BALTIMORE – The opening series of the game was going just as planned for the Panthers. They were moving the ball with a methodical drive and taking some energy out of a hostile environment.
"We came out, we did the no-huddle right off the bat, we had a good tempo – we had the ball for about 7 or 8 minutes and drove it into field goal position," Rivera said. "And then we had the big negative play that knocks us out."
That play occurred after wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was penalized for offensive pass interference to set up third-and-18 from the Baltimore 27-yard line.
Quarterback Cam Newton took the shotgun snap and was sacked by linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil for a 12-yard loss, pushing Carolina out of field goal range and erasing an opportunity for an early lead.
"We can't do that, and that has to be corrected," Rivera said.
Newton took full responsibility for the sack that took potential points off the board.
"I have to be better at not taking sacks," Newton said. "That put us out of field goal range and cost us, because I know (kicker Graham) Gano would have made that kick. I'm still maturing as a football player, and I'll learn from this."
The Panthers are learning how costly negative plays can be.
"When we have more negatives than positives, we are going to continue to have games like this," Newton said.
But Newton, who completed 14-of-25 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown, offered a positive outlook after Carolina's 38-10 loss to the Ravens.
"We felt we could move the ball today and be productive. We will get better. It's no time to panic," Newton said.
"We're OK. We will be OK."
DAVIS SITS: Linebacker Thomas Davis, who is battling hip and leg injuries, was close to playing on Sunday, but not close enough.
"We can't take the chance," Rivera said. "I'd rather suffer through today than lose a guy for four more weeks or six more weeks."
Davis said he felt discomfort in his hamstring while performing a "build-up stride" at the end of his pregame test to determine his readiness.
"I went out there, did the test. A lot of the stuff I did felt really good. But everything didn't feel good," Davis said. "As a player and as an organization, they had to make a decision, and they felt I just wasn't ready. I'll do everything in my power to be ready for Chicago next week."
Watching from the sideline was as difficult as you'd expect for one of Carolina's captains.
"It's extremely tough. As a competitor you don't like to lose football games," Davis said. "We didn't play well enough to win. We made too many mistakes. It's frustrating. We know what kind of team we have, what we're capable of and we just have to go out there and do it."
CORNERBACK CHANGE: After Steve Smith, Sr. beat cornerback Melvin White for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter, Rivera elected to give cornerback Josh Norman more opportunities. Rivera was displeased with White's decision to play the man instead of the ball, which resulted in offensive pass interference.
"We're most certainly going to look at that," Rivera said. "I'm not going to have that. If we're not going to maintain our composure when we're playing, I'll make changes. I'm not going to stand for it. When you have an opportunity to make a play, you have to make a play. We have to coach him up better, and he has to play better. That's the truth of the matter."
Said White: "That's how it goes. If you aren't making plays and aren't producing, you won't be out there."
THIRD DOWN TALE: You wouldn't know it by the final score, but both offenses were extremely successful on third downs.
The Ravens converted 10-of-13 third downs and finished off drives with points. The Panthers converted 10-of-15 third downs but failed to capitalize when they entered Baltimore territory.
"We just have to finish drives," center Ryan Kalil said. "You only get so many opportunities, and we are not doing a good enough job when we go down there."