from grantland....screw espn and nfl and SI....grantland/bill barnwell is what you should be reading.
The Definition of Madness
Ron Rivera did it again. After passing on an opportunity to convert a fourth-and-1 to beat the Falcons last year, a move that ended up turning a near-certain win into a loss, Rivera faced another tough situation Sunday and chose the most conservative option available despite the nature of his team. And let's be clear: That's the biggest problem with Rivera's decision-making at the end of close games. It's not that he's making decisions that go against the numbers, nor is it that he's choosing the most tentative, risk-averse option available to him. It's that he refuses to recognize his team's strengths and adapt his decision-making to incorporate them. This isn't Thank You For Not Coaching; it's Thank You For Not Learning.
In short, Rivera passed up another fourth-and-1 game-sealer to put his defense in a situation where it needed to produce a stop to win. With 1:42 left, the Panthers were up three on the Bills, who were out of timeouts. Carolina was facing a fourth-and-1 on Buffalo's 21-yard line with two clear options. The aggressive choice was to go for it, a move that would have allowed the Panthers to kneel three times and end the game, with the downside of allowing the Bills to tie the game if they stuffed the Panthers and drove for a field goal (or lose if the Bills scored a touchdown.)3
3. Which is less likely than you might think because of how NFL teams approach situations. In a three-point game, the Bills are far more likely to try to get into field goal range and set up for an easy attempt that would force overtime without risking a game-ending interception; down six, they'll have no other choice but to be hyper-aggressive and try to score a touchdown.
The conservative option was to kick a field goal and force the Bills to drive down the field and score a touchdown, at which point they would (barring a failed extra point) win the game.
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.
Rivera turned to his defense and — yet again — it failed him. The strength of the Carolina pass defense is its pass rush, which isn't always quite as noticeable in the fourth quarter after a full day of chasing after players. Its weakness is the secondary, which is exactly what shows up when the other team is trying to throw the ball to make plays downfield on every single snap. And sure enough, just like Haruki Nakamura got beat for a big play by Matt Ryan last season, the secondary failed Carolina when it needed it most on Sunday.
The problem is that Rivera is running his team by remaining obstinate and without properly adjusting his process to account for the players he has available. That's an essential part of the job, and it's Rivera's biggest failing as a head coach. It's also the biggest reason why Carolina is so dreadfully bad in close games — it's now 2-14 in games decided by seven points or fewer under Rivera, a historically dismal performance. Some of that is bad luck, but a fair amount of it is Rivera putting his team in situations to lose. If Rivera continues to coach his team like he's never actually seen it play, he's not going to be a head coach much longer.
rivera, at the end of games, puts this team in a situation that is a proven losing strategy...at least here it is. he sets them up to lose. to fail.
and then he blames execution.