Minutes after Sunday’s 23-10 loss to San Francisco, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t have a problem with his team’s perceived lack of discipline in the game.
The Panthers were called for eight penalties, including three personal fouls, but he said he was proud that his players weren’t allowing themselves to be pushed around on their home field.
Less than 48 hours after the game, Rivera pointed to those three personal fouls as among the biggest disappointments from Carolina’s home playoff loss.
“As you go through it and evaluate and break it down, we had some opportunities on both sides of the ball to make something happen, and unfortunately we didn’t,” Rivera said Tuesday during his year-end press conference. “Probably the biggest disappointment I had, there were three bad penalties we had that we should not have had, we should not have committed. Unfortunately the situation got the best of us.”
Rivera, who just completed his third season, referenced an unnecessary roughness call on free safety Mike Mitchell, an unnecessary roughness call on cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on cornerback Josh Thomas as the three penalties that stuck out.
Mitchell hit 49ers tight end Vernon Davis from behind after an incomplete pass on third down that otherwise likely would have resulted in a 49ers punt. Munnerlyn head-butted Michael Crabtree, which turned a 4-yard scramble into a 19-yard play in the second quarter. And Thomas swung at a 49er who was on the ground late in the game after the Panthers had forced the 49ers to punt.
“Guys lost their cool, lost their temper, lost their composure, and that’s on me,” Rivera said. “I’m the head coach and I’ve got to make sure these guys understand the situation and circumstances, and we can’t get caught up in that. It was unfortunate it happened that way and it was one-sided but that’s what happens.”
All three of the penalties came against a Panthers secondary that had long felt opponents and observers had disrespected them, but Rivera said that did not play a role in their antics.
“I think the one on Mike Mitchell was one of those things that an aggressive player coming downhill and seeing the ball get tipped, lowered his shoulder into the guy not knowing where the ball was,” Rivera said. “I think Captain’s was, there were some things that happened prior to the play, and the same thing with Josh.
“There is a certain point where you’ve got to get control, and we didn’t.”