Rivera not worried about Panthers focus

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Rivera isn’t worried about a letdown after his team’s emotional 27-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

The Carolina Panthers fifth-year head coach said if his squad is lacking focus this week he need only remind them of 45-21 shellacking they received from the Philadelphia Eagles last season. That was an ugly loss in which the Panthers turned the ball over five times, including twice on their first three plays from scrimmage.

Of course, the Panthers feel they are a different team this year.

The Panthers are riding high with a 5-0 record for the first time since 2003, the year they went to their only Super Bowl. They’ll look to go 6-0 for the first time in franchise history Sunday night when they host Chip Kelly’s Eagles.

“Hey, they whipped us last year, so there’s a challenge,” Rivera said.

There is also the matter of this being the first two straight nationally televised night games at home, so the Panthers should have little problem getting up for a game in which they have a chance to prove they’re title contenders.

They took a step toward that on Sunday.

Seattle had beaten Carolina four times in the past three seasons and knocked them out of the playoffs in 2014.

Rivera called it a “hallmark win,” even though the Seahawks are struggling at 2-4.

“This is one of those things that you have to get over because of who they are,” Rivera said. “They’re the defending NFC champs two years in a row.”

Cam Newton downplayed the importance of the Seattle game last week and didn’t change his tune in the postgame press conference, even though the fifth-year quarterback was more animated than ever after his go-ahead 26-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen with 32 seconds left.

“Nothing special,” Newton said in his postgame press conference. “They’re a good team. We’re a good team too, and it’s just time for us just to keep going. We’ve got to take this win, feed off of it and prepare for next week.”

Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly added: “We’ve got to enjoy this win for a short period of time, and then we’ve got to get ready for (Philadelphia). That’s what it is all about — you’ve got to have short term memory regardless of the outcome.”

Rivera said now it’s a matter of the players staying focused and handling the increased attention that will come their way.

That won’t be easy.

After this Sunday night’s game the Panthers will host the Indianapolis Colts in a Monday night affair the following week.

“There’s going to be a lot of noise now because of who we are and what’s been happening and the positive things that have been going on,” Rivera said. “We can’t focus on the noise.”

The Panthers still are somewhat untested.

They haven’t played a team with a winning record — and won’t until they host the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 8.

Still, history suggests the Panthers have a 93.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. Of the 59 teams that have started the NFL season 5-0, 54 have advanced to the postseason, according to STATS.

Newton said a third straight trip to the playoffs isn’t something he’s thinking about — yet.

“It’s still a long season left,” he said.

Steve Reed

AP Sports Writer