Panthers say they will shrug off humbling loss, move on

Did Carolina's defense get exposed by Steelers? (0:57)

The NFL Live panel dissects the Panthers' defense after the Steelers scored 52 points Thursday. (0:57)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- "This s--- happens," Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

Said quarterback Cam Newton: "It sure enough was a humbling piece of pie."

Added tight end Greg Olsen: "No one feels sorry for you in this league."

The cliché machine was in full force after the Pittsburgh Steelers embarrassed the Panthers 52-21 in Thursday night's game at Heinz Field.

The message afterward was simple: You have to move on.

Fortunately for the Panthers (6-3), they've done a good job of moving on in the second half of the season since Rivera took over in 2011, regardless of whether they are a playoff team or not.

They went 36-20 the second half of Rivera's first seven seasons. That's an average of five wins and three losses. If they do that now, 11-5 would have them in solid position for a playoff spot.

Only once did they have a losing record during the final eight games, going 3-5 in 2016 en route to a 6-10 record. In 2015 and 2013 they went 7-1, and last season they went 6-2.

So as humbled as Carolina was before taking a long weekend off, there was no sense of woe. Rivera actually said it might be a good thing the players were humbled.

His last instructions before turning them loose for a four-day break was to "get away from football."

"It's a very humbling experience to be beat the way we were," Rivera said. "Sometimes the best medicine is to get away from it and forget about it and then come back ready to roll."

The Panthers play three of their next four games on the road, going to Detroit, returning for a home game against Seattle and then playing Tampa Bay and Cleveland away.

Rivera says he hopes when players return Tuesday "they are disappointed" with the way they were totally outplayed by Pittsburgh. Maybe even ticked off.

"I'm disappointed we didn't play better," Rivera said. "I don't think that is indicative of who we are as a football team. ... I do believe we are a better football team than we showed. One game is not going to define who we are going forward.

"It is an example of what happens if we don't play to our abilities and stick to our fundamentals, don't play the defense, offense or special teams play the way that it is called. If we do those things, we give ourselves a chance to win."

The Panthers are now two games back in the loss column to NFC South leader New Orleans Saints (8-1), who won their eighth straight game on Sunday.

The good news is Carolina plays New Orleans twice in the final three weeks of the season, so there is opportunity to make up ground. The bad news is the Saints are playing as well, if not better, than any team in the league and beat the Panthers three times last season.

Rivera said it's "critical" players learn from their mistakes against Pittsburgh, because other teams will study that tape to see why the Steelers were successful.

One of those things was throwing an extra rusher at Newton and getting him out of his rhythm with pressure. The 2015 NFL MVP was sacked a season-high five times.

Rivera doesn't have to look far for examples of how a team can be embarrassed one week and win a big game the next. The Washington Redskins were beaten 48-19 by New Orleans in a Monday night game and came back to beat Carolina 23-17 the following week.

Last season, the Panthers lost to New Orleans 34-13 at home in Week 3, then won 33-30 at New England the next game. They bounced back from a 31-21 loss at New Orleans later in the season and then won three straight against Green Bay, Minnesota and Tampa Bay to wrap up a playoff spot.

"We have an opportunity to play well and win games," Rivera said as he spun the season forward. "We have to get past this one. As coaches, we are going to study up and make some corrections and put things into play."