CHARLOTTE – Turning the page after a tough loss can be difficult.
But the Panthers (3-4-1) have no choice. They don't have time to let Sunday's 13-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks linger. Carolina's next game against the New Orleans Saints (3-4) is three days away, and with first place in the NFC South on the line it's hugely important.
"You've got to win within the division and you've got to win at home. That's the key. That's just the way it is," head coach Ron Rivera said. "This is a good opportunity to be sharp. I've got to make sure I follow through and do the things I have to do to help our guys. Our guys are playing hard, playing hurt, doing what they can. We've got to find ways to put them in position to have success. That's up to us."
Sure, there is plenty of disappointment following the narrow defeat against the reigning Super Bowl champs.
But the Panthers also have to consider this: Despite all that's gone wrong after a 2-0 start, they are playing for first place in Week 9. And they are playing for it at home, in prime time.
Short week or not, poor division or not, that's reason enough to quickly focus on the task at hand.
"You have to take yesterday, and as down as everybody is because of the way things ended, you have to block it out and move forward," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "If you said at the start of training camp or OTAs, 'Hey, you have a chance in Week 9 to be playing for first place, would you take it?' Yeah, I'd take it. That's the mindset. You have to keep moving forward and forget about what's happened."
Carolina moved forward with a walkthrough on the practice field late Monday afternoon. The injury report listed eight players who did not particiapte and four who were limited.
The Panthers are banged up and a short week isn't exactly ideal for physical recovery. But every team in the league has to take on the Thursday Night challenge once, and it's never easy at this point in the season. Carolina's time is now, and then they'll get a much-needed extended break.
"Everybody's got to play one, so how you feel about it doesn't really matter," Rivera said. "It's just getting ready to play the game. On the other side, it's a mini-break. We don't play for 11 days. That might not be a bad thing for us."
As Rivera put it, the Panthers find themselves in a war of attrition. And with the second half of the season underway, it's time to dig in and win by any means necessary.
"Everybody just has to understand this is one game at a time, get healthy and play to the best of our abilities," Rivera said. "That's what we're going to do."