PITTSBURGH – Like all of you, the Panthers were fired up for a prime time battle against the Steelers on Thursday Night Football.
Carolina entered riding a three-game win streak and Pittsburgh had won four in a row, setting up a true marquee matchup.
"This was a game we were really looking forward to, a game to measure ourselves against one of the better teams in the league," tight end Greg Olsen said. "We got that answer, and well, we have a lot of work to do."
The Panthers' 52-21 defeat left them humbled – that was the word uttered most often in the visitors' locker room. And there is some value in that.
"A nice dose of humble pie for us today," linebacker Thomas Davis said. "The scoreboard was (indicative) of how we played."
Added Olsen: "I think we realize now maybe this isn't so easy. You start winning and things seem easy and everything is all hunky dory. This league is hard. This league will humble you really fast."
The old adage says it's never as good or as bad as it looks, and that applies on both sides of that Thursday Night Football blowout.
"We are probably not that good," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. "The ball was rolling downhill. You'd like to think that you are that good, but you're not."
And the Panthers surely aren't that bad. As head coach Ron Rivera said Monday, this team is better than they showed at Heinz Field. A rough night on the road on a short week isn't at all uncommon. Despite that defeat, they're 6-3, in solid position to make a run at the postseason.
With all that said, it's easy to simply suggest Carolina should burn that tape against Pittsburgh and erase it entirely.
That's not how Olsen sees it.
"We have to move on and it only counts as one loss. But we also can't pretend it didn't happen, because it did, and it happened for a reason," Olsen explained. "If we don't get better, when we play good teams it will happen again.
"We have to correct this (expletive). This stuff just doesn't all the sudden go away because we pretend not to look at it. We have to address things, get better, and if you do that, then it does just count for one. If you don't, it lingers and you're in trouble."
This one will linger for a bit whether the Panthers like it or not. A short week now leads to a long week before the team travels to Detroit to face the Lions.
But perhaps there's a silver lining in that.
"The thing is we have to see this for 10 days straight," wide receiver Jarius Wright said. "This will have to sink in for a little while. That's a good thing. The way we got smacked today makes you never want to get smacked like that again."
Rivera and his staff will use the added time to dissect the tape and make the necessary corrections as they see fit.
Take the medicine and then it's on to the next one.
"At the end of the day guys, this (expletive) happens, and I'm going to put it just like that. OK, let's just be honest about it. It happens," Rivera said moments after the game. "This is my 30th year in the NFL. I have seen games like this; I've been part of games like this, on both sides. At the end of the day, (if) you continue to dwell on it and worry about it; it's going to creep in. If you get over it, and you start preparing on your next game and focusing on your next game, you give yourself the chance to win. That's what we are going to do.
"There's no magic pill."
View game action photos from the Panthers 52-21 loss against the Steelers on Thursday Night Football.