CHARLOTTE – After Carolina's 48-33 loss to the Falcons, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott didn't get much sleep.
"I woke up on the hour just about every hour and had to talk myself back to sleep," he said.
Every coordinator in the NFL can relate.
"I've been in this league a long time," McDermott said, "and sometimes, unfortunately, this happens."
Along those lines, McDermott referenced Sunday night's Kansas City-Pittsburgh game in which the Steelers earned a 43-14 victory. The previous week, the Steelers suffered a 34-3 defeat against the Eagles while the Chiefs beat the Jets 24-3.
"Welcome to life in the NFL," McDermott said. "It doesn't make it right, the way we played (Sunday). Going forward is what's important. We learn from it, we get stronger from it and we grow stronger together."
Under McDermott's guidance, the Carolina defense has been one the most consistently stingy units in the NFL, finishing top 10 in total defense each of the past four seasons.
Given what's been established, the big plays that amounted to Atlanta's 571 total yards allowed was very uncharacteristic.
"It just wasn't up to our standard and what we expect and how we expect to play," McDermott said. "Team defense. When we play great team defense, we're hard to beat. When you beat yourselves for one reason or another, you're not helping yourself against a great offense like that.
"If you're not on your A-game, and we weren't, then you're going to get exploited, and we got exploited."
When asked what he wants the unit to take away from the tape, McDermott had an insightful response.
"I think there's lessons on the field and off the field also," McDermott said. "There's a way you win games in this league, and it doesn't come easy. The standard that we've established for ourselves as a defensive football team hasn't come easy – you have to work at it. That's not to say they didn't work at it. Those guys wanted to win the game bad. You saw them battling, giving our offense a chance on the last drive, and we just fell short. I think one of the positives you can take from it is that we have guys that are going to lay on the line. You don't see that every week in the NFL from every team. I'm extremely proud of that, the character of the men in that room.
"Having said that, we have to understand what it takes to play at the level that we've become known across the league for the last four-plus seasons. That's part of coming together as a team every year. New faces have to get to know and understand our team and they have to understand how we all fit together and the standard that we set."
As McDermott pointed out, one game does not make a season, and one game has not extinguished his confidence in the group.
The next game offers another chance to play defense the way Carolina expects to.
"We have to learn to turn the page and get ready to fight again," McDermott said. "That's what we'll see this week: how they're going to respond.
"It's where we go from here that matters most, and this is a great learning opportunity for us."
View photos from Carolina's game against the Falcons by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.