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Panthers 20 Browns 26: The biggest loser following the Panthers season changing loss to Cleveland is Ron Rivera

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The Carolina Panthers playoff hopes are basically gone following this loss. Let’s break down the winners and losers.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what way you slice it, this Panthers team collapsed on all levels following a 6-2 start with a talented roster. Cleveland essentially ended all chances of Carolina making the playoffs, despite the efforts of these three guys.

Winners

Christian McCaffery

McCaffery continues to succeed in spite of this struggling offense. CMC logged 22 touches for 101 yards and the Panthers only two touchdowns. While McCaffery is growing into an elite offensive weapon, he cannot be the only player carrying this offense. The team seems to get away from him when they are trying to cover deficits, and the way this offense is performing this just can’t work. McCaffery is playing well, but his number of touches and success in regards to the rest of the offense just isn’t sustainable. I truly hope next season this offense finds a way to put it all together, where McCaffery doesn’t have to drag the entire offense into the endzone.

Ian Thomas

Props to the rookie. He had major shoes to fill and he did his darned best in this game with a team leading 9 catches for 77 yards. Cam Newton functions at his best with a safety valve at tight end, and Thomas was that today. The 4th round rookie really flashed what kind of potential he has today, and luckily he will be here along with McCaffery for the next few years on a rookie contract. The Panthers should continue with this workload as it can only benefit him in the future.

Luke Kuechly

The best defensive player on the team had 11 tackles and two forced fumbles, as he kept this defense in the game through sheer force of will. It is really a shame that this will be considered a down year for Luke, because he’s really stepped up his game the last few weeks. However, in today’s NFL an elite middle linebacker can only do so much for a defense.

Loser: Ron Rivera

I could point to a bad showing by the secondary. I could point to an inconsistent game by Cam Newton. I could point to Chris Clark struggling against Myles Garrett or the defense not getting pressure. However, at this point, after 5 straight losses, the responsibility for these games falls solely at the feet of Ron Rivera. Not only has the team lost and the defense gotten torched, but save for a few winners each week the team as a whole has showed up and looked massively unprepared. Even after Rivera’s supposed hands on approach this week with the defense, they still couldn’t get it done against a rookie quarterback in a game they HAD to win. The offense couldn’t score in the redzone on several opportunities for another consecutive week.

I like Ron, but he’s had more than enough time to prepare this team to be great. They have so much talent and yet they cannot get out of their own way. From a week to week standpoint, things like penalties, turnovers, and blown coverages can be attributed to player performance. But at this point, we’ve seen a five week trend. This team hasn’t been prepared, hasn’t capitalized on opportunities, and has failed to adapt to the changing landscape that is 2018 NFL football. This is on Ron Rivera, and the coaches he’s chosen to put into power.

I’ve watched Ron Rivera football since 2011, and I don’t know how much more I can take.