CHARLOTTE – In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's last-minute loss to the Vikings, Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater talked about the many things that went wrong in the late stages of the game.
There was even a brief mention of his own role, and that he could have thrown a better ball to DJ Moore on a critical third-down play. It was among the things he specified but hardly atop the list.
Monday, Bridgewater was more clear about it, and took on more of the burden for the loss himself.
"It's definitely tough, being that it's a bye week, you have to think about it, but we have this saying, 'What's next!' that we preach around the facility," Bridgewater said Monday. "What happens is, once you're able to take accountability for what happened yesterday, look at the man in the mirror, and be honest with him, then you're able to put that game behind you.
"Now for me, I'm able to point the finger at myself and remind myself that there's so much better football in me, and continue to be honest with myself. And then come up with a plan for how you want to finish the next four weeks of the season. Because four games is a lot of football, so we have an opportunity to do a lot of great things."
That was one of several mentions Monday that he needed to be better. The shift in tone was subtle, but it was clear. And it's not as if Bridgewater hasn't been out front of the Panthers' rebuilding efforts this year.
Quarterbacks aren't required to talk to reporters on Mondays, but he generally has and was the only player available as the Panthers headed into their bye week.
It's not something every quarterback does, and fair or unfair, there's a higher burden of responsibility for that position.
After Sunday's loss, head coach Matt Rhule said the loss fell on the coaching staff, and he expounded on that Monday. He also said that as the Panthers try to create something new, it's important for every player to own their own mistakes.
"I think it sets a culture of accountability for all of us," Rhule said. "That's really what all of us have to do. I walked into the locker room with the team, and to the press conference, and said we lost this game as a head coach, and we lost that game as assistant coaches. You say that because it's how you feel and you believe it's right.
"Then the great teams, the offensive line says, 'Wait a minute, no I could have done this, this, and this.' Then the linebackers say, 'Wait a minute coach, I could have done this, this, and this.' And then everybody takes accountability for what they could have done better, and you grow as a team.
"I didn't hear what Teddy said, but if he did, then that to me is what leadership is. Leadership is not leading from the back, it's leading from the front. And when you're out front, you take the most bullets, but you also know there's people behind you. That's what we're trying to build, an organization, a franchise where everyone feels responsible for winning, everyone takes accountability, we enjoy the wins together, we suffer the losses together, we win a championship eventually together."
TAKING A BREAK
Rhule is giving players the rest of the week off, as they finally get to their bye in Week 13.
Players can't travel as they normally might, since they have to report to the stadium every day for COVID-19 testing, but the break is a needed one for guys who have been working in a more stressful setting than normal.
Rhule said coaches would work Monday and Tuesday before getting the rest of the week to recharge.
The league has dictated that the next two days would include virtual work only, but being connected by computer means the work is never far away. Rhule mentioned assignments that players will be expected to keep up with, so it's definitely not the usual bye week.
Rhule seemed encouraged by the early reports on Moore, who was helped off the field late in the fourth quarter after landing awkwardly on his right ankle.
Rhule said X-rays on Moore's ankle were negative and that he "wouldn't rule him out" of the Panthers' next game in Denver at this point.
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE?
Rhule stopped short of endorsing kicker Joey Slye, who missed what would have been the game-winner from 54 yards Sunday.
Specifically, he talked around questions about bringing in competition, saying he hadn't talked to general manager Marty Hurney about personnel needs after some players were banged up.
Slye has had three chances for long field goals at the ends of games this year, missing from 65 in New Orleans and 67 in Kansas City, but Rhule said this one was different.
"It's 54 yards. That's routine," Rhule said. "That's got to be a routine kick at the end of the day."
View the best pictures behind-the-scenes from Carolina's Week 12 game at Minnesota.