‘Riverboat’ Ron Rivera returns in Carolina Panthers dramatic comeback
Ron Rivera makes critical call, team executes and the Carolina Panthers comeback to win.
Coach Ron Rivera, coordinator Norv Turner and the Carolina Panthers offense struggled through three quarters of action on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Five consecutive possessions, spanning until a drive started with 33 seconds remaining in the third-quarter ended in punts but this is where the comeback began.
Quarterback Cam Newton orchestrated an 11-play touchdown drive culminating with a 14-yard run from wide receiver Curtis Samuel into the end zone. The Panthers only faced two third-downs on the drive and on both Newton converted with a one-yard carry and 16-yard completion to rookie D.J. Moore.
After a solid defensive stand the Panthers regained possession with just under seven minutes to play. This time no third down conversions were needed as Newton and Carolina marched down the field using six straight completions with an eight-yard quarterback scamper sandwiched in between. Another touchdown, this time through the air to Devin Funchess, and successful two-point conversion attempt gave the Panthers life with four minutes remaining, down by three.
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A quick three-and-out forced by the defense gave Carolina the football with 2:17 remaining and this is where ‘Riverboat’ Ron Rivera reemerged. Earning the designation during the 2013 season when the Panthers started 1-3 but rebounded after a couple of clutch fourth-down conversions in Week 6 led to a victory. Carolina won 11 of their final 12 games, winning the division.
Against Philadelphia, three straight incomplete passes took just 11 seconds off the clock and the Panthers appeared poised to hand the ball back to the Eagles, down three, in great field position. Carolina had two timeouts remaining and the two-minute warning to keep some time left on the clock meaning few would fault Rivera for punting.
Instead, the Panthers took a gamble going for it on fourth down. ‘Riverboat’ Ron was at it again and the move sent a loud and clear message to his team – Rivera was playing to win. A failed conversion would have led to Carolina needing to hold Philadelphia to a field goal to keep the game at one possession and a touchdown would have sealed the victory for the Eagles.
On fourth down, Newton completed a pass to veteran receiver Torrey Smith, who gained 35 yards. He finished the drive with a touchdown toss to Greg Olsen after converting two more third-downs, the latter coming in the end zone.
Rivera knew the Panthers needed a spark and relied on his offense to make it happen. They did and it led to the largest fourth-quarter comeback victory in franchise history.