By STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers coach Ron Rivera hopes his team’s road win at New England on Sunday serves as a “catalyst” moving forward.
Carolina (3-1) beat the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots 33-30 in Foxboro, a place where Tom Brady rarely loses, to move back into a tie for first place in the NFC South with the Falcons.
“I like to think it’s something we can build on,” Rivera said.
Rivera compares the win to the Panthers traveling to Seattle and beating the Seahawks in 2015. The Seahawks had been to the Super Bowl the previous two seasons and been a nemesis for the Panthers leading up to the game.
But Carolina won and went on to go 14-0 and reach the Super Bowl, where it lost to the Denver Broncos. Rivera said the win over Seattle gave the Panthers the belief that they could win big games.
“The Seahawks were the watermark for us as far as the NFC was concerned” in 2015, Rivera said. “We were able to have success there, and from that point on we were able to have success that season. … It instills confidence that you need to play with.”
But Rivera also acknowledged it is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and that the Panthers can ill afford to let their guard down.
Four of Carolina’s next five games are against teams with winning records, including three division leaders: Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta.
A trip to Detroit to face Matthew Stafford and the Lions is next up.
“This can be a jump-start to a great thing for the season for us, or it can just be a flash in the frying pan,” Cam Newton said. “We’re expecting great things for us as a team. We know that, we know what we’re capable of, and … it’s going to take time and we’ve got guys that are putting in the proper work to make big things happen.”
Defensive end Julius Peppers, who had two sacks against Brady, called it a “character win” for the Panthers.
“I thought we did a good job battling through a little bit of adverse situations,” Peppers said.
“We definitely want to build off the momentum of this win,” Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said. “But at the same time we understand that each week is different, so we can’t get too caught up or excited about this win because we are facing a very good team next week in Detroit. We know they have a high-powered offense and we have to go back to the drawing board and be ready to go back to work.”
The Panthers certainly will have a fighting chance if Newton plays like he did Sunday.
Newton finally appeared to rediscover his swagger against the Patriots 32nd-ranked defense, throwing for 316 yards and three touchdowns and running for 44 yards and another score.
“Our quarterback is improving daily, weekly,” Rivera said. “As he continues to get stronger and stronger in our system, it is going to show with the success that we could have with our receivers, tight ends and backs.”
Rivera’s win was big not only for the Panthers but for his former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, now the head coach of the Bills, who moved into first place in the AFC East. Buffalo returned the favor by beating Atlanta, allowing the Panthers to vault into a tie for first with their rivals in the NFC South.
“They helped us and we helped them,” Rivera said.
The Panthers will have to play without safety Kurt Coleman moving forward. He will miss about a month with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Rookie Demetrious Cox filled in against the Patriots and could start Sunday against the Lions.
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