Sunday's contest was a must-win for the Panthers, considering the daunting nature of the NFC wild-card picture. A win would have put them at 6-6, which is still well behind the 8-3 Minnesota Vikings for the final playoff spot.
It appeared for a moment as if Carolina was going to make a miracle comeback. It was down 15 with less than two minutes remaining before Kyle Allen scored a touchdown and the hands team recovered an onside kick to give the offense one more chance.
The Panthers drove all the way to Washington's 1-yard line before stalling with two straight negative-yardage runs, an incomplete pass and a strip-sack on fourth down when Allen couldn't escape the pressure and ended up more than 20 yards away from the end zone prior to losing the ball.
It was another heartbreaking defeat during this losing streak that also included the New Orleans Saints winning on a last-second field goal and Christian McCaffrey getting tackled at the Green Bay Packers' 1-yard line on the final play of the game with the Panthers down eight.
Rivera has enjoyed a largely successful tenure with Carolina since he took over coaching duties before the 2011 season. The ex-Chicago Bears linebacker is 76-63-1 overall and reached the playoffs four times, including an appearance in the Super Bowl during the 2015 season.
However, the 57-year-old appears on his way to a third losing season in the last four years. That naturally leads to questions about his job status, but his focus is on improving his team for now.