The Rivera Report: Panthers dealing with concerning injuries following Sunday's loss

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A number of “concerning” injuries

The Panthers depth chart took quite a few hits on Sunday, but the two biggest came along the line.

On the defensive side, tackle Dontari Poe went down in the second quarter with a left leg injury. Then, a few plays later on offense, left guard Greg Van Roten left the game with a toe injury.

“I can tell you for the most part, it is serious. I don’t know the extent of it,” Rivera said. “Those are the two things I was told afterwards, that there was concern, and that they would probably get MRIs today.”

With Poe missing in the middle of the D-line, defensive tackle Vernon Butler was tasked with filling in for the majority of the game. If Poe’s injury turns out to be as serious as Rivera fears, it would be another significant hit to an already thin defensive interior. After losing defensive tackle Kawann Short in Week 2 and eventually placing him on injured reserve, the Panthers have relied on Poe and tackle Kyle Love to take up space inside.

Offensively, Van Roten’s injury once again caused a shuffle along the O-line. With Van Roten out, Daryl Williams filled in at left guard, and a third-quarter ankle injury to left tackle Greg Little forced Dennis Daley back into the lineup.

Little was able to return to action and rotate with Daley for the rest of the game, and Rivera didn’t mention any lingering concern over the injury. Wide receiver DJ Moore also suffered a left arm injury on the last play of the first half but was able to play through the pain during the second half.

The kicking situation

It's the biggest question following the loss to the Saints: Will the Panthers make a change at kicker?

Well, after current kicker Joey Slye missed two extra point attempts before eventually hooking the potential go-ahead field goal wide right, the Panthers made the decision to add a new face to the practice squad.

Late on Monday, the Panthers added kicker Greg Joseph to the practice squad. Joseph played in 14 games for the Browns during the 2018 season, converting 17-of-20 field goals.

Whether or not the Panthers choose to make a change is still up in the air, according to head coach Ron Rivera.

“Those are things we’re going to most certainly discuss,” Rivera said. “It is about going out and doing a job, and Joey’s well aware of that. That’s something that we’re going to talk about.”

Slye, who did connect on 41- and 52-yard field goals against the Saints, is now 19-for-26 on field goal attempts this season and 22-for-26 converting extra points.

Coming up short, again

It’s a story Panthers fans have heard an unfortunate amount of times this season: the offense denied inches short of the goal line with the game on the line.

After gaining a fresh set of downs on the New Orleans’ 3-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game, the Panthers had three cracks at the end zone. The first saw running back Christian McCaffrey stuffed for a loss of one, followed by an incomplete pass on second down and a sack on third.

“There are certain things that happen on each play that if we could have executed or done a little something different, we had a chance,” Rivera said. “There were opportunities and we didn’t convert. Could we have called something different? Yeah, maybe, but there’s nothing saying those would have worked as well.”

Sunday marked the third time the Panthers have come up short this season, after goal line stands against the Buccaneers in Week 2 and the Packers in Week 10.

“It’s really come up to about three yards in three games,” Rivera said. “You think of the first Tampa, Green Bay, then you think of this one. Every time something is designed, it’s always about what gives us the best opportunity.

“You try to look at matchups. Some things you don’t consider is who’s hurt, who’s not hurt at the time. If you’ve got good momentum, if you’ve got momentum on your side you feel good about what you’re doing. Sometimes it comes down to a matter of one guy, as we’ve seen, and it’s unfortunate.”

Winning a pass interference challenge

The three extra plays would never have even occurred if Rivera hadn’t successfully challenged a pass interference no-call on the previous play.

On third down wide receiver Jarius Wright broke across the middle of the field on a drag route. Quarterback Kyle Allen tried to connect with him, but Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson grabbed Wright and slowed him down, preventing him from catching the pass.

The play was initially ruled an incompletion, but after Rivera threw the red flag, the penalty was tacked on. The reversal joined just a handful of other successful challenges, as just seven of 60 pass interference calls or non-calls had been overturned entering Week 12.

“Well, it’s interesting, because the whole thing came about because it’s really about being an egregious penalty,” Rivera said. “The thing that really kind of triggered my mind on it was when Jarius came to the sideline and said, ‘Coach, if he doesn’t grab me, I have a chance to catch a touchdown,’ and that’s what triggered it for me.”

According to Rivera, the reason he believes his challenge was successful as opposed to so many other failures around the league this season was because of how critical the situation was in the game. Early in the first quarter Saints head coach Sean Payton challenged a pass interference call of his own to no avail, but as Rivera mentioned, the rule was created to correct mistakes in game-deciding situations, not the first quarter.

“For 57 minutes and 30 seconds or whatever it was, in that portion of the game, that’s that,” Rivera explained. “But when you get close to the end of the game where something that big could really, truly impact that, I think that’s maybe the interpretation.

“It was in a critical situation, it was near the end of the game, just before the two-minute (warning). I felt that that’s really what it was designed for – to make sure that at the end of the game when something that egregious can happen.”

View behind-the-scenes photos from the field, sideline and the locker room from Sunday's heartbreaking loss at New Orleans.

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