What is unquestionably true is that the Panthers are a wildly successful team in short yardage. Since Rivera took over and the Panthers drafted Cam Newton first overall, Carolina has run the ball on third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 43 times. It has converted 35 of those runs for first downs or touchdowns, meaning that its break-even rate on those plays has been a whopping 81.4 percent. Newton, in particular, has been near-unstoppable: He is 16-for-18 on those carries as a pro. You wouldn't want to risk sneaking him on every single short-yardage play just for the purposes of keeping him healthy, but with the game on the line, you simply have to turn to Newton. And even if you don't, Carolina's backfield is full of expensive running backs; Jonathan Stewart is hurt, but the Panthers could just as easily have handed the ball to DeAngelo Williams or Mike Tolbert. Even if you want to accuse that data of being too small to analyze, what do you think Carolina's "true" success rate is if it ran the ball a million times with a yard to go against an average defense? Would it convert 60 percent of the time? 70 percent? Literally, if the Panthers had to sit down and write a résumé, the first strength they would mention is their effectiveness in short yardage. And yet, Rivera turned down another opportunity to use that strength to seal a victory.