CHARLOTTE – Head coach Ron Rivera understandably felt great after last week's dramatic comeback win at Seattle. The 5-0 Panthers are one of five unbeaten clubs remaining.
But the good vibes quickly went away when Rivera started watching film of last year's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, who visit Bank of America Stadium on Sunday night.
The Eagles (3-3) cruised to a 45-21 victory over the Panthers on Monday Night Football in Week 10 of last year.
"It made me ill," Rivera said, "but we looked at it and hopefully we learn from it. It did get away from us, but that's the nature of the game too. We have to be honest with ourselves, face reality, look at what happened, learn from it and go on."
For those who suggest Carolina could suffer a lull after such an emotional win against the Seahawks, Rivera has no such concerns.
"Hey, we're going to be on national television. Hey, they whipped us last year – so there's a challenge," Rivera said. "There's a lot of things that you can look for. For me, the bottom line is about us doing our job."
The Panthers aren't hiding from what happened in Philadelphia last season. But they're keenly aware of how different the matchup is in 2015.
Let's start with Carolina. Quarterback Cam Newton is healthy and emerging as an MVP candidate in 2015 with his dual threat talents. Last year, when Newton was sacked by the Eagles nine times, he was greatly hampered by a series of injuries – most notably a surgically repaired ankle.
The Carolina defense, meanwhile, is currently performing at the level you'd expect from a unit that's finished in the top 10 each of the last three seasons. Last year in Philadelphia, that defense was in the midst of a midseason struggle to recapture its identity.
As Eagles head coach Chip Kelly rightfully said, "we expect a different Panthers team this time."
The Eagles, on the other hand, have made major changes on offense. Quarterback Sam Bradford is in his first year directing Kelly's up-tempo offense. Running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin are gone – free agent running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews are settling in.
Philadelphia's defense, specifically the front seven, features several of the same names from a year ago. Defensive end Fletcher Cox leads the team with five sacks and linebacker Connor Barwin has two. That pair combined for 4.5 sacks in last year's meeting versus a Carolina offensive line that has three new starters.
"They have a rather athletic front seven that can cause fits if we let them," Newton said.
Carolina is intent on making sure that doesn't happen again. They'll have to prove it under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football.
"It's about what we've done this year and what they've done this year," Rivera said, "and we'll find out on Sunday."