Rivera is not only accepting the underdog role, he is embellishing it by stating the Panthers simply caught the 49ers at the right time:
Panthers largely contained Kaepernick with base defense in first meeting | Carolina Panthers | NewsObserver.com
"We were able to do some things and make it tough on him. I don’t expect that this time," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said this week. "All you really have to do is watch the way he’s played down the stretch. We caught them at a good time and it turned out to our benefit."
So what do you think of Rivera's tactic? I mean, we've already chronicled the fact everyone is picking the 49ers to win. The betting lines back it up:
The Carolina Panthers opened as a one-point favorite against the San Francisco 49ers in the betting lines, but that didn’t last long. As of Monday early evening, San Francisco was a consensus two-point favorite among the top betting services. The game is Sunday at 1:05 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium.
So should we buy it? Panthers beatwriter David Newton isn't and be makes a compelling case:
Not buying Ron Rivera's slant on San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick - ESPN
The 49ers were hot -- hotter than the Panthers, who had won four straight. So that was a good time to catch them?
I'm not buying it. Rivera made the comment for the same reason he said the pressure was on San Francisco because oddsmakers and national media were making the 49ers the favorites. He was doing his part to create that us-against-the-rest-of-the-NFL attitude, the we-don't-get-respect mentality that the Panthers (12-4) have used so well this season.
The Panthers didn't beat the 49ers because they caught them at a good time. They won because they were hungry and disciplined and simply better that day.
The 49ers had won five straight before losing to the Panthers and then went on another six game winning streak after a loss the following week to the Saints. I might even suggest the loss to the Panthers gave the 49ers a hangover that took another week (and a weaker opponent) to get over.
Rivera will continue to spin it to whoever will listen but Panther fans know how much harder it is to win on the road and how much better the Panthers play at home. For anyone to suggest the 49ers will take this game handily simply because the 49ers were 'caught at the right time' well, feel free to bet the farm on the 49ers. I'm thinking you are playing right into Riverboat Ron's hands.