Whether it’s because he’s five weeks behind or because the memory’s too raw, Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman still hasn’t watched the Super Bowl loss to Denver.
But coach Ron Rivera has “several times,” and he kept coming back to the same theme each time he watched it.
“It was mostly the opportunities we had that we didn’t take advantage of,” Rivera said Thursday at the Scouting Combine. “It was the missed opportunities more than anything else.”
The Panthers have every reason to feel that way, having played the kind of defense that ought to have been enough to make them champions.
They allowed the Broncos just 194 yards, but their four turnovers undermined their good work, and issues from missed field goals to botched special teams plays will haunt them even after a 15-1 regular season. And he mentioned that when he met with his team after the season, he pointed out the fact that Denver lost two years earlier to the Seahawks in even more humiliating fashion.
And while the temptation has been to declare the Broncos defense one of the all-timers, Rivera knows something about great defenses, having played for the 1985 Bears.
He was asked if he thought the Broncos defense deserved to be considered alongside his Bears team, but Rivera wasn’t biting.
“I’m very biased about that Bears team,” he replied simply.
It’s not that Rivera’s taking anything away from Denver or being ungracious — as he circled back several times to compliment the Broncos.
But the reality of how close his current team came to a championship is clearly something that’s going to bother him, and many of his players, for a long time.