Ron Rivera was ready.
The custom T-shirt loving head coach walked into his weekly Monday morning media availability wearing a new yet another new shirt. This one featured the words "I'm Back" and silhouette of linebacker Thomas Davis, who's back in the building after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
"If he could've, he would've been here at 12:01. Unfortunately, he would've been here by himself," Rivera joked. "I was going to give the guys a Victory Monday, but I didn't want to have to make them wait till Wednesday."
And as evidenced by this video, teammates like Mike Adams and Luke Kuechly didn't want to wait:
According to Rivera, Davis will start Sunday in Washington, but he will be on a "pitch count."
Regardless, some of Davis is much better than none.
"Thomas is always good for about three or four explosive plays in a game, minimum. They bring energy to us and I think that's one of the beneficial things about having a guy like that," Rivera said.
"He's got a different energy level than most players. It's above the norm – even in practice. It's kind of a little running joke between he and I. It's nice to have normal, calm practices. Thomas is back now, it's going to be a little different, so I've got to adjust myself to him."
Let's be honest, the mood at Bank of America Stadium would be a lot different Monday if not for Graham Gano’s history-tying kick.
"Winning covers up a lot. We made a lot of mistakes on all three phases of the game," Rivera admitted. "It's funny because I heard Mike Adams talk about how all three phases of the game contributed to this victory. They did, but you could also say all three phases contributed to a loss. We were fortunate."
Yup, the offense turned it over twice, and in the second and third quarter, failed to get in the end zone while totaling just 130 yards on five drives (excluding a kneel down at the end of the first half). The defense allowed the Giants to pass for nearly 400 yards and to score more than 30 points for the first time in 38 games. And special teams, the unit that's been most credited for the win, had an ill-advised punt return and gave up a couple of sizable returns.
"We missed some blocks up front, we missed some protections as a running back, we had some chances to complete some routes and we didn't which led to interceptions. We didn't fit our run properly, which allowed a long run. We gave up a couple of big passes, explosive plays that we really shouldn't," Rivera said.
"We're good but the problem with being good is you're good enough to win, you're good enough to get beat. We want to be great."
Moments before Gano's game-winner, many were left perplexed by the Panthers' play call on third-and-1 from the Giants 46-yard line.
Running back Christian McCaffrey didn't get far on a run up the middle, but officials did give him enough to pick up a first down – the primary goal of the call.
"We needed to get the first down because if you don't get the first down, you risk not being able to have the next play," Rivera said.
But with no timeouts left, the Panthers needed to get to the line ASAP. Instead, from the time McCaffrey was tackled to the time Cam Newton stopped the clock with a spike, 14 seconds had run off the clock, leaving only 12 ticks left.
"We had to get lined up because of the play that we ran. Making sure everybody was lined up, making sure everybody was set. You don't want to get an illegal procedure call cause the clock is running, so that's a 10-second runoff," Rivera explained.
Fortunately for the Panthers, the rest is history.