CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers owner David Tepper was up twice in the middle of the night after Carolina lost by 26 points to the struggling Atlanta Falcons two weeks ago.
Imagine how frustrated he is after his team lost 29-21 to the Redskins on Sunday, when it wasted a 14-0 lead. Washington scored 29 straight points, leaving Tepper's stadium nearly empty by the end of the fourth quarter.
Tepper told the media after that loss to Atlanta that the long-term mediocrity that has haunted the Panthers organization since its inception would not be tolerated under his watch. Now his mandate will be tested as he's forced to contemplate the future of coach Ron Rivera and his staff, as well as the team's front office.
The Panthers (5-7) are essentially out of playoff contention after losing their fourth straight game with second-year quarterback Kyle Allen under center and a defense - one which Rivera calls plays for - that can't seem to stop the run.
"I'm not worried about my future," Rivera said after the game. "I'm worried about this football team. We have a game coming up on Sunday" at Atlanta.
Tepper has not addressed Rivera's future and was not made available Sunday.
But clearly his job security looms large over the team.
Rivera, in his ninth season, remains a popular figure in the Panthers' locker room.
But since losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 four seasons ago, the Panthers are 29-31 under the former two-time NFL Coach of the Year and have not won a division title or a playoff game during that span.
And they won't this year either.
The Saints (10-2) have already clinched the NFC South and the Panthers are 3 ½ games behind the Minnesota Vikings with four games to go in the race for the conference's second wild card spot.
More recently, the Panthers are 6-14 in their last 20 games.
Rivera's tenure has always been directly tied to Cam Newton, with both joining the franchise in 2011.
And the biggest question may be if Tepper gives Rivera a pass because of Newton's recent injury problems. Shoulder problems plagued the 2015 league MVP in the second half of last season and Carolina lost seven of its last eight games. This year foot problems ended his season after two games, forcing the Panthers to go with a second-year quarterback who had started just one NFL game.
Panthers cornerback James Bradberry said Rivera didn't mention his future after the game when he addressed the team.
"He pretty much told us to worry about next week and come in prepared and get a win," Bradberry said.
Added Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel: "We're not really focused on anybody's job. We're just trying to go out there and win games for our team and for coach."
Panthers longtime linebacker Luke Kuechly said Rivera is not to blame, adding that he and his assistants do a great job of preparing the players.
"Coach Rivera does such a great job of keeping us level-headed," Kuechly said. "He's done a great job with it since he's got here and we're going to do the same thing moving forward. Nobody is going to get mad at anybody. Nobody is going to get frustrated. Everybody is going to lock in and do their job."
Some players avoided the question altogether.
"That's a sticky situation," said wide receiver Jarius Wright. "Wish I could give you more."
But one thing is for sure - the Panthers have become the very definition of mediocrity.
And that leaves Tepper with big decision to make in the very near future.
Derrius Guice ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns and the Washington Redskins made a late goal-line stand to secure a 29-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday for their second straight victory.
Adrian Peterson added 99 yards and a score as the Redskins (3-9) piled up 248 yards on the ground and scored their most points this season.
The Panthers' (5-7) fourth straight loss could put coach Ron Rivera's job in jeopardy and leaves the team ineligible for the playoffs for the second year in a row.
The Redskins spotted the Panthers a 14-0 lead after quarterback Kyle Allen opened the game 8 of 8 passing for 106 yards with touchdown passes to wide receivers Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore on Carolina's first two possessions.
But what looked like a Carolina rout quickly turned.
The Redskins upped the pressure on Allen and the Panthers, forcing eight punts and an interception on the next nine possessions. Washington limited the Panthers to 65 yards on those nine drives and neutralized Christian McCaffrey, holding the NFL's leader in yards from scrimmage to 102 total yards, well below his season average.
Allen broke the string when he scrambled for a 17-yard touchdown with 1:51 left to cut the lead to 29-21.
The Panthers, with most of their fans having exited the stadium, then perfectly executed an onside kick with Jermaine Carter recovering at the Carolina 48, giving Allen one more chance.
He moved the Panthers to the 1-yard line, but Washington stopped Carolina on four straight downs with Chris Odum sacking Allen after a 23-yard loss and Nate Orchard recovering the loose ball.
Both Odum and Orchard were signed to the active roster earlier this week.
The team said they will review the tape Monday and see where they can improve. Jarius Wright and Mario Addison told Channel 9 it all comes down to consistency.
"If we don't start the game fast, we usually pick it up," Wright said. "And then, we start the game fast and we don't finish, but we have to put that together."
"It's not about who's a better team," Addison said. "It's about what team plays the best that day."
Redskins linebacker Ryan Anderson was ejected after delivering a helmet-to-helmet hit on tight end Greg Olsen. The Panthers announced Olsen has entered the concussion protocol and he did not return. Olsen appeared to tuck his head while approaching contact when Anderson came flying in and hit him straight on with his helmet.
"Yeah, I talked to Greg. Greg says he feels much better, so we'll see how he is once he gets out of the protocol," Rivera said. "And, that's as far as I'm gonna say, as of right now, he left the game because of a concussion, he's in the protocol."
Concussion protocol includes five steps: rest and recovery with limited time on computers and social media, light aerobics, light weight training and the addition of non-contact football drills such as throwing, catching and running.
Olsen remained on the field for about a minute after the hit and the crowd booed relentlessly as replays were shown on the scoreboard.
Redskins: Redskins returner Trey Quinn left the game in the second quarter with a concussion after taking a shot to the head from DeAndrew White while going low to field a punt. Quinn didn't call for a fair catch, but White was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit. ... Right tackle Morgan Moses left the game with a back injury and linebacker Montez Sweat injured his quadriceps.
Panthers: Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle) and linebacker Brian Burns (back) missed portions of the game with injuries, but did return.
Redskins: Visit the Packers on Sunday.
Panthers: Travel Sunday to face the Falcons, who beat them 29-3 on Nov. 17.
© 2019 Associated Press