After further review, Panthers’ Ron Rivera disappointed in penalties

jjones@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 14, 2014 

Minutes after Sunday’s 23-10 loss to San Francisco, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t have a problem with his team’s perceived lack of discipline in the game.

The Panthers were called for eight penalties, including three personal fouls, but he said he was proud that his players weren’t allowing themselves to be pushed around on their home field.

Less than 48 hours after the game, Rivera pointed to those three personal fouls as among the biggest disappointments from Carolina’s home playoff loss.

“As you go through it and evaluate and break it down, we had some opportunities on both sides of the ball to make something happen, and unfortunately we didn’t,” Rivera said Tuesday during his year-end press conference. “Probably the biggest disappointment I had, there were three bad penalties we had that we should not have had, we should not have committed. Unfortunately the situation got the best of us.”

Rivera, who just completed his third season, referenced an unnecessary roughness call on free safety Mike Mitchell, an unnecessary roughness call on cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on cornerback Josh Thomas as the three penalties that stuck out.

Mitchell hit 49ers tight end Vernon Davis from behind after an incomplete pass on third down that otherwise likely would have resulted in a 49ers punt. Munnerlyn head-butted Michael Crabtree, which turned a 4-yard scramble into a 19-yard play in the second quarter. And Thomas swung at a 49er who was on the ground late in the game after the Panthers had stopped San Francisco on third down and were about to force the 49ers to punt.

“Guys lost their cool, lost their temper, lost their composure, and that’s on me,” Rivera said. “I’m the head coach and I’ve got to make sure these guys understand the situation and circumstances, and we can’t get caught up in that. It was unfortunate it happened that way and it was one-sided but that’s what happens.”

All three of the penalties came against a Panthers secondary that had long felt opponents and observers had disrespected them, but Rivera said that did not play a role in their antics.

“I think the one on Mike Mitchell was one of those things that an aggressive player coming downhill and seeing the ball get tipped, lowered his shoulder into the guy not knowing where the ball was,” Rivera said. “I think Captain’s was, there were some things that happened prior to the play, and the same thing with Josh.

“There is a certain point where you’ve got to get control, and we didn’t.”

Cap-challenged: Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman referred to the Panthers being challenged by salary cap space five times in the 35-minute news conference he shared with Rivera.

Gettleman took over the team in 2013 when it was nearly $16 million over the cap. According to the NFL Players Association site, the Panthers are $11.2 million under the cap, but that will change once the new league year starts in February.

Despite lamenting the challenges of the salary cap multiple times Tuesday, Gettleman still had good things to say about his predecessor, Marty Hurney.

“I would never put myself in a position where I didn’t have all the facts. I don’t know all the facts. They made decisions based on the best information they had,” Gettleman said of Hurney, who was fired six games into the 2012 season. “Let me say this right here and right now. Marty Hurney has a lot to be proud of. He left us with a hell of a core. Hired this guy (Rivera). Drafted Cam (Newton). He’s got a lot to be proud of.

“And when I got the job, I felt it was the job of all the GM jobs. And you know what? I guessed right.”

Seventh-rounder for Beason: The long-held secret of what the Panthers got from the New York Giants in return for linebacker Jon Beason was revealed Tuesday.

Gettleman said the Panthers received a seventh-round pick in the 2014 draft for Beason. When the Panthers traded Beason to the Giants in Week 5, neither team announced what the conditional pick would be.

Beason had 93 tackles, zero sacks and one interception in the 11 games he played for the Giants this year.

The Panthers now have a draft pick in every round of May’s draft. The Panthers had traded their own seventh-round pick to the 49ers in 2012 for special teamer and safety Colin Jones.

Carolina will have the 28th overall selection in the first round of the draft.

Extra points: Rivera said he wasn’t aware of any surgeries any of his players will need this offseason. … The 49ers-Panthers game drew an average audience of 33.1 million people, which made it the second most-watched TV event last week behind the Chargers-Broncos game. … Updated Super Bowl odds from Bovada have the Panthers with 20-1 odds to win next year, though they’re behind division rivals New Orleans and Atlanta. … The Panthers signed all eight of their practice squad players who ended the season with the team to futures contracts for next season.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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