David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer 321d

Ron Rivera: Panthers' win at New England can be a 'catalyst'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There was no "Victory Monday" day off for the Carolina Panthers just because they beat the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Players were back in meetings and film review the day after Sunday’s 33-30 win in Foxborough, Massachusetts, just as they were a week earlier coming off a 34-13 home loss to New Orleans.

But the level of confidence was higher.

Coach Ron Rivera compared what the New England win could do for Carolina (3-1) to what a 2015 come-from-behind victory at Seattle did in 2015.

The Panthers were 4-0 when they went to CenturyLink Field to face the two-time defending NFC champions, but the rest of the league still wasn’t sure how good they were. Not everyone in the locker room was sure how good the team was, either.

But in the time it took quarterback Cam Newton to engineer a pair of 80-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown drives for a 27-23 victory, it became clear this team was for real.

It became clear Newton was for real.

The win catapulted Carolina to a 14-0 start, an NFL-best 15-1 regular season record and a trip to Super Bowl 50. Newton went on to throw a career-best 35 touchdown passes and win the league MVP award.

"It can be a catalyst, a stepping-stone," Rivera said of Sunday’s victory in which Newton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. "It kind of felt a little bit like what happened a couple of years ago when we went to Seattle. They were the watermark for us, as far as the NFC was concerned. So we were able to have success there, and from that point we had success.

"So I'd like to believe this is something we can build on. The truth of the matter it’s one game and this is a league about ‘What have you done for me lately?'"

Defensive end Julius Peppers took the lead on that speech in the visitor’s locker room in New England. The 37-year-old reminded that while the victory was nice, it was just one win.

"It’s only the fourth game," Peppers said. "We have a lot of football left to play. We want to continue stacking success. It doesn’t really matter who we beat, where we beat them.

"If anything, it’s for the young guys, the young guys’ confidence, that wherever we go we expect to win. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing where we’re paying. We expect to win."

Rivera appreciated those words, because his mantra always has been no game is more important than the next one and no win is more important than another.

Reminded of that when he seemed to elevate the status of winning at New England, Rivera smiled and said, "This one just catapults us into making the next one more important."

Next up is Detroit, who also is 3-1. The Lions easily could be 4-0 had a Golden Tate touchdown catch against Atlanta on what turned out to be the game’s final play not been overturned through instant replay.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing at a level similar to what the Panthers have faced the past two weeks against New Orleans’ Drew Brees and New England’s Tom Brady. He’s thrown seven touchdown passes to only one interception and has a passer rating of 95.9.

So, just because the Panthers won at New England doesn’t mean they will win at Detroit.

"Every game has its own personality," Peppers said. "You can’t necessarily compare week to week. It’s never the same. I thought this week the since of urgency was higher, not because we lost [to New Orleans the week before], but because we didn’t play the way we wanted to last week."

But there’s no doubt that confidence is up from the previous week. The Panthers won without Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil (shoulder), Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen and starting cornerback Daryl Worley.

Then they lost starting free safety and team captain Kurt Coleman to a knee injury during Sunday's game.

Add to it that Newton came in struggling with two touchdown passes and four interceptions.

So in many ways the victory was as significant -- if not more -- than the Seattle win was in 2015.

"It just gave us confidence we can do it," Rivera recalled. “Being able to come back against a team like that in Seattle, them coming off having gone to the Super Bowl and having won it the year before that, it instills confidence you need to play with. Hey, we can do these things.

"Going into Foxborough and having that kind of success, yeah that’s something we’re going to build on, most certainly."

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