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Rivera: Open up the offense
Panthers too conservative in Week 1
 
Published Thursday, September 12, 2013 7:25 am
by Steve Reed, The Associated Press

Panthers coach Ron Rivera wants to see his team take a few more shots down the field this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

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PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Panthers coach Ron Rivera wants the passing attack, led by quarterback Cam Newton, to take more chances going downfield starting Sunday against Buffalo.


Rivera said Monday the team’s offensive approach was too conservative in its 12-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and needs to change in the coming weeks.
Rivera said the Panthers need to “look at getting the ball vertical.”


In Carolina’s first game with new offensive coordinator Mike Shula calling the plays, quarterback Cam Newton attempted only three passes beyond 10 yards downfield, according to STATS INC.


Newton’s longest pass attempt was 23 yards from scrimmage, even though the Seahawks were without their top three defensive ends and didn’t apply much pressure.


“We looked through it and talked about it and those are the things we’ll look to change,” Rivera said. “We have to create more of those opportunities.”


Newton finished with a career-low 125 yards passing and averaged just 5.4 yards per completion.


Despite Newton’s strong arm, the Panthers were content to throw dink and dunk passes underneath the coverage and run the ball against the Seahawks.


“We took what the defense gave us,” Newton said.


But Rivera wants more.


The third-year coach said he was pleased with the team rushing for 134 yards and averaging 5.2 yards per carry against one of the NFC’s best defenses, but wants to see his team make strides in the passing game.


Rivera believes that Newton throws one of the best deep balls in the game and that needs to be a point of emphasis.


“We do have the throw the ball a little more, so we are going to continue to work on that to get that balance back,” Rivera said.


Shula previously spent four seasons (1996-99) as an offensive coordinator with Tampa Bay Buccaneers and developed a reputation for being too conservative.


During that four-year span the Bucs were 29th in total offense, 27th in points scored and last in the league in passing, according to STATS INC. They never finished better than 22nd in total offense in any of those four seasons.


Still, Shula seems to have the support of his players.


Newton was quick to defend his new coordinator after Sunday’s loss, saying Shula did an “unbelievable job” of calling plays.


“We had a game plan going into this game and I believe that we stuck to it,” Newton said. “We just have to make it through our mistakes, come back and watch this film and get better like that. We did some things that were very exciting, but as an offense and as a team we just have to be more thorough to a degree and finish drives.”


Several Panthers, including wide receiver Steve Smith, have been critical this offseason of former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who left to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.


Smith said last week Chudzinski was out to attract attention as a potential head coach and his play calling affected the team.


Smith said things will get better, predicting the Panthers will see the Seahawks in January come playoff time.


“I think outside of the loss there are some things that are very positive in the offense,” said Smith, who accounted for Carolina’s only touchdown on Sunday. “We were playing against a pretty good defense. I think we take away some obvious things, and we’re possibly looking at a different ball game.”


This might be a good week for the Panthers to turn things around.


The Bills allowed 288 yards passing and two touchdown passes in a 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots.


“Offensively, we have to score more than seven points, that’s what it all comes down to,” said offensive tackle Jordan Gross.


“We were driving there at the end to get ourselves in scoring position and we’ve just got to be able to finish those drives. It’s frustrating because obviously we were in the game and that’s a good team — and you just hate to lose that one.”
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