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Saturday, September 21, 2013
Further evidence Rivera made right call

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Only one NFL team since 2011 has gambled less on fourth down than the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Observer columnist Scott Fowler noted in a Friday post.

That team, ironically, is the Denver Broncos, and the Broncos are led by former Carolina coach John Fox.

Fourth-down gambles became a hot topic this week after Carolina coach Ron Rivera opted to kick a field goal on fourth-and-one with 1:42 remaining in Sunday's 24-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Many of you argued that Carolina (0-2) should have gone for it to keep a defense riddled with injuries to the secondary off the field. Many of you argued it would have shown Rivera has confidence in his offense by playing to win.

All are valid points.

But I was in the minority, arguing that kicking the field goal to increase the lead to 23-17 was the way to go against a rookie quarterback who had to drive his team 80 yards with no timeouts to win.

I contended not gambling on fourth down was playing to win. If you look at some of the teams around Carolina near the bottom of this risk-takers list it'll make more sense.

Denver has gambled on fourth down only 18 times since 2011. The Broncos are 23-11. Houston has gambled only 20 times during that span. The Texas are 24-10.

The team between them, Carolina, is the exception. The Panthers have gambled 19 times and are 13-21.

Defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore is among a group of teams that has gambled 22 times. The Ravens are 23-11 in the span since 2011.

Now look at the other end of the spectrum. St. Louis has gambled more times than any team in the league the past two-plus seasons. The Rams are 10-23-1, and that is with a 46.9 percent success rate.

Jacksonville is second with 45 gambles. The Jaguars are 7-27.

In case you're wondering what Carolina's success rate is on fourth down, it's not bad. The Panthers rank 15th at 47.4 percent.

But winning teams don't typically take chances on fourth down, so I remain convinced not going for it was the right call.