The team’s play today: “We are on to the next round. We didn’t play as well as I thought we needed to in the second half. We did things that we were supposed to do and won the football game. That’s the bottom line that we won the football game. I’m very proud of what we did in the first half. If we could have just skipped right on over halftime and just kept playing I think we might have been in much better shape. Kudos to them because of what happened. I would have much rather had a much better kickoff to open up the second half but unfortunately we didn’t get that and we need to make plays. We need to make sure we are putting those players in the position to make plays but we need to make plays. We had opportunities and we didn’t do that. Again, kudos to them. That’s why they are a championship caliber football team because they have that kind of ability.”
On what went right in the first half: "I just think we did the things we needed to. We were able to keep them off balance early on. You have to give them credit again. They came out with a little bit of energy, you score right away in about two minutes in the third quarter and I think they got a little bit of momentum. We were able to slow them down a couple times and really at that point. The biggest disappointment I really didn’t want to play the game the way we did in the second half. I wanted to be more aggressive and try to attack but for whatever reason we got into protect mode and I’m a little disappointed in that."
On what Seattle did in the second half: "I will say the quarterback got a little bit more time which was disappointing. We got after him early in the game. We were able to attack him. I think the adjustments they made in the third quarter early on affected us. We got off the tight coverage and again gave a little bit more room underneath to move around and find opportunties to make plays. There are some things like I said that we as coaches got to take a look at and figure out some better answers to those things."
On playing offense with a large lead: "You would much rather they keep going. We had some opportunties like I said to keep a couple drives going in the third quarter and we missed them. We put ourselves into third and long a couple times and one time on third down we had to take a sack which was disappoitning. These are all things we are going to take a look at and get corrected. We are going to play the same type of physical, attacking, aggressive type of defense next week against Arizona so we need to make sure we are good."
On the way Stewart’s run energized the team: "Very much so and not just that but the play
Regarding similarities today to the comebacks teams have had against Panthers this season: "Yeah, we had a big lead and then they came back. That happens. That is a part of the nature of the game, especially when you get that kind of lead against a good offense. You look at who all those came against, and those came against very good quarterbacks who were able to do things against us. Part of it is you when you get a big lead like that, one of the things is you have to learn to not relax. You have to learn to continue to attack. It is one of those things that we most certainly as coaches have to make sure we are putting them in the right positon to do those things."
On the status of
On what does it feel like to beat Seattle to get to NFC Championship game: "It feels good. It really does. I’m not going to lie about that. It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling. It’s everything you strive for, you work for. It’s part of our vision. We haven’t accomplished what we want yet but we played some very good football teams along the way, Seattle being one of them. In all honesty, they have been the watermark here in the NFC and we have an opportunity that we want. Now here comes the next one and it’s Arizona. They are the two seed for a reason. They are a well coached football team with a dynamic quarterback. They’ve got some playmakers that we saw last night and then they have an aggressive defense. This is a complete team that we will play as well and we have to be on our game."
On how today’s game played out and if it will matter for next week's NFC Championship game: "No, because you look at what happened with their game and you ask does it matter that their game played out the way it did. So as far as I’m concerned, no. That has nothing to do with what this game will be about. It’s going to be about us against them. What we have done in the past means nothing. This is a championship game. Every game that you play from this point on is a championship game. This was a championship game and the next one will be a championship game. Hopefully we will get the chance to see what the last one is like. But we need to take care of business first and foremost and that’s getting ready for the Arizona Cardinals."
On his message to the team after the game: "It was congratuations to be honest with you. I’ve very excited for them, very proud of what they accomplished, everything they have had to go through and that they have gone through. Not just this year but the five years that we have been here together. Again, I’m very proud of the things these players have done. Very proud of the coaches for the things that they have done and the hard work that the football operations and Dave Gettleman and his staff has put in for us to be where we are today. We have a good group of people who have worked with us. This is great for this organization. Mr. Richardson and the people who work here really deserve this. We had great fan support. It was exciting to see that crowd and when you first come out and see all those white towels being waived. They were fabulous, they really were. I think we fed off their energy and I expect them to come back and give us that energy next week."
On the play of the offensive line, especially that of a young
On containing Marshawn Lynch: "I will say this we really do respect their running game. We really do. It’s one of those things that we emphasis and work on. Our intention was he was going to play all along. We were going to be prepared for what they do. Again, we were able to execute and I don’t want to take anything away from them because they have been a championship team for the last couple years in the NFC. This was a good victory for us."
On moving with one game of Super Bowl: "A lot of people are viewing it wrong. We're not one game away. We have a game that's the most important game this year because it's the next game. We're not worried about the Super Bowl. That's irrelevant. Right now we're focused on the Arizona Cardinals. Great win today. Great team win today. We've just got to put it together to find a way to win."
On forging a 31-0 halftime lead: "You can't draw it up like that. We've just got to find ways to complete a full game of football. We've been known to take our foot off the throttle. Yeah we won the football game, but there are some things we've got to go back and huddle up and be better with."
On how the Panthers jumped out so strong: "It was just a tale of execution. We needed a little bit more of that in the second half. There were a lot of guys playing with the butts tight. Coaches with the butts tight. At one point fans and myself were butt tight too, but you just have to find ways to get your groove back going and we need a little bit more of that next Sunday."
On whether game was slipping away: "No, not really. As long as I would have the football, I felt like we had a chance. The time was against those guys, but yet we knew that. A lot of plays were eliminated. Our philosophy was at that time to just play keep-away."
On team taking "Victory Lap" around field after victory: "It was something that was brought to my attention last year. In our franchise history we're notorious for keeping traditions going and from what I know every single time the Panthers won a playoff game at home we do our job with thanking the fans and that was just a little nugget. Those guys, their efforts didn't go unnoticed. We're going to need them more than ever next week."
On "Victory Formation": "To put in the work that we did all year, from OTAs to training camp, from the start of the season until now, it just means a lot. You guys work extremely hard at what you do putting up columns and writing stories on countless hours through the day, but for us the same effort goes into coming in at 6:30 a.m., coming in when nobody is on the street and now going home when it's pitch black outside. Practicing in rain, shine, sleet or snow. The determination, the vibe that you get is that we've put ourselves into a position to do something here that hasn't been done before and it's this family culture that we have all the way down, from management to the players. To see it come to fruition, winning big football games like today – it just means a lot."
On fans support for next week: "Whatever you guys did today, do it again times two, three, four, five… Have we ever hosted an NFC Championship? OK, thank you. They say to get something that you never got you have to do something you've never done. For us, we've never had that vibe in the streets of Charlotte and I expect nothing less than what we saw today. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. Seeing a bunch of white towels flying around. Our guys playing with so much enthusiasm, that's the thing about playoff football."
On 59-yard run on first play: "I mean we knew what play we were going to run I think since yesterday. So when you're able to have a game plan like that you can sleep on it and I know my offensive line was sleeping on it, and we came out and we executed. It opened up nicely and I just had to be patient and just take it the distance. I wish I could've taken it all the way, but I'm glad we were able to finish the drive."
On his effectiveness after a month off: "Yeah, that was the whole thing with me coming back, me being able to come back and be effective, not just come back and go out there and grind it out. I wanted to come here and be the running back they expected me to be, and Coach Skip (Jim Skipper) does a good job of rotating us out and throughout the week prepping us up for blitzes and stuff like that and schemes. Even our running plays, the type of running plays we're running and just the kind of mindset we have to have on certain plays and stuff like that. Coach Skip does a good job of getting us ready, and I felt really confident coming in."
FB MIKE TOLBERT
On reaching NFC Championship: "It's special. This is my eighth year in the league and I've never been to a championship game, so it's very special. But we know we've got a lot of work left. We're not done by any means. We beat a really good football team today but at the same time, we're a really good football team, too."
On what this victory proves: "At the beginning of the season, nobody gave us a chance except for the guys in this room, and it was like that throughout the year. ‘Oh, they're undefeated, but they haven't played anybody.' This and that. We didn't listen to it, and this pretty much puts a stamp on the type of team we are. The offense came out blazing and putting up points, the defense did a great job, and then we made enough plays in the second half to make it happen."
On his 14-yard interception return for a touchdown: "They lined up in a set and I think the biggest thing that happened on that was the defensive line got great pressure, and anytime you push the pocket it makes my job easier. He kind of floated it up there and I was able to pick it, but a lot of the credit goes to the guys up front. They got a great push and a great pass rush and it makes my job easy. Those guys really get the credit, I was just able to get under and catch it."
On that play forging a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game: "It was great. It set the tempo for us, the offense went down and scored and everyone on defense. Anytime you get up 14, anytime you are up 14-0 it's awesome. The offense really set the tone, and we were able to match that."
CB JOSH NORMAN
On meaning of victory: "Last week we had no breaks, and Coach kept pushing us. We came out here and no one was complaining. We came out here today, and this means everything to us. No one has given us anything, we work for it. I am so blessed and grateful to see that. We are not done yet, we need to continue to keep fighting. We need to clean some things up, we did some things in the second half that we can do better."
On whether it's validating: "I am going to be honest with you, I don't really care. At this point in time if you don't pick us it doesn't matter. We are just going to keep doing what we do. I guarantee next week there is going to be a whole bunch of people switching their votes. We are just going to come out here and keep having fun, keep dancing and enjoying ourselves and our personality."
On his first-half sack, one of five for Panthers: "I was the guy who had the blitz, and honestly I licked my chops and said lets disguise this as well as we can. When that ball snapped, I ran as fast as I could and tried to get that sack and I got it."
On the emotions of the day: "We're very joyous. It's amazing to have this game that we wanted so much and so bad. To have it right back at our home field was amazing to go out there and beat these guys and then in the locker room we were excited, but at the same time guys were already willing to talk about next week because we're not done. We don't want to be finished. We really want more and you see that on guys. Guys aren't just happy with this win, we want more."