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Rivera eager to avoid potential issue OBJ hangover

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Panthers cornerback Josh Norman had an uncharacteristically poor game on Sunday in a 20-13 loss to the Falcons, which happens to all good players. But there are going to be questions as to why and how it happened.

This is especially true when the week prior, Norman was involved in a battle royale against Giants wideout Odell Beckham that resulted in a Beckham suspension, a fine for Norman and a heightened sense of security around in-game conduct. Giants linebacker J.T. Thomas was ejected from Sunday's game against the Vikings for a "punch" which paled in comparison to Beckham's antics.

That's why Panthers head coach Ron Rivera wants to have a word with his players. He doesn't want what happened a week ago to Norman to impact the cornerback or any other player on the team.

"Sometimes there may be a little carry over, but we brought it on ourselves -- that's the truth," Rivera told reporters Monday. "If you really wanna look at it, pregame you looked at it: the referees were all lined up at the 50-yard line straight across. Unfortunately when you have a game like we previously had, there's gonna be a little bit of carry over, but we brought it on ourselves, nobody else did.

"So the truth of the matter is we gotta make sure we focus in on what we're supposed to do -- we handle situations better and we maintain our composure, that's the truth. That falls on me initially. I gotta make sure we're doing things the right way. Again, as I look back, I'll sit down and talk with the coaches and we'll talk about that. I'll sit down with the players when they're in tomorrow, we'll discuss those things going forward. Because it's gonna be important. Once you get into playoffs, it's one-and-done, so we gotta be smart about that."

Rivera has handled this season flawlessly so far, but this might prove to be his biggest challenge. Norman is arguably the best cover corner in football this season, and sometimes the ability to get away with certain moves or to play at a one-on-one level with a certain tenacity is necessary.

Norman and the Panthers host the Bucs in their final game of the regular season, a team that brings plenty of receiving talent to the table. Should it continue -- and there's no reason to anticipate it will considering that Norman's bad game came against the best receiver in football -- Rivera will have to do far more than talking.

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