CHARLOTTE – As head coach Ron Rivera looks for aspects to build on following Sunday's 37-37 tie against the Bengals, he can start with the play of the offensive line.
"We challenged the offensive line, I challenged the offensive line," Rivera said. "I just told them last week wasn't good enough.
"Their preparation was great. I commended them Thursday morning, telling them that they had set the tempo for practice. When you do those types of things and you practice that way, you are going to play. I thought they did a really nice job."
The Panthers didn't allow a sack for the first time this season, and the offensive line generated significant push at the line of scrimmage to help Carolina gain a season-high 147 rushing yards, including 107 by quarterback Cam Newton.
"With the way the offensive line was blocking today, I didn't have to be at 100 percent," said Newton. "Those guys created gaping holes for me. I would hope that we build from this and come back next week again."
DEFENSIVE MISCUES: When it comes to stopping the run, Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott have reiterated the need for the Panthers to commit to their assignment and trust that each individual will execute their responsibility.
But Carolina hasn't always stayed true to that plan, and it's proven costly.
"A big part of it is some guys are trying to make more plays than they need to. We have to stay focused in," Rivera said.
Bengals running back Giovanni Bernard's 89-yard touchdown run tarnished what otherwise could have been a solid performance by Carolina's rush defense, which allowed 104 yards on 30 carries outside of Bernard's run.
"Now understand it was just one play. It was one running play," Rivera said. "Other than that, our gap integrity was outstanding. That's the unfortunate thing. It's a big play that kind of blows the numbers out of proportion and people think we got run over. They got one play. That was the disappointment. It was one play. That was the difference. And that's how close it can be.
"But, those are the types of things that get you beat. We've got to correct them and make sure they don't happen again."
ADDRESSING BURFICT'S ACTIONS: Replays captured Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict twisting the ankles of Newton and tight end Greg Olsen after each was tackled in the end zone following touchdowns.
Both Newton and Olsen had ankle injuries this season.
"The only thing I'll say about that is, like I do every week, I watch the tape and things that I think are questionable or need to be scrutinized by the league, I'll list them and send them in," Rivera said. "I do that every week with plays that I think are dangerous or extracurricular. I'll let the league deal with that.
"There's no place in the game for players doing extra stuff," Rivera added. "If that's what the league sees, then so be it."
Olsen had some very strong words after reviewing the video, which he said makes Burfict's actions "very clear."
"That's not what this league is all about," Olsen said. "Instances like that that are so clearly premeditated, that he had in his mind if he had those opportunities that he was going to attack guys that were coming off ankle problems specifically – there's no room for it.
"If the NFL wants to really say they care about guys' safety, they have to start putting guys out for weeks, because me and Cam are lucky we are not out for weeks."