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Notes: Johnson injury concerning for Rivera

CHARLOTTE – Head coach Ron Rivera knows what it's like to get leg-whipped.

"It happened to me when I played," Rivera said. "I actually fractured my leg and sprained my anterior cruciate ligament."

That made re-watching Patriots offensive lineman Marcus Cannon leg-whip Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson in the knee even more painful on Tuesday.

"That's a disappointing play. I'm pretty adamant about it," Rivera said. "It really disappoints me. It's a personal thing."

"I know the league is aware of it, mostly because everyone in America saw it."

Johnson suffered the injury on the second play of the third quarter but convinced the coaches to allow him to return to action for the final drive of the game.

"He said, 'I can give you everything I've got.' And he sure did," Rivera said. "He reached deep down."

Johnson was getting an MRI on Tuesday. Initially, his injury was diagnosed as a sprain.

If Johnson isn't available for Week 12 against the Miami Dolphins, a trio of young defensive ends will be counted on to step in and produce.

"We've got a good group of guys. I want to rotate and make sure all those guys are playing," Rivera said. "If Charles can't play, Frank Alexander, Wes Horton and Mario Addison have to be ready to play football. That's just the bottom line."

NEWTON SPECTACULAR: Rivera wouldn't say it was quarterback Cam Newton's best NFL performance to date, but it was certainly up there among his best.

Newton completed 19-of-28 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He was particularly impressive on third downs, where the Panthers went 8-for-11.

Newton's physical gifts were on full display during a jaw-dropping scramble where he alluded several sack attempts to gain 14 yards on third-and-seven.

"Phenomenal," Rivera said.

So were his decisions at the line of scrimmage to change plays and put the Panthers in better position for success at the snap.

"You see so much of his maturing as a football player, going back to the things that he needs to do in terms of getting us out of bad offensive plays and trying to put us in the right offensive plays; going from run to pass and pass to run," Rivera said. "He's done that very well this year. He's continued to show that growth."

NO ROOM TO RUN: The Panthers finished with 103 rushing yards against the Patriots, but if not for Newton's legs (62 yards on seven carries), that number would have been significantly lower.

Running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert combined for 41 yards on 16 rushes.

But Rivera made it clear he's not concerned about the state of the rushing attack.

"No, because of what (the Patriots) did," he said. "They played a lot of eight and nine-man fronts. They made it tough on us. They had a very good plan, and remember they had two weeks to prepare and coach (Bill) Belichick and his staff did a nice job preparing for us."

Carolina counteracted the loaded fronts by attacking effectively through the air.

"They definitely were putting an emphasis on stopping the run. We didn't get any easy yards – no big runs," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "But our passing game sure held up and was effective. Cam played a great game, our receivers made big plays, and we really spread the ball around well."

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