Bryan Strickland Senior Writer
CHARLOTTE – Center Ryan Kalil said the Panthers would use Friday to put Thursday’s lackluster performance against the New York Giants to bed.
The 36-7 loss in prime time led to a sleepless night but could be just the wake-up call the Panthers need.
“It was a frustrating night for everybody, really embarrassing for everybody,” Kalil said. “But it’s still early in the season, and this is still a good team, still a talented offense. We just have to figure out how to get everything working together at the same time and do it consistently, not be one-hit wonders.”
Thursday’s setback hit hard across the board, and the Panthers returned to Bank of America Stadium early Friday after a short night to begin working on their response.
The team spent much of Friday reviewing film with the coaches, film that head coach Ron Rivera already had assessed. To state the obvious, he didn’t like what he saw the second time around, either.
“The big disappointment really is when you go back and look at last Sunday (a 35-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints) and then you follow it up with what we did Thursday. We expected improvement, expected a better showing,” Rivera said. “We’ve got to realize and understand exactly what happened in that football game and learn from it. We’ve got to understand how important it is every time you get on the football field and have a chance to make a statement that you make a statement.
“This was a national audience, a big stage. I know in four of the last five we hadn’t done very well, now make it five of the last six. We’ve got to break that pattern.”
Rivera said the biggest negative on offense was negative plays, while poor tackling and soft secondary play highlighted the defensive deficiencies.
“Any time you run through and you hit a guy at the line of scrimmage, you’d like to believe you can get him down at that point, and now you’re talking about second-and-9 as opposed to first-and-10 after a 31-yard run,” Rivera said. “Secondly, we could have challenged the receivers better. Once they started hitting those deep digs and deep ins and those quick throws, it softened us. We didn’t play with that sense of urgency that we did against New Orleans.”
Rivera pointed out that a couple of crucial missed tackles were a result of linebacker Jon Beason gutting it out with a sore shoulder but said others should have been around the ball to prevent such significant runs.
Beason and others in his shoes should benefit from the Panthers having Saturday and Sunday off. Defensive end Greg Hardy suffered a thumb injury Thursday, and defensive end Antwan Applewhite sustained a knee laceration. Also, players who missed the game with injuries – like running back Jonathan Stewart, right tackle Byron Bell and linebacker Thomas Davis – can use the extra time.
“We’ll take this day hard, and then we’ve got Saturday and Sunday to relax the mind and get the body well,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “It will be good to get away from football a little bit and come back Monday for a fresh start.”
Left tackle Jordan Gross said the bumps and bruises probably hurt a little extra because of Thursday’s outcome.
Gross got a reminder about the big picture beyond football after arriving home early Friday morning, and now he hopes the Panthers will pick up a big-picture football lesson from Thursday’s thrashing that will carry them forward.
“I got home close to one o’clock and I couldn’t really sleep because you’re thinking about everything that just happened,” Gross said. “But the beautiful thing about being a dad is that at 6:30 it was time to get the kids up for school, and they couldn’t really care less if we won or not. That makes you feel better, but it was a short night.
“We’ve got to make sure we learn from Thursday. This 2012 Panthers team is an up-and-down team so far, and that can’t continue or we’ll end up 8-8.”