Ron Rivera: 'No explanation' on intentional grounding

Carolina's season is over and coach Ron Rivera isn't thrilled with how the zebras handled a critical snap in the game's final minute.

With 41 seconds left on the clock and the Panthers trailing 31-26, quarterback Cam Newton was flagged for intentional grounding on a second-down pass from the New Orleans 21-yard line.

The penalty came on a snap that saw Newton hurdle the ball out of bounds with Saints pass-rusher Cam Jordan all over him. Newton argued he was outside the pocket and Rivera agrees.

"Well, I thought our quarterback was out of the pocket. I thought there was a receiver in the vicinity. I thought the ball passed the line of scrimmage," Rivera said after the loss. "I mean, I don't know. It would be nice to have the explanation. ... I didn't get the explanation."

Said Panthers tight end Greg Olsen: "I didn't see it but I heard the other officials come in and try to convince the head ref that he was out of the pocket and the ball crossed the line of scrimmage. That's what they continued to say over and over. I then thought he was going to change it but obviously he stuck with what he originally saw."

The flag left the Panthers staring into the abyss of a third-and-23 scenario that saw Newton whip an incomplete shot downfield to Devin Funchess. One play later, with 11 seconds left and the game on the line, Newton was dropped for a 17-yard sack on fourth down. Just like that, Carolina's season was over.

"Well, disappointment," Rivera said of the game's final march. "We have a chance to score on that last drive, you know, and I kind of feel like it was taken away from us. That's tough. That's a tough one."

A rugged pill to swallow, and a drive that Carolina will spend the entire offseason pondering while wondering what could have been.