How will Panthers respond after humbling loss?

CHARLOTTE – Defensive tackle Kawann Short spent his mini-bye getting some quality time with his daughter, getting in some cardio work, and getting ready for what lies ahead.

He didn't spend it harping on the lopsided loss that led into last weekend, but he hasn't forgotten it, either. He's also been around long enough to know how the Panthers tend to respond to such losses.

"Despite what happened last week, we still feel like we're a pretty good ball team," Short said. "And a good football team is made for bouncing back off those type of losses."

Blowout losses like the 52-21 one that Carolina suffered at Pittsburgh last Thursday are an occasional reality for even the NFL's best. The Eagles suffered a two-touchdown loss against Seattle on the way to the Super Bowl. The Patriots the year before got blanked 16-0 by Buffalo before recovering to win another title. The champions at the end of the 2014 and 2015 seasons got beat by the Chiefs in those respective regular seasons by a total of 43 points.

Three of head coach Ron Rivera's four playoff teams since 2013 has lost at least one game by 18 or more points. In fact, those three playoff teams lost a total of eight games by that margin (mind you, six of them came courtesy of the 7-8-1 team in 2014).

Historically, though, the response by Rivera's teams has been exactly what you would hope. After an at-the-time surprising lopsided loss at home to the Saints in Week 3 of last year, the Panthers proceeded to win at New England the next week. Carolina's one non-playoff team of late, in 2016, lost 40-7 late in the season at Seattle and had nothing tangible to play for the next week yet still easily dispatched the Chargers.

Next up after the Steelers setback? A trip to Detroit.

"One of my favorite sayings is that you better learn from history because if you don't, you're doomed to repeat it," Rivera said. "It creates a little bit more realism – that hey, maybe we're not as good as we think we are. Maybe we need to work a little bit more. Maybe we took a little bit for granted.

"That's what humbling experiences create."

Linebacker Thomas Davis called the Pittsburgh game a humbling experience even before he had walked off the field. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was mic'd up for "Inside the NFL," and microphones captured Davis telling Tomlin after the game that the Panthers needed the humbling they were given.

"We didn't play like we're capable of playing, obviously, and when you get beat that way in front of a national stage, it's always tough," Davis said. "If you are a true competitor, you want to bounce back and do something about it. I want to get that taste out of my mouth."

The wait for another chance – especially when the wait is extended like this one – can be excruciating, but the Panthers aren't allowing it to be.

"It's over, and we have moved on. The only reason we're talking about it is because you guys brought it up," Rivera said. "Our whole attitude has been to go forward and get past it. For the most part we didn't watch it as a team. They may have watched it individually or as a group, but for the most part there was no directive to watch this tape.

"We as coaches went over it and studied it, and we made the corrections that we needed to make."

This isn't college football. The details of the loss didn't hurt Carolina's credentials in terms of building a case for playoff inclusion. The loss didn't count any more than the Panthers' previous two.

If there are any lingering effects, they aren't evident on the surface. And if there are some residuals buried out of sight, they're the kind that drive a team, not derail a team.

"Coach says that some things like that happen for us, not to us. It happens for us and it happens for a reason," tight end Chris Manhertz said. "Whatever we can take from that game – and there's a lot for us to take from that game – it can only make us better moving forward.

"Now we have the ability to turn the leaf and understand that last week was last week."

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