarterback Cam Newton

Sacked five times on the night by the Steelers defense, as Newton tried to counter with a score of his own, Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt nearly got to Newton in the end zone. 

As Newton tried to avoid the safety, Vince Williams stepped in front of Devin Funchess and took it back 17 yards for a Pittsburgh touchdown. 

The Panthers went three and out on their next drive, and the Steelers other stars took turns on making plays and finding pay dirt. 

With the Steelers up by a touchdown, Roethlisberger drove Pittsburgh 61 yards down the field in just four-and-a-half minutes of play and gave the ball to star running back James Conner for a two-yard score to make it 21-7 with 4:35 left in the first quarter. 

After another 3-and-out by the Panthers and a 50-yard field goal by Chris Boswell, it was deja vu for the Panthers yet again as Newton found McCaffrey for another 20+ yard touchdown off a screen to make it 24-14 Steelers with 5:10 left in the first half. 

But with 3:16 left before halftime, Roethlisberger found his OTHER star wideout for a long touchdown strike - a 53-yard touchdown to Antonio Brown as he shoved rookie cornerback Donte Jackson out of the way. 

And while Newton has been the "Comeback King" this season, there would be no such magic from the Panthers QB on the road in Pittsburgh last night. 

Carolina moves to 1-6 all-time against the Steelers in franchise history - with their last win coming in an 18-14 win over Pittsburgh in the finale of the 1996 season. 

#2 - Defense Collapses Against Steelers

It was a night to forget for this Panthers defense against a two-time Super Bowl champion in Ben Roethlisberger

Carolina allowed 52 points on the night - which is tied for the franchise record for points allowed on defense. 

The last time Carolina allowed this many points in a single game was 2000 when they lost 52-9 to the Oakland Raiders in their season finale. 

The Panthers came into Thursday night allowing just 334 total yards per game - good for 11th in the league. 

Unfortunately, Carolina allowed 328 yards alone to Roethlisberger through the air, and 457 yards total in the loss. 

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said you can't allow a team to flood the box score like that and expect to win games.

"We just allowed plays over the top...something we haven't done the last few weeks."

#3 - Cam Newton: "We Just Got Whooped...It Happens"

© Charles LeClaire

Postgame, quarterback Cam Newton spoke for the whole team, and gave a lot of credit to the Steelers for coming in with an effective gameplan to shut them down. 

"It was just a domino kind of effect," Newton told reporters. "We scored on the first drive, but they had a plan coming in. It was very clear what their plan was...and they did a great job of that."

Newton said the Steelers did a very good job of keeping him and McCaffrey contained, and it greatly limited what they wanted to do offensively. 

"Tip of the hat to those guys. You just have to be better the next time," Newton said. 

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said they didn't do enough to compete with one of the hottest teams in the AFC. 

"Pittsburgh is a very good football team that came out and did a great job against us. We made too many mistakes to expect to beat a good football team."

Newton said his only gripe with a loss such as this hinges on them repeating the same mistakes again down the road.

"This happens, and I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with us is us not learning from this."

#4 - Newton Left In Game Despite Blowout

Despite being down 52-21 in the fourth quarter, Newton wasn't pulled from the game until the Panthers final drive. 

Backup Taylor Heinicke came in with just 1:35 left in the game to complete the mop-up duty for Carolina. 

Newton said he supported the coaching staff in their decision to keep him in the game despite the insurmountable odds. 

"At the end of the day, my job is to be the best football player possible. If I'm still in there, I'm supposed to be in there. I'm not going to complain or bicker about it. That's just how I play it out."

Rivera said he had his reasons for leaving his star quarterback in a no-win situation. 

"We wanted to give him a little bit of rhythm and then get him out at the end," the Panthers head coach said. "We did some things that we wanted to do." 

#5 - Christian McCaffrey Lone Bright Spot For Panthers

There were very few positives for the Panthers in Thursday's onslaught at the hands of the Steelers. 

But if there is anyone who can hang their head high after the trip to Pittsburgh, it's running back Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey finished with 137 total yards (77 rushing, 61 receiving) and three total touchdowns for the Panthers. 

The second-year running back from Stanford caught a pass in the flat 20 yards out from quarterback Cam Newton to sprint the Panthers to an early 7-0 lead with 10:36 in the first quarter, but the Panthers would never see a lead the rest of the game. 

McCaffrey's second score was essentially a clone of his first touchdown - just with five more yards added on his reception. 

It trimmed the Steelers' lead to 10, 24-14 with 5:02 left in the first half, but it's the last time Carolina had a puncher's chance. 

McCaffrey completed the hat trick with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter to make it 52-21 Pittsburgh, but it was too little, too late for the Panthers. 

McCaffrey passed 1,000 career rushing yards in Thursday's loss, and currently has 579 yards rushing this season through nine games. 

He has scored seven touchdowns in the last three games, tying a similar stretch to former Panther DeAngelo Williams set in 2008. 

His 15 career touchdowns through his first 25 games are third-most by a Carolina Panther in team history. 

#6 - Offensive Line Lets Down Cam Newton

Quarterback Cam Newton finished Thursday's contest 23-of-29 for 193 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. 

Newton, who was under pressure for most of the night, was sacked five times by the Steelers defense. 

Pittsburgh came into the game with 26 sacks, good for fourth-best in the NFL. 

The entire Panthers offensive line struggled on the night, as Newton was hit seven times on his dropbacks. 

Steelers linebacker Casey Heyward led his team with two sacks, along with Vince Williams, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt all adding a sack apece. 

Ron Rivera said once the Steelers built a lead, allowing their pass-rushers to dig in and come after Newton was a recipe for disaster. 

"Once you get a lead, things change. They did some things that were a little bit different. They brought some pressures that beat our protections. You have to give them credit, and as coaches, we have to make sure we're giving these guys an opportunity to win."

#7 - Eric Reid Ejected In The Third Quarter

As the Panthers struggled to keep things afloat coming out of the halftime break, the mental mistakes and overal frustration flared up in the final minutes of the third quarter. 

With Pittsburgh leading 38-14 and faced with a 3rd-and-8 on the Panthers 32-yard line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger escaped the pocket and scrambled past the first-down marker to move the chains. 

But as he approached the Carolina 14-yard line, Roethlisberger went down in a slide and safety Eric Reid came barreling down on the Steeler signal caller. 

Reid, who led the Panthers in tackles, was ejected after review by the league office. 

Steelers OL David DeCastro went after Reid to defend his quarterback, but there was no immediate scrum or fight and no other ejections were made. 

Two plays later, Roethlisberger found TE Jesse James for his fourth touchdown of the game that left the score 45-14 to close out the third quarter.

Reid and Roethlisberger exchanged apologies as Reid went to the locker room, and the two players said postgame that there were no hard feelings about the play. 

Ron Rivera did not agree with the decision to eject his safety as he told reporters after the game. 

"I don't think that was warranted. I dont think he hit him hard enough to eject him. We are trying to protect the quarterbacks - if he had hit him as fast as he was going."

Rivera said that Reid's immediate apology and Roethlisberger's reaction should have made the intent clear after the play. 

"You saw Ben's reaction...that led me to believe that he didn't hit him as hard as hard as they thought he did."

Reid was also administered a drug test in the locker room following the conclusion of the game.

Reid said this is the fifth time he's been asked to submit a drug sample since his signing with Carolina, but long snapper J.J. Jansen was also subpoened a drug test as well. 

#8 - Panthers Corners Struggle Against Wide Receiver Corps

Despite only tying the game at 7, Ron Rivera said Smith-Schuster's opening 75-yard touchdown was the game-breaking equalizer for the Panthers. 

"Thought everything was going well until we gave up a 75-yard touchdown pass," the Panthers head coach said. "I can't give you any other explanation other than that."

Rivera credited the Steelers WR with making a play, but said corner back James Bradberry made a mental mistake biting on the short route. 

"They double-moved us on the very first one, and because they double-moved us, James bit on the underneath and the receiver from the inside broke to the sideline for the touchdown. He's got to stay deep and stay in the lead position."

On Antonio Brown's 53-yard touchdown to put the Steelers ahead 31-14 with 3:16 in the first half, Rivera said Donte Jackson just made a rookie mistake. 

"He just tripped.

#9 - Panthers Wide Receivers A Non Factor

A week after his two-touchdown performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, second-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel finished with just 19 total yards on five touches. 

He also had a critical fumble on his kick return at the end of the third quarter that led to Roethlisberger's fifth and final touchdown of the game. 

TE Greg Olsen finished with four catches for 40 yards, and Devin Funchess caught three passes for just thirty-two yards. 

Samuel and DJ Moore combined for just 38 yards on eight catches between the two receivers. 

#10 - Panthers Moving On To Next Opponent

The overall mood of the Panthers locker room was that they already were ready to move on from a loss such as this. 

"The way we got smacked today makes you want to make sure you never get smacked like this again,". wide receiver Jarius Wright told the Charlotte Observer. 

The Panthers will have 10 days to prepare for their Week 11 opponent, the Detroit Lions. 

With the Panthers at 6-3 past the midway point of the season, head coach Ron Rivera said this isn't the time for them to hit the panic button. 

"I mean...at the end of the day, this shit happens. And I'm going to put it like that. Let's just be honest here."

"This is my 30th year in the NFL. I've seen games like this. I've been a part of games like this on both sides."

Rivera said the biggest mistake they can make is continuing to worry about one game in a 17-week NFL season and eliminate focus on the task at hand. 

"At the end of the day, you continue to dwell on it and  worry about it, it's going to creep in," the Panthers head coach said. "If you get over it...you give yourself a chance to win the next game."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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