Rivera was a linebacker for Ditka’s Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears in 1985 and recalled the Hall of Famer’s advice as he gets ready to coach in his first championship bout against the Denver Broncos.
"One of the things Coach Ditka emphasized to us was to enjoy the moment," said Rivera, per David Newton of ESPN.com. "The moment doesn't come very often. It's hard. It's hard to get to where we are right now."
The other token of Ditka’s guidance Rivera is preaching is to not alter their general approach:
Do what you've done. Some of my experiences in coaching, you get to certain experiences like the playoffs, and sometimes you get a little bit of panic. Am I doing enough? Should I do more? Should I change this?
I told our coordinators this morning, we're going to stick to what got us to where we are. We'll emphasize that to the players and make sure we keep our personality.
The parallels between the ’85 Bears and ’15 Panthers run eerily similar.
|Statistic||'15 Panthers||'85 Bears|
|Final Regular Season Record||15-1||15-1|
|Total Defense||322.9 ypg (6th)||258.4 ypg (1st)|
|Turnover Margin||+11 (6th)||+23 (1st)|
|Avg. Margin of Victory||+12.9 (1st)||+16.1 (1st)|
Pro-Football-Reference.com; Parenthesis indicate NFL rank
Each side was undefeated late into the season, boasted a brash bravado and owned top-tier defenses, but perhaps most chiefly, each plowed through the NFC playoffs en route to the conference title.
The ’15 Panthers will be remembered for years to come, but they face their tallest task yet against a seasoned Broncos team with veteran leadership and experience.