FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After a 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots on Friday night, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was not happy -- which is to be expected. Rivera made it clear that his starters hadn't earned a night off for next week's preseason finale.
Here are five points from the coach:
After dealing with questions all week about whether this was a dress rehearsal for the regular season, Rivera was adamant that it was just another opportunity to prepare his players. "This was not a dress rehearsal. That's a misunderstanding," Rivera said. "I talked about that last week. I expected to come out and play a specific way. Expected to play consistently, and we didn't. That's disappointing and that's on me. I'm the coach. I have to get that corrected."
The Panthers played five nights after defeating Kansas City -- but Rivera didn't blame the short week for his team's performance. "That's an excuse, and I don't want to use excuses," Rivera said. "You'd like to think we would come out and be a little more consistent, and that's the word here -- consistent. We were not consistent. We missed some plays, we missed some blocks, we had some runs that we should have had better yardage on, we had some passes that we should have completed and we didn't. ... All of that is disappointing."
Carolina plays its final preseason game at Pittsburgh on Thursday and Rivera has no intention of sitting his starters, including quarterback Cam Newton. "We will play them," the coach said. "It is very evident that we've got to get them out there. We've got to get our quarterback out there on the field and he's got to get some timing with those guys."
"Those guys" are the members of Carolina's revamped receiving corps. Rivera likes what he is seeing out of the newcomers, especially rookie Kelvin Benjamin. "Kelvin did exactly what we needed. I thought that first group of receivers did a nice job, I really do," Rivera said. "I think they ran the routes we needed, they blocked, tried to put themselves in position." Benjamin had five receptions for 47 yards and Brenton Bersin hauled in two catches for 42 yards. "Kelvin stood out, Bersin stood out," Rivera added. "Guys made some plays for us. And I thought the tight ends did a nice job."
Byron Bell allowed two sacks, but Rivera still praised his left tackle's efforts. "Byron played pretty well, with the exception of one rush where Chandler [Jones] did a nice move and came up and underneath," Rivera said. "Byron had a running back to his outside and he should have tried to take away the inside. For the most part I thought he handled him pretty good. ... [Bell] fought and competed and did the things he was supposed to."