Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson was definitely missed last night, when he was out with a knee injury.
And though he returned to play the final series, he’s getting tests this morning to see if he’ll miss any more time.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera cited Johnson’s comeback for the final series as a lift for his team. But his absence in the second half was as telling, as the Patriots began to run well, often straight to the place their highest-paid player had vacated.
“You could tell when he got hurt the wind went out of our sail a little bit on the defensive side,” Rivera said. “He is such an integral part of who we are and what we’ve done.
“We just stepped up. I think some of our young guys need to understand that they have to step up and they can’t rely on someone else to create momentum. That’s something we are going to have to take a nice long look at.”
That, but mostly Johnson’s knee.