CHARLOTTE – It was hard to find a silver lining on a cloud-filled Sunday in which a Panthers team trying to battle back into the playoff race lost a 17-point lead, but the sun did rise Monday.
And the Panthers rose with it, getting right back to work with the New Orleans Saints (4-5) coming to town Thursday night.
"Well, that's one plus. We don't have to dwell on this for very long, and we can start getting focused on the Saints," head coach Ron Rivera said after his Panthers fell 20-17 to the Chiefs to fall to 3-6 on the season. "What we have done is put our backs completely against the wall. There is no room for error now. What we have to do is we have to go forward. I have to make sure we do that."
Had the Panthers successfully protected Sunday's lead, they would have pulled closer to division leader Atlanta, which lost at Philadelphia on Sunday. But even with the loss, the Panthers have a chance right in front of them to pull within two games of the Falcons (6-4), who have their bye this week, with six games to go including a second head-to-head matchup.
"There's no need to panic. I think we have a couple key losses from some teams, so that's our optimism," quarterback Cam Newton said. "When you look at it, whatever our record is, it's not good. But yet we have a locker room full of winners and a locker room full of guys that are full of fight still, and I know I am willing to go to battle with those guys. I can't wait until Thursday."
The wait obviously won't be long, but that also means the Panthers won't have long to mentally recover from the first home loss in franchise history in which Carolina held at least a 17-point lead.
The Panthers, however, can't allow the loss to linger – not with the uphill battle right in front of them.
"It's already over," defensive tackle Kawann Short said just moments after Sunday's stunning setback. "We'll come in, focus on New Orleans and get ready for Thursday night.
"We still believe, and we've got to work like we've still got a chance."
View the top photos from Panthers vs. Chiefs by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.