The 0-2 Panthers are preparing to take on the 0-2 NY Giants here at home and Panthers coach Ron Rivera increasingly finds himself on the hot seat with what many call his “conservative play calling” – especially in critical 4th and 1 situations. Charlotte Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler writes:
Those two words inspire both dread and hope in football. Fourth down spells doom or saves careers. It can change a game.
Or it can be the down where you send on the kicking team.
Carolina Panthers fans who have bristled at Ron Rivera’s conservatism in fourth-and-1 situations may not take much solace in this statistic: Of the 31 other NFL teams, only one has gone for it on fourth down less than the Panthers since 2011 when Rivera took over.
Want to guess who?
Denver – directed by former Panthers head coach John Fox.
Then again, going for it a lot on fourth down does not translate directly to victories, according to an Observer analysis.
Of the four NFL teams that have gone for it on fourth down the most frequently starting in 2011, all have mostly languished toward the bottom of the NFL standings. Only Seattle, San Francisco and New England have gone for it on fourth down relatively often while winning regularly.
Rivera has never publicly established “a punt is not a bad play” as one of his truisms, which Fox did early in his nine-year career in Charlotte.
But Rivera has followed that theory very closely in critical fourth-and-1, fourth-quarter situations with the Panthers.
In three different games – two in 2012 and the most recent one at Buffalo – that strategy has ultimately led to Carolina blowing a fourth-quarter lead in the final two minutes.
There are other issues with the team, of course, but it all starts with the coach and filters down. Will the Panthers be able to regroup today after their disappointing losses this season (last week’s 24-23 loss to Buffalo was especially tough to watch)? We’ll see. We have perfect game day weather here, with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s. Definitely feels like the first day of fall.