Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera goes for two, because … analytics.
The Carolina Panthers comeback attempt in the snow at Green Bay fell short but a questionable call by coach Ron Rivera in the fourth-quarter is stealing the headlines. Trailing 24-10 with 11:58 remaining in the game, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey scored to pull Carolina within eight.
Instead of electing for a point-after attempt, Rivera rolled the dice going for two and the conversion failed. While the analytics of the situation may make sense mathematically, it is the outside factors that must also be considered when electing to play a numbers only game.
Owner David Tepper has expressed his appreciation for football analytics since taking over the franchise, including the hiring of Taylor Rajack this past offseason to lead a new department completely focused on utilizing numbers and data in an effort to optimize the team’s performance.
During the post-game press conference, Rivera confirmed the call was analytically based.
"“That was purely analytics. 100 percent. If you get it there and then you score at the end of the game, then you’re kicking to win the game. If you don’t get it there, then you have an opportunity to go for two again … It’s something where we went ahead and followed the analytics of it.”"
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While true a successful attempt would provide the Panthers an opportunity to win and chance to tie (with another score and successful attempt) if not converted here, a failed attempt has to have a psychological impact on the players. Now, instead of just needing a touchdown and extra-point to tie, sending the game to overtime or allowing Rivera the opportunity for two and the win, players are left knowing they have to not only score again (same in either scenario) but also convert in order to still have a chance.
There will be arguments for and against the call with legitimate reasoning available to both sides. Unfortunately, it’s the inconsistent nature of the decision making which is even more upsetting. Rivera earned the nickname, ‘Riverboat Ron’ for instilling confidence in his players and a willingness to lean on the defense or offense in order to take a chance and give his team an edge.
Ultimately, Carolina wouldn’t find the end zone again as McCaffrey came up just short as time expired. We’ll never know what would have transpired had he scored but the mixed signals, between an imbalance of confidence and ‘gut’ feelings versus mathematical equations, need to be remedied moving forward.
Currently sitting at 5-4, the Panthers benefited from some upsets this week to remain in playoff contention but a more consistent approach down the stretch is needed.