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Ron Rivera named NFL Coach of the Year after leading Panthers to Super Bowl

For the second time in three years, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has been named the AP Coach of the Year.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

One night before his team will play in the Super Bowl, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was honored as the Associated Press' Coach of the Year. This marks the second time Rivera has received this award, having also been recognized as the AP Coach of the Year following the 2013 season.

After finishing last season with a 7-8-1 record, the Panthers went an impressive 15-1 in 2015. Their first, and only, loss of the season didn't come until Week 16. It was a road loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a division rival with a chip on their shoulder after the Panthers had handed them a 38-0 loss in Charlotte just two weeks earlier.

Carolina secured the top seed in the NFC and a first-round bye, and after big wins over the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers, Rivera finds himself poised to potentially win a second Super Bowl ring, this time as a coach. Rivera's first Super Bowl ring came as a linebacker on the storied Bears team that won it all in 1985 with a final record of 18-1. The Panthers are in a position to be the second team in league history to accomplish that feat when they take on the Denver Broncos Sunday night.

Rivera's Panthers went into the season missing top receiver Kelvin Benjamin, and quarterback Cam Newton had an MVP-caliber season with Ted Ginn Jr. and Philly Brown to throw to instead. The Panthers' rushing attack was formidable, finishing the regular season ranked second in the league with 142.9 yards per game on the ground.

Carolina's defense led the league in takeaways with 24 interceptions in 2015. The Panthers were also tied for first with 22 forced fumbles. Their fourth-ranked run defense only allowed 88.4 yards per game, and their pass rush finished the season with 44 sacks.

Even with a losing record in 2014, the Panthers won the NFC South and advanced to the postseason, but with a very different record. The Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals in Wild Card play, but fell in the divisional round to the Seattle Seahawks.

Bruce Arians, the head coach of the Cardinals, was also a strong candidate to win the award, but Arians even said in December that Rivera would have his vote to win the award this season. Arians won the AP's Coach of the Year award in 2012 and 2014, and Rivera has taken home the honor in 2013 and 2015.