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Carolina Panthers

The cure for Panthers' problems: Winning

CHARLOTTE - Hours after learning Monday that general manager Marty Hurney, the man who hired him as Panthers head coach, had been relieved of his duties, Ron Rivera said more changes were on the way.

He didn't specify what might change, but nothing is off the table.

Regardless of what moves are made, Rivera knows that only one change will truly change anything: a positive change in the Panthers' win-loss record.

"We have to understand as coaches and players that there is a group of people counting on us – the fans and the people in this building – to step up and win football games," Rivera said. "We should be better off than we are, but we aren't. That falls on me as the head football coach.

"We've got to get some things corrected, get some things worked out and go forward. But this doesn't change what our approach is going forward, which is to win football games."

Winning was, of course, the driving goal around Bank of America Stadium before Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson made the difficult decision to let Hurney go after 10-plus seasons as general manager. As the start of the season moved further away from the stated goal, scores of fans – as they are apt to do – called for Hurney's dismissal.

Richardson is as responsive as any NFL owner when it comes to listening to fans, but he didn't make the move because some fans wanted it to happen. It should serve as a reminder to fans, however, that as much as they want the Panthers to win, Richardson wants it that much more.

"It shows Mr. Richardson's desire to win," Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross said. "He's not going sit around and just hope for change. He's going to make stuff happen."

Six games into the season, Richardson decided that the roster Hurney had assembled in the offseason wasn't producing on the level he hoped it would come the regular season.

That doesn't mean it can't over the remaining 10 games.

"We've got to look deep inside," Rivera said. "We have an opportunity. There are 10 games left in the season. If I'm being overly optimistic, well, that's my job."

Big picture, there is still reason for optimism. Four of the five losses have been by less than a touchdown, including two that were lost by one yard. This past Sunday against the Cowboys, the Panthers led heading to the final four minutes.

The defense has shown improvement over last season, holding four opponents to less than 20 points. The offense has taken a step back from the vast improvement shown last season, but everyone knows its capabilities given what the unit accomplished in 2011.

On paper, Sunday's game at the Chicago Bears looks like perhaps the tallest task among the many tall ones remaining on the schedule. The Bears are 5-1, having just nearly shut out a previously potent Detroit Lions offense that is dealing with struggles similar to those being endured by Carolina's offense. In their last four games, the Bears have yielded a total of 34 points to opponents.

No games are easy wins in the NFL, and that doesn't just apply to the Panthers and their situation. The Bears can't let their guard down, because the Panthers in their current state are just looking for a chance to pounce on somebody.

"We've got 10 football games left to play. Our next one is in Chicago, on the road, but it doesn't matter where we play," Rivera said. "We could play in the parking lot as far as I'm concerned, but we're going to show up and play football games."

Monday, the world that Rivera and his players operate in absorbed a shock. Sunday, they'd like nothing more than to shock the world.

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