Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera taking over defensive play calls
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera to assume defensive play calling role.
The Carolina Panthers defense improved over the second half against Tampa Bay during a 24-17 loss to their divisional rival. It is unclear exactly when head coach Ron Rivera took over the play calling from first-year defensive coordinator Eric Washington, but after a touchdown drive from the Buccaneers out of halftime, Carolina forced four consecutive punts to end the game.
Three occurred following turnovers, two by interception and one on downs as the Panthers offense attempted to claw back into the game. Aided by their ability to get the ball back, the Panthers had ample opportunities – four to be exact – needing only a touchdown to tie.
The failed effort resulted in a fourth consecutive loss for a Panthers team once in command of their own playoff destiny. Now, a seemingly impossible task of running the table against Cleveland, Atlanta and New Orleans twice would be needed to potentially give Carolina a wild card berth.
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Feeling the heat, Rivera has already made changes to the defensive coaching staff – firing defensive line coach Brady Hoke and secondary assistant Jeff Imamura this week. Washington, who started with Rivera in 2011, was spared. Instead of getting rid of the defensive coordinator, Rivera is going to assume play calling responsibilities and work with Washington to develop the game plan.
Other than maybe making the actual call on the field, from the outside looking in, one would think this would have been the case all along. Veteran safety Mike Adams voiced his opinion, stating he didn’t feel much would actually change in terms of how they prepare or execute but he did note that Rivera made the halftime adjustments last week.
Ultimately, team performances rest on the coach and regardless of if Rivera publicly announced taking over responsibility or not, a continued slide from 6-2 to a losing record would potentially end his time in Carolina.
If he’s going to make a case for keeping his job, then it begins on the defensive side of the football. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has developed a scheme around quarterback Cam Newton despite a recent inability to throw the football down the field, which has continued to work over the second half of the season.
Rivera improved the defense over the second half at Tampa Bay and if it continues down the stretch then he may get an opportunity to do it again in 2019. If not, then new owner David Tepper may elect to make a change of his own.