<
>

Panthers need DJ Moore to bounce back from two costly fumbles

play
Rivera on loss: 'It's a four-quarter game' (0:44)

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera reflects on the Panthers' inconsistent play after Carolina loses to the Redskins 23-17. (0:44)

LANDOVER, Md. -- Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney put his arm around the shoulder of first-round draft pick DJ Moore as the two made their way through a solemn locker room following Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Washington Redskins.

Earlier, fellow wide receiver Torrey Smith sat by Moore at his locker and shared mistakes he had made as a rookie.

Others stopped to share rookie horrors, too.

It was their way of telling Moore to shrug off his two fumbles that led to 10 first-half points for the Redskins, and that the team needs him moving forward.

It was their way of trying to boost the confidence of Moore, whose play 13 miles away at the University of Maryland convinced Carolina to choose him with the 24th overall pick over Alabama's Calvin Ridley, considered by many coming into to the draft to be the best receiver.

"DJ is going to be a part of what we do for a long time, as is Curtis Samuel," coach Ron Rivera said. "If we believe in them, we're going to keep putting them out there. That's the only way these guys are going to learn and develop into the players we believe they can be.

"We will stick with them."

But it wasn't Samuel getting the postgame pep talks, even though the second-year receiver didn't have a catch. It was Moore, because first-round picks are expected to contribute right away, and so far, the 21-year-old's biggest impact has been a negative one.

Take away his fumbles, one on a punt return that led to Washington's first touchdown and the other after a catch that led to a field goal, and the Panthers aren't digging out of a 17-0 hole.

They're likely 4-1 instead of 3-2 and heading into a Week 7 game at the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on a high note.

But nobody was blaming Moore for the loss; there is understanding that they have made costly mistakes, as well.

They also understood Moore ultimately will have to be a factor if the Panthers are to make a run to the playoffs. He is one of Carolina's impact players, and you need those to consistently win.

"We should have won," Moore said. "At the end of the day, you've got to play through adversity. That's what everybody kept saying."

To Moore's credit, he made plays in the second half that put Carolina in position to win. He had an 18-yard run to start a fourth-quarter scoring drive that cut the deficit to 20-17. He turned a short pass from quarterback Cam Newton into a 15-yard gain on Carolina's final drive.

"I made so many mistakes," said Smith, a 2011 second-round pick out of Maryland, recalling his rookie season in the NFL with Baltimore. "I made a whole playbook of mistakes. The mistakes doesn't override all the good things you do. I told him it's not about what happens to you, it's what you do and how you overcome it.

"You move on. We lost. We all make mistakes in this game."

Tight end Greg Olsen recalled mistakes he made during his second season with the Chicago Bears against the Panthers.

"I caught two balls, fumbled them both," Olsen said of a 20-17 setback to the Panthers in 2008. "It doesn't define who you are unless you let it. We saw how he bounced back and responded.

"That's what you're judged on. The only guys that don't make mistakes are the guys that don't play."

On his second fumble, Moore fell victim to the "Peanut Punch" that Redskins cornerback Josh Norman learned from Charles "Peanut" Tillman during his 2015 season with the Panthers. As Moore fought for extra yards, his trademark at Maryland, Norman came in from behind and punched the ball with his fist instead of going for the tackle.

Moore said he'll learn from that scenario, realizing sometimes it is better to go down in the NFL than it was in college, where at 6-foot, 209 pounds, he physically was able to overpower many defensive backs.

"I found that out today," Moore said.

Newton, who was intercepted by Norman in the first half, never hesitated to go to Moore after the fumbles.

"He'll be all right," Newton said. "He'll learn from it. He's young. At the end of the day, we all have to be better. Not just him. I had some throws I wish I had back. That's the game of football.

"It's a cliché saying that you live to fight another day, and we have another day come next week."