The Panthers were 13-0 when they came to MetLife Stadium in December to face the Giants. While they won that game, they lost the next one. But they haven’t lost since.
Which means they now have a chance to become the first team since the 1985 Chicago Bears to go 18-1 and win a Super Bowl.
Ron Rivera was a linebacker on that Bears team. And now he’s the coach of the Carolina Panthers.
He spoke about the parallels in December.
“I do draw from what coach [Mike] Ditka used to tell us and some of the things that we went through when I was playing,” he said on a conference call with Giants reporters. “It is an opportunity for me to fall back on things from personal experience, and I was able to share that with our players.”
While it might seem as if a 15-1 regular-season record is as good as a ticket to the Super Bowl, the last four teams before the Panthers to achieve that mark were knocked out in the playoffs. The 1998 Vikings, 2004 Steelers and 2011 Packers all had just one regular-season loss and failed to advance to the Super Bowl.
In fact, there have been only two one-loss teams to ever play in and win the Super Bowl, and it happened in back-to-back years: the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Bears.
The 1972 Dolphins still have the only perfect record in the Super Bowl era at 16-0 (14-0 in the regular season). The 2007 New England Patriots went 18-0 before losing to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
So given the rarity of this achievement, it’s no wonder Rivera has been pulling lessons from his days with the Bears.
“Pretty much learning to deal with success,” he said is the biggest one. “One of the things that coach talked about early on was managing success and being prepared for you guys, the media . . . I told the guys, don’t be surprised about the questions that you get, the scrutiny is going to be more. As Coach Ditka used to always tell us, ‘They like to put you on a pedestal, but remember, that pedestal gets high, so it’s a long way to fall.’ So just things like that. Trying to remind these guys to maintain their focus, to handle our success, and just be prepared.”