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Rivera says it's about finishing


CHARLOTTE - In many ways, first-year head coach Ron Rivera is only at the beginning of his rebuilding project with the Panthers.

Already, though, he's concerned about finishing.

"If you really go back and look at it, every game we've lost, we've had an opportunity to finish somebody off," Rivera said Monday, one day after a 34-29 loss at the Chicago Bears. "We continue to do things that hurt ourselves more so than anything else. We played a good team yesterday, and we didn't give ourselves a fair chance to win.

"I told the guys, 'It's hard enough trying to beat one team, let alone two.' I'm talking about ourselves."

On a day when Carolina set the franchise record for total offense with 543 yards, the Panthers came away feeling like mistakes in all three phases spelled the difference between a convincing victory and a close loss.

Before scoring a meaningless touchdown with four seconds left, the offense came away with two touchdowns and three field goals on seven possessions that reached scoring position. The defense allowed Matt Forte to become the first Bears running back since Walter Payton in 1977 to rush for more than 200 yards, and special teams yielded a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown and 73-yard kickoff return to Devin Hester.


"This one hurt. We should have won that game. They're a good football team, but we gave them opportunities, and they took advantage," Rivera said. "Down in the red zone, a couple of penalties back us up, and we end up kicking field goals. We have a chance to stop somebody on third down, and we don't do it. We have a chance to make a tackle on special teams, and we don't do it.

"We as a group have to understand that if we do the things we're asked to do, we have a chance. Apparently somewhere along the line, there's a miscommunication between me, the coaches and the players. We are not on that same page when it comes to that. We have to correct that, and we will."

Rivera is convinced that he and his coaching staff have a system and schemes in place that will succeed in the NFL, and there are plenty to signs suggesting that he's correct.

Early on in the process, however, he feels his team too often is doing the right thing the wrong way.

"When it all comes down to it, it does all come back to me because these are our guys and these are our schemes. These are the things that I believe in," Rivera said. "I've told the guys, 'We're going to do it the right way,' and I believe this is the right way. Nobody will know that until the time comes, but ultimately it will.

"The thing that frustrates me is that we keep doing the same things, and now we've got to find out why and correct it."

Rivera admitted to being frustrated Monday, fully understandable given that the Panthers could easily have a winning record rather than a losing one.

At the same time, the progress four games into Rivera's regime is obvious, and it should eventually manifest itself in merrier Mondays.

"If we continue to make those mistakes, eventually it's going to wear thin, and frustration is going to come out. I am frustrated," Rivera said. "This is a performance-based industry. We have to perform well, and we have to win. We've performed well, but obviously not well enough to win. We want to win.

"There is a process we're going through. I talk to the players about climbing the mountain because when you get to the top, it's great – you've won the Super Bowl. We're a young football team that's learning and growing, and you're going to take bumps and bruises. But what you don't want is to miss opportunities. On Monday mornings like this, I'm going to feel crappy. I don't like it at all, but it's a part of the process."

INJURY UPDATE: Cornerback Chris Gamble is poised to return from a concussion, but tight end Jeremy Shockey may now be dealing with the same thing.

Gamble said Monday that he will return to practice Wednesday after missing the trip to Chicago with a concussion suffered a week earlier against Jacksonville.

Rivera said Shockey would go through the NFL-mandated protocol for concussions after taking a blow to the head at Chicago. Shockey also has been dealing with a finger injury.

Rivera said he would formally request an explanation from the league for the offensive pass interference penalty on Shockey that negated what would have been a go-ahead touchdown midway through the third quarter.

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