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The legend of Riverboat Ron

12/6/2013 - NFL
Ron Rivera's fourth-down daring has earned him a new nickname. But is it valid? Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Less than three months ago Ron Rivera was just a typical head coach on the hot seat. His Carolina Panthers dropped to 0-2 with another blown lead following a conservative decision late in the game. To that point Rivera barely had more career wins (13) than blown fourth-quarter leads (10).

In terms of the current narrative, let's call the Buffalo Week 2 failure the inciting incident -- the event that changes the protagonist's world. Every hero needs an origin story, so from there "Riverboat Ron" was born.

Knowing he needed to show more faith in his offense, and his multiskilled quarterback, the now desperate Rivera starts aggressively going for it on fourth down. Carolina converts eight consecutive fourth-down attempts since Week 6. Three of the plays went for touchdowns. His Panthers have won a franchise-record eight games in a row and will play for the NFC South lead Sunday night in New Orleans.

In just a matter of weeks Rivera's image has changed dramatically. He's a riverboat gambler. He's fearless.

But before the legend of Riverboat Ron grows any larger, we need to drop the anchor and find out just how aggressive he has become, how Rivera compares to other NFL coaches, and how much it actually has helped the Panthers this season.