Ron Rivera came into his postgame interview session Sunday and let out a big sigh of disappointment.
Then the Carolina Panthers’ head coach let out three more quick ones, summing up his emotions after his team’s 23-22 loss to the Bears in Soldier Field.
Losing is tough for any visiting coach in Chicago, which normally wouldn’t mean much around here. But Rivera isn’t Mike McCarthy or Andy Reid or even Jim Harbaugh.
Ron Rivera is one of Chicago’s very own — a linebacker on the 1985 Super Bowl champion Bears and the defensive coordinator on their only other Super Bowl team.
Rivera even dabbled in radio work with the Score before deciding to coach. Hardly anybody in town dislikes the guy.
A newspaper article in North Carolina said that one of Rivera’s problems as a coach is that he’s too nice. Not a bad character flaw to have, is it?
“This would have been sweet,” Rivera said of a victory back in Chicago.
Understand that Rivera has tried twice in two years as Panthers coach to beat the Bears in Soldier Field and twice suffered gut-wrenching defeats.
“Coming back and winning in Chicago, it would have been outstanding,” Rivera said. “There’s a lot of (players) over there that I’m very fond of, and a lot of coaches that I know and am very fond of as well.”
Truth be told, however, Rivera needs a victory anywhere, in Chicago or next week in Washington or the week after at home against Denver … anywhere and anyplace will do, and sooner than later is preferable.
Myriad media outlets report that the Panthers’ 1-6 record places Rivera’s job in jeopardy. ESPN.com reported that Marty Hurney, fired as Carolina’s general manager last week, hired Rivera in 2011 despite the reservations of club owner Jerry Richardson.
Is Carolina’s record Rivera’s fault? Sure it is, but only because it’s always the coach’s fault. The Bears are 6-1 and the loss was Lovie Smith’s fault.
The shank and the slip had to be Rivera’s fault, right?
The shank: With Carolina leading 19-7 in the fourth quarter, Brad Nortman shanked a 6-yard punt that led to a Bears touchdown.
The slip: When Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith slipped running a route, cornerback Tim Jennings intercepted the pass and took it in for a touchdown.
The shank and the slip led to 13 Bears points in eight seconds, positioning the Bears back in contention for the eventual winning field goal.
Delightful for the Bears and Lovie Smith’s season, disastrous for the Panthers and Ron Rivera’s career.
“You’d like to take a shot at an elite team, and a team that is as good as they are,” Rivera said of the Bears. “That would have been a feather in our cap. I think it would have built some momentum for us. Unfortunately we didn’t win.”
The Panthers did beat the Bears. They beat them in vital statistics like total net yards 416-210, in take-aways 3-2 and especially in time of possession 36:38-23:22.
Carolina won everywhere but the scoreboard, thanks to the Bears’ defense holding the Panthers to 5 field goals instead of more than 1 touchdown.
“That’s the difference between who we are and who they are,” Rivera said. “Teams like us are trying to learn how to win these games.”
If the Panthers don’t figure it out sooner than later, one of Chicago’s very own good guys will be one of Carolina’s very own gone guys.
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