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Ron Rivera says NFL should add extra referee to its crews

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera is concerned with the direction of officiating after two plays that could have impacted the outcome of their NFC playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

"I think they need help,'' Rivera said Monday of the officials. "First of all, there's a lot of vagueness to the rules. There's a lot of gray area. We put a lot on them and ask them to do a lot. Things happen in a split second. They're trying to make decisions during real time.

"I think they do need to add an extra referee and they need to put that guy right behind the linebackers. They've got to pad him up. It's just my opinion. But these guys are trying to do something that's very difficult. It's an emotional game. I get emotional about it, and I know they try to do the best they can.''

The first play Rivera disputed was when Carolina safety Mike Adams was ruled to have intercepted a fourth-down pass by Drew Brees and then fumbled it out of bounds, giving the Panthers possession at their own 31 with 1:51 remaining.

Rivera argued that Adams never had full control of the ball and the Panthers should have been awarded possession at the 47, where the snap occurred. As far as he was told, there was no review of the play, which he thought would be automatic in the last two minutes.

"All I know, I believe it was the side judge, I said, 'Hey, you guys need to take a look at that because I'm being told he dropped the ball,''' Rivera said. "He just said, 'We'll see.' He actually said something into his mic. I have no idea what he said. But I did bring it up. I got no explanation on that play, either.''

The next came with about 35 seconds to play when Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was called for intentional grounding. Rivera and his quarterback argued it was a legal play because Newton was out of the pocket when he threw the ball away.

The Panthers were given a 15-yard penalty and 10 seconds were run off the clock.

"I thought he got outside the right tackle's frame when he threw the ball,'' Rivera said. "Plus, the guy was hitting him when he threw the ball to [Devin] Funchess in the end zone.''

The Panthers lost 31-26, finishing the season with an 11-6 record.

"There's a way to solve it, and I think we can help them out,'' Rivera said of the officiating. "We've got to take the gray area out. That's one of the things we have to look at in the offseason.''