Panthers' Rivera disappointed by lack of effort in preseason opener

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Carolina coach Ron Rivera (right) wasn't pleased with the way the Panthers played in the preseason opener. He said the squad did not show a "sense of urgency."  MIKE MCCARN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
MIKE MCCARN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Carolina coach Ron Rivera (right) wasn't pleased with the way the Panthers played in the preseason opener. He said the squad did not show a "sense of urgency."

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Panthers coach Ron Rivera is looking for better effort from his players this week in practice following what he called a “disappointing performance” Saturday night against Houston.

Rivera was not thrilled with Carolina’s lackluster approach in the 26-13 preseason loss.

Rivera stressed throughout training camp the importance of building an identity at home, even in the preseason.

He said there were a group of young players who didn’t play as well as he expected them to and “the game was too big for some of them and they got overwhelmed.”

Rivera and his staff worked quickly Monday to correct the mistakes made against the Texans, including bad tackling and poor
pass protection.

“I expected some guys to step up and make some plays and some guys didn’t,” Rivera said. “That is disappointing. When you have an opportunity to play this football game, you have to play it with a sense of urgency and we didn’t do that, especially in the second half.

“To me that was very disappointing and I will work to get that corrected because it falls on me. I do not accept that as football and I am disappointed in those men that are on our football team. They have to understand and learn from this experience which we will. We will get better as a football team and those guys will understand what it takes to be on this football team as far as I’m concerned.”

For the most part, Rivera was pleased with Monday’s work.

Carolina breaks training camp at Wofford College on Wednesday.

Players said they heard Rivera’s angst shortly after the game when he told them he expected them to play better after what he felt was a strong two weeks of work at training camp.

“I think at first guys were taken aback by how upset he was,” linebacker Jordan Senn said.

Senn said it might have been a good wakeup call for players.

“You can’t think, hey, we’ve made it through camp and this is where we coast,” Senn said. “No, you have to keep pushing and keep pressing and get better and improve on the things you made the mistakes on.”

Linebacker Jason Phillips, who had an interception against Houston, said Rivera has high expectations — and that’s a good thing.

“Coach Rivera has been around a lot of winning teams and played a lot of good football,” Phillips said. “So his expectation level, we just didn’t meet it. That’s on us. That is what a head coach has to do — tell you when you don’t measure up.”

Phillips said there’s only one thing to do.

“You come back this week and work hard and get to where he’s satisfied with where we’re at,” he said.

Rivera was most disappointed about the 90-yard touchdown return Carolina’s special teams allowed in the first quarter.

The Panthers have worked on upgrading their special teams in the offseason after giving up three punt returns for scores last season. But Justin Medlock’s short kickoff to the Texans 10-yard line allowed kick returner Trindon Holliday to catch the ball on the run and take it all the way.

Veteran tackle Ron Edwards is entering his 12th NFL season and knows often too much is made of preseason games.

He said the challenge is to learn from mistakes before the real season arrives.

“We have to come out swinging more,” Edwards said. “We can’t sit back and catch. We have to get off and get to the ball and attack and do what we have to do to win.”

Rivera had no complaints about the play of rookies Luke Kuechly and Joe Adams.

Kuechly, an outside linebacker from Boston College and the team’s first-round draft pick, forced an Arian Foster fumble in Houston territory that resulted in a Carolina field goal. He finished with four tackles in less than a quarter.

Rivera called him a “smart, athletic football player who makes things happen.”

Adams, a fourth-round pick from Arkansas, made his mark with a nifty 39-yard punt return where he changed direction and broke several tackles.

Rivera said Adams is dynamic.

“Hold on to your britches because there’s no telling what’s going to happen with him,” Rivera said. “He does most certainly bring excitement to what we want. It is one of the areas we looked to improve on. Drafting him has been a huge plus for us. We will live with that guy. He will make plays for us.”


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