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Losing skid over, Carolina Panthers look to duplicate what works
Converting opportunity breaks 10-game slide
Published Monday, September 28, 2020 1:33 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Carolina linebacker Shaq Thompson is congratulated by teammates after recovering a fumble in the Panthers' 21-16 win Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. The win broke a 10-game losing streak that included the final eight contests from the 2019 season.

It’s been a while since the Panthers celebrated winning football.

After a 10-game losing streak that included eight straight to close the 2019 season, they finally broke through with a 21-16 win against the Los Angeles Chargers, the first NFL victory for head coach Matt Rhule. With two losses to start 2020, a win – especially with All Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, defensive tackle Kawann Short and left tackle Russell Okung sidelined with injuries – certainly helps long-term.

“I felt relief,” Rhule said. “When those games come down to the wire, it’s like relief, it’s like all right, we did it. But, I’m just so happy for the guys. For some of these guys, it’s been 10 straight losses. I don’t really carry that around. For me, it’s been two.

“I see where we are headed. But when you are a young guy and that’s all you hear it can start to weigh on you. I thought [it] was the best example we’ve had of playing as a team.”
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who completed 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards, credited basic tasks with paying big dividends against Los Angeles, which lost to Super Bowl champ Kansas City in overtime a week earlier.

“You talk about winning on the road, you’ve got to play great defense, be able to run the ball, be able to stop your opponent, create turnovers and we did just that,” he said. “It was a good job coming together and playing 60 minutes as a team. It’s tough to win in this league, so we are going to appreciate it. We are going to celebrate these wins as they come. Happy for coach Rhule. A lot of first-time victories for a lot of players and coaches on this staff, so of course we will celebrate, enjoy this moment and then shift our focus to Arizona.”

Key to the Panthers was the defense, which recorded its first two sacks of the season, forced four turnovers and eight hits against Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. Carolina made those opportunities count, converting those Los Angeles miscues into 12 points.

“Honestly, guys came to rush,” said defensive end Brian Burns, who accounted for a sack and forced fumble. “That’s how I see it. Guys knew we had a rookie quarterback. He did a good job but when you have a rookie quarterback, you have to get in his face and affect him and that can ultimately be a deciding factor in the game. So going into this week, the preparation was get after the quarterback, get after the quarterback, perfect our moves.”

With the losing streak over, the Panthers are looking to build on Sunday’s success by putting as much understanding each other as individuals as they do on schemes. With so many newcomers on the team, a win goes a long way given the lack of offseason practice time necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It helps a lot,” Bridgewater said. “All week we talk about playing for one another and we did just that. I talked to the guys earlier [last] week, we had a team meeting and one of the biggest things was, do we really know each other? When you think about it, we didn't have OTAs or anything like that. It was like, you get a text message or phone call, ‘Hey report to Charlotte on this date,’ and you have to go and it's full throttle.

“This week we really spent some time getting to know each other and one another and it transitioned to the football field. So, instead of guys being in the huddle with guys they barely know, you take time to get to know each other and now you understand a person’s why. When you go out there now, all of the guys on the field understand each other’s purpose and their why, and it just makes playing together that much more of a good feeling.”


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