Leg whip on Johnson upsets Panthers coach

Updated: November 19, 2013, 5:55 PM ET

David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera wasn’t as concerned with the no-call on the final play of Monday night’s 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots as he was the no-call on the play that took out his best pass-rusher.

Defensive end Charles Johnson appeared to be leg-whipped by New England tackle Marcus Cannon early in the third quarter, although no penalty was called on the play. Johnson did not return until the Patriots’ final possession.

The NFL is reviewing the play on which Johnson was injured for possible discipline on Cannon, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder.

Rivera said the initial report on Johnson’s injury was a sprained knee. An MRI performed Tuesday confirmed that result, a league source said. His status for this weekend’s game at Miami was unclear, although the source told ESPN it is likely Johnson will be listed as doubtful.

“That’s a disappointing play,” Rivera said. “I’m pretty adamant about it. It happened to me when I played. I actually fractured my leg and sprained my interior cruciate. Whenever I see one of those, it really disappoints me.

“I know the league is aware of it, mostly because everybody in America saw it last night, so the league will handle that situation. It’s a personal thing for me.”

Asked if he thought it was a dirty play, Rivera said, “I’ll let the league make that decision.” He gave the same answer when asked whether Cannon should be fined.

Rivera was much more interested in the hit on Johnson than the non-pass interference call on linebacker Luke Kuechly against New England tight end Rob Gronkowski in the end zone on the final play.

“We’ve been on the other end of those calls too, as well,” Rivera said. “As far as I’m concerned that was the decision, the decision we live with. No matter how much people want to talk about it and rehash, rehash, it’s not going to change.”

Johnson returned for the final series after much debate on whether he could play.

“I went up to him and said, ‘What do you think? Can you give it to us?'” Rivera said. “He said, ‘I can give you everything I’ve got.’ He went out there and he sure did. One of the first two plays, he was part of that pressure that got to the quarterback. He reached deep down and did some good things for us.”

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said Johnson’s desire to return showed what the Panthers are about as a defense and Johnson is about as a leader. “My hat’s off to Charles Johnson,” he said.

Johnson said after the game he was unsure if he would be ready for Miami. He also said Cannon sought him out to apologize.

Johnson also tweeted after the game.

Great win. Gonna take more than a leg whip to keep me down #ontothenextone SO to Trent Dilfer #CMonMan

— charles johnson (@randywattson) November 19, 2013

Johnson is tied for eighth in the league in sacks with 8.5. Rivera said the Panthers (7-3) will go into the short preparation week for the Dolphins (5-5) working as though Frank Alexander, Mario Addison and Wes Horton will fill in at left end.

Carolina’s defense obviously struggled with pressure on quarterback Tom Brady while Johnson was out. Brady was under duress four times on the final 11-play drive (36.4 percent). Before the final drive he had been pressured on four of his final 31 dropbacks (12.9 percent).

Rivera blamed some of that on the “shock factor” of seeing Johnson go down. McDermott agreed, but said that can’t be a factor against Miami.

“If he is a go, he’s in,” McDermott said of Johnson. “If not, next man up.”

  • Covered Panthers, NFL for 11 years
  • More than 25 years experience covering NFL, college football and NASCAR
  • Joined ESPN in 2006

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