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Carolina Panthers can’t buy a win after bye week

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera wasn’t pleased with how late his team’s bye week fell this season.

But considering how awful the Panthers have been after a week off under Rivera, the fourth-year coach might want to lobby the league to do away with bye weeks altogether.

Sunday’s 31-13 debacle at Minnesota dropped the Panthers to 0-4 after byes since 2011. They’ve been outscored 102-36 in those games.

Really they’re 0-5, counting the 23-10 loss to San Francisco in the playoffs last year after Carolina had a bye in the wild-card round. And the Panthers were drilled 45-21 by Philadelphia on Nov. 10 following an 11-day break that Rivera called a “mini-bye.”

Rivera has been at a loss to explain the post-bye ineptitude.

“We’ll keep looking for answers or explanations,” he said. “I do agree, it’s disheartening to come off a bye, get guys back (from injuries), feel good about who you are and then you come out and don’t play well.”

Rivera tried to shake things up last week by giving players an extra day off. It made no difference.

The Panthers and Pittsburgh’s Week 12 byes were the latest in the league this year. And the Panthers came out of it looking ill-prepared against the Vikings, particularly a punt team that tied an NFL record for futility.

• The Panthers became the fourth team in league history and first since 1990 to have multiple blocked punts returned for touchdowns in a game. No team had returned two blocked punts for scores in a half since Detroit against Green in 1975, according to Elias Sports.

“Just trying to mix it up and see if there’s something else out there,” Rivera said of the additional off-day. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work.”

• Rivera has leaned on the likes of coaching legends Mike Ditka and John Madden in the past for friendly advice. It’s time for him to pick someone’s brain on a new pre-bye routine.

• Considering the two didn’t get along for two seasons when they had adjacent lockers, it’s no surprise there was no truce Sunday between former Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Norman. During the Panthers’ bye, Norman told me Munnerlyn never helped him when they were teammates, and said Munnerlyn, who is 5-foot-9, had “little man syndrome.”

Norman said Munnerlyn yelled at him from the sideline Sunday, asking Norman: “Why’d you do me like that?”

“He felt some type of way about what I said. I kind of shrugged it off,” Norman said. “That kind of conversation happened, but nothing serious.”

Munnerlyn pointed out Norman kept a Vikings’ touchdown drive going with a taunting penalty, which will cost Norman an $8,268 fine.

• As Panthers players warmed for the coldest regular-season game in team history – it was 12 degrees at kickoff – wearing layers of sweats, knit caps and gloves, assistant coach Joe Kenn walked around the field in shorts.

Why? Because that’s what strength and conditioning coaches do.