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Ron Rivera: Panthers win ‘could be a catalyst’

PANTHERS_GIANTS_23
Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera points to the stands as he exits the field following the team's victory over the New York Giants on Sunday, September 22, 2013 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. The Panthers defeated the New York Giants 38-0. Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Panthers coach Ron Rivera celebrated the most lopsided win in franchise history quietly.

Rivera went out to dinner, was in bed by 9:30 p.m. and up at 4 a.m. Monday -- "ready to roll," he said.

The Panthers have two weeks to try to keep the momentum rolling, but it's hard to imagine a better way to enter the bye week than off their 38-0 pasting of the Giants on Sunday.

The Panthers used a dominant performance from their defensive line and a productive day from their offense to post the largest margin of victory in their 19-year history.

Players were given the day off Monday, but Rivera and his staff were up early reviewing the film and making their bye week preparations. The mood was considerably lighter than last week when the Panthers were coming off their second consecutive loss in which they'd squandered a fourth-quarter lead.

"We all were feeling about as low as you could possibly feel, for obvious reasons," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "But our players have been resilient. You hate to use a word like that so early in the season, but they really have. They never missed a beat and our coaches never missed a beat. You've just got to keep believing in yourself, reminding yourself that the hard work's going to pay off. And it did."

It did in a big way.

The Panthers (1-2) became the first team in 11 years to claim a shutout victory of 38 points or more, register at least seven sacks and three turnovers while holding an opponent to 150 total yards.

Carolina was on the wrong end of those statistics the last time it happened: Atlanta's 41-0 victory against the Panthers on Nov. 24, 2002.

After opening the season with losses to Seattle and Buffalo by a total of six points, Rivera hopes Sunday's win serves as a springboard.

"I think it could be a catalyst," Rivera said. "You look for something that can be a hallmark game, a game that everyone points to and says, that's the one that really got things rolling. But it will be ineffective if we don't do what we need to next week."

After the bye -- the team's earliest since 2009 -- the Panthers begin a stretch of six games against teams currently with losing records (although three of those clubs made the playoffs last season).

Coming off one of the most complete wins under Rivera, the Panthers won't play again until Oct. 6 at Arizona (1-2). The Panthers next four opponents have a combined 2-10 record.

"Every coach I've ever been around has always said, 'This is a great time for a bye week,' said Shula, whose father, Don Shula, is the winningest coach in NFL history.

"The truth will probably lie in how we do when we come back -- and not just the first week, but from here on out," Shula added. "But at least now we've got some things to talk about, instead of just being close and not good enough. Now we've done some things. It hasn't been perfect. But we've done some things and now we've gotten a win under our belt and hopefully some momentum."

The Panthers tied a franchise record by sacking Giants quarterback Eli Manning seven times. Manning several times was forced to go to the ground and concede the sack as the pocket collapsed.

The pass rush, fueled by defensive end Greg Hardy's three sacks, came mostly out of the Panthers' base defense. That allowed the linebackers to provide coverage help to a patched-together secondary that had been depleted by injuries.

"I think the defensive line was disruptive and at times dominant, as good as I’ve seen," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "And what was great about it was it started early. Any time you can hit the quarterback early in the game you’ve got a chance to be successful."

The Panthers will practice Tuesday and Wednesday before getting a long weekend off. Quarterback Cam Newton, who accounted for four touchdowns against the Giants, said there's more work to be done.

"It was a great win, but it was not a perfect game," Newton said after the game. "There's a lot of things, misreads that I had, I threw a senseless interception. ... For us this is just one step, just (have) to continue to keep going and get the mentality that we can win and we will win."

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson
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