Scott Fowler

Mood around Panthers, heading for Cleveland: ‘It ain’t time for play-play’

Panthers Rivera: Everything I do is in the best interest of this team

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera's press conference starts off with questions about the relief of defensive line coach Brady Hoke and asst. secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura of their duties along with his conversations with owner David Tepper.
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Panthers head coach Ron Rivera's press conference starts off with questions about the relief of defensive line coach Brady Hoke and asst. secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura of their duties along with his conversations with owner David Tepper.

Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn has long had a special relationship with Ron Rivera, one that allows Munnerlyn to give and receive teasing from the head coach in a way most other players wouldn’t.

So Munnerlyn was asked this week if — given Rivera firing two defensive assistants and taking over the defensive play-calling after Carolina’s fourth straight loss — he had tried to lighten the mood with a joke or two.

“Oh, no!” Munnerlyn said. “It ain’t time for play-play.”

It ain’t time for play-play.

I believe this is a quote that I’m going to pull out in everyday life. Our kids are making us late again because they won’t get off their screens? Hey, guys hurry up. It ain’t time for play-play.

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Panthers coach Ron Rivera has always enjoyed a good relationship with Captain Munnerlyn. Rivera teased the cornerback in this 2013 file photo by holding a ball just out of his reach. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

If the Panthers made an unlikely run to the playoffs — their chances are only 18 percent of making the postseason, according to the predictive website on fivethirtyeight.com — Munnerlyn’s phrase seems T-shirt worthy to me.

As for what would change the dynamic in the locker room, Munnerlyn said: “We’ve lost four in a row. ... Lighten the mood just by winning. We’ve got to win. Then we can laugh.”

The Panthers are 4-1 lifetime against the Browns. Do you know who the only quarterback is to beat Carolina while playing for Cleveland?

That’s kind of a trick question: The answer is Jake Delhomme. During his brief time in Cleveland, following a long and mostly successful stint as a Panther, Delhomme engineered a 24-23 victory over Carolina in 2010.

The Panthers are interested to see how rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield performs on Sunday for a variety of reasons. Did you catch Mayfield’s stats last week? He threw for only 46 yards and three interceptions in the first half against Houston. Then he rebounded to throw for an astounding 351 yards in the second half (Cleveland still lost 29-13).

“You hope that you can force younger players into a position where they can make a mistake,” Panthers safety Eric Reid said.

Said Munnerlyn: “Baker is a gunslinger and can throw the ball over the field.”

Munnerlyn said some of Mayfield’s on-field exuberance reminded him of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

Carolina’s offense should be able to move the ball well against a Cleveland defense that takes some gambles. The Browns are 30th in the NFL in yards allowed. But they also are No. 2 in the NFL in takeaways. I expect Christian McCaffrey, who needs 111 total yards to break the Panthers record for yards from scrimmage during a season, will get that and more in Cleveland.

Prediction time. The Panthers have managed to lose to some very mediocre teams during this losing streak, but I think they will temporarily right themselves Sunday. Then again, I also thought that last week, and fell to 8-4 overall predicting Carolina games this season when the Panthers managed to lose to Tampa Bay.

My prediction: Carolina 27, Cleveland 23.

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