The Carolina Panthers (6-2) don’t have much time to enjoy Sunday’s 42-28 win against Tampa Bay, or even a three-game winning streak.
Instead, they must make a rapid turnaround ahead of Thursday night’s prime-time game at Pittsburgh (5-2-1).
“Having to get through the game tape as quickly as possible and try to find the mistakes, get those things ready to be corrected when we get a chance to see our guys,” head coach Ron Rivera said Monday morning of the challenges of the short week.
“But getting on to Pittsburgh right now. Having a chance to watch them on tape a little bit.”
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Carolina played Pittsburgh in the final week of the preseason, but that matchup featured the second and third teams from both rosters.
Since the Panthers don’t have much time to prepare for their opponent this week, Rivera said a lot of the focus is internal.
“What you want to do is you want to be able to take elements that were carried over, things that you’ve done in the last few weeks, and just kind of hone them up, sharpen them up and get them ready to play with,” said Rivera.
Players will also spend a lot of the week recovering from Sunday, particularly the veterans.
“For the old guys and vets, we have to be able to roll over,” said quarterback Cam Newton after Sunday night’s game.
“I remember playing last year and that was one of the most challenging games because your body doesn’t have time to recover. Usually you’re peaking over the hump on Thursday or Friday to get prepared for Sunday’s game. For us, we know that moving forward we just have to stay on top of those things to make sure we’re putting the best product on the field.”
The Panthers also have a mixed bag when it comes to the next five weeks. They entered the short week after a home game, which is a good thing.
“It bodes well,” said Rivera. “We played at home (Sunday) as opposed to years in the past where we’ve played in Los Angeles and had to play a Thursday night game. So this is one of those things where it’s beneficial that we played at home. It’s easier on the coaches, I can tell you that much, because we had the opportunity to watch some of the tape last night and finish up this morning. I just feel like we’re in a good spot as far as going forward.”
But four of the Panthers’ next five games are on the road, beginning with the short week. That adds a layer of difficulty.
Carolina heads to Detroit in Week 11, is at home against Seattle in Week 12, then will play at Tampa Bay and at Cleveland in weeks 13 and 14. Those aren’t extraordinarily far distances to travel, but the road stretch will still be grueling.
“(We’ve discussed it) to a degree,” said Rivera. “We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we do know it’s coming.
“The biggest thing is trying to get off on a good start on these road trips that are coming up. We’ve got a very formidable opponent. It’s a Thursday night game. It’s in Pittsburgh.
“But at the same time, we are playing well. We’ve built on a lot of things that we’ve done and I do like the direction we are headed as a football team.”
Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue