CHARLOTTE – Head coach Ron Rivera has expressed his disappointment but also his dogged determination to see the Panthers recover from their unexpected 1-3 start.
His team is most certainly with him.
"I know everyone is disappointed with the loss – coaches and fans. But I'll tell you right now the players are way more disappointed than anyone else," offensive tackle Mike Remmers said. "But we can't look in the past. We have to look to the future and continue getting better this week."
Heading into Monday night's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Panthers players are seeking answers to some tough-to-answer questions. Most of them were a part of last year's 15-1 season, but now they understand better than ever that while many of their teammates are the same, this isn't the same team.
"We need to find our identity," wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin said. "I think we think our identity is what we had last year, but it's a totally different team. We need to find our new identity and move on from there."
In Sunday's 48-33 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a big part of the Panthers' identity that dates back beyond even last year wasn't present. The Panthers failed to rush for 100 yards, coming up short of the century mark in a game – regular season or postseason – for the first time in exactly two calendar years.
"It's something we take pride in. We all want to get a dollar, that's what I call it," guard Trai Turner said. "It's time to start a new streak. That's how I'm going to look at it and approach it. I'm looking for getting it started again."
Turner expanded on the significance of the streak, but he just as easily could have been talking about the team in general.
"We've just got to find a way focusing and keep pounding, you know?" he said. "If you keep pounding the ball, and it will break. I'm not too worried about it right now. I think it is something for us that will open up very soon."
With Atlanta playing well atop the NFC South and another division foe coming to town, it's difficult to remain patient. And there are some things within Carolina's play of late that none of the players have patience for.
"We just have to play our game, have to stop making silly mistakes – stop shooting ourselves in the foot – and just do what we're coached to do," running back Fozzy Whittaker said. "Monday, we came here in looked at our mistakes. We all knew what we needed to fix, what we need to do to get better. It starts with preparation."
Yet a certain amount of patience is required at the same time, a certain calmness in the storm among players that breeds production rather than panicked performance.
"Football is just like life. You're going to run into bumps," defensive tackle Kyle Love said. "Sometimes things just don't go your way. Somebody has to be a winner; somebody has to be a loser.
"We don't want to be the losers, so you've just got to continue to work hard, strive for greatness and play Panther football."
Added Turner: "We're definitely not happy, but we're definitely not out. It's a long season. We have a ton of more games. We could finish 13-3, and we'll be sitting here having a different conversation at the end of the year.
"Everything is ahead of us, is still in front of us. We have a lot to play for, and I think that showed in the game last week when there was no quit in this team. We continued to go out there and fight and let the chips fall where they may."
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game against Tampa Bay.