Rivera optimistic for pivotal game versus Falcons


CHARLOTTE – On Friday, head coach Ron Rivera was asked why he believes the Panthers are capable of ending their four-game losing streak and making a run in the beleaguered NFC South.

"I think there are moments and flashes. You sit there and you see it," Rivera said. "We've done some good things on the defensive side of the ball at times, and you know we've got some quality personnel that can take us to that next step. Offensively, we have enough playmakers if we can get the running game going and get the quarterback comfortable and making plays when we have opportunities.

"That's why I am optimistic, and that's my job too, though. This is the way I'll always approach it no matter what."

The Panthers will be without defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (ankle) and left guard Amini Silatolu (knee) for Sunday's pivotal game against the division-rival Atlanta Falcons. Rookies Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell will start at right and left guard, respectively.

Cornerback Bene Benwikere (ankle), tight end Brandon Williams (foot) and defensive end Charles Johnson are questionable.

Johnson has been dealing with a family matter since Thursday but is expected to play. Johnson, a Georgia native, has nine sacks in 10 games played against the Falcons.

Running backs DeAngelo Williams (foot) and Jonathan Stewart (ankle) practiced fully on Friday and are probable.

"DeAngelo took a good majority of the reps today and moved around very nicely," Rivera said. "Excited to have both those guys feeling the way they did."

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