Panthers' backs against the wall after surprising 1-4 start

AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Super Bowl is beginning to seem like a distant memory for the Carolina Panthers.

The brash team that celebrated 17 wins last season by posing for pictures while "dabbing" on the sideline suddenly doesn't have much to celebrate.

The defending NFC champions are in danger of not making the postseason coming off a 17-2 season. The Panthers (1-4) turned the ball over four more times and had several costly penalties in a 17-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leaving the three-time defending NFC South champs three games behind the Atlanta Falcons in the division.

History suggests the Panthers only have a six percent chance of making the postseason.

Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, only eight of 128 teams that started 1-4 have advanced to the postseason. Houston and Kansas City accomplished that feat last year.

All of that doesn't seem to faze the Panthers eternally optimistic coach Ron Rivera.

"In spite of the fact that some people want to go ahead and give the division to somebody already with 11 games left to play," Rivera said Tuesday. "We will wait and see and play them one at a time and that's the way we're going to look at it. We're not going to worry about what happened last year. It's a different football team and a different season."

Rivera expressed some optimism regarding the status of reigning league MVP Cam Newton, who sat out against the Buccaneers with a concussion.

While Newton remains in the league's concussion protocol, Rivera said the sixth-year quarterback "had a good day" of workouts on Monday.

"He worked out with our training staff. He ran. He threw the ball," Rivera said Tuesday. "We had one of our young guys with him, and he was running routes for him. He lifted."

However, Rivera stopped short of saying whether Newton would practice Wednesday or be ready for Sunday's game at New Orleans. The Panthers have a bye the following week, so it's conceivable they could hold him out to give him two more weeks to rest.

"My understanding is when they do all that it's 'How is he the next day?'" Rivera said. "I haven't had a chance to visit on that yet."

Players had the day off Tuesday.

One of the biggest issues for the Panthers this season is turnovers. They've committed an NFL-high 14 through five games after turning the ball over only 19 times all of last season. Derek Anderson, who filled in for Newton on Monday night, had three turnovers including a costly fourth quarter interception on a first-and-goal at the Tampa Bay 2.

"It's been kind of the story of our losses this year -- missed opportunities, self-inflicted wounds and obviously turnovers are big," Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said after the game.

Olsen said some of the breaks the Panthers got last year are simply going the other way.

"What happened the year before has nothing to do with this year," Olsen said. "We've been saying that since the day after the Super Bowl. That's just the reality of it. It's unfortunate we had to learn it by being 1-4, but that's the way this league goes. You're not promised anything in this league. No one's going to roll over because of what you've done in the past. You've got to earn everything and right now we're not earning anything."


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