Jan 12, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) reacts during the fourth quarter of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Bank of America Stadium. San Francisco won 23-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers' Rivera feels team is close to Super Bowl bid

Behind a top-ranked defense, the Carolina Panthers improved from a 7-9 team in 2012 to the second seed in the NFC Playoffs and a 12-4 record in 2013.

The transformation has the team, and especially head coach Ron Rivera, feeling good about the future of the franchise.

“We learned a lot about who we are as a football team, as an organization and as fans. It was a step in the right direction,” Rivera said. “I don’t think we’re that far away. The two teams in the NFC Championship have basically set the model for us, and we’re very similar in a lot of facets. We’ve come a little further than they did in their circumstances, so it’s taken us a little longer to get here.”

“The things we need to improve on, we will. We’re not satisfied, and it would be a huge mistake to think we’re just going to show up and be 12-4 again. It’s up to me to make sure that we go forward, get better and continue to grow.”

The Panthers surprised a lot of people this season. After starting 1-3, Carolina finished 11-1 with their only loss coming on the road against the New Orleans Saints.

Tags: Carolina Panthers Ron Rivera

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