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Carolina Panthers

Game Quotes: Panthers vs. Vikings

Head Coach Ron Rivera

Carolina Panthers

Offensive success today:"I think the fact that we were able to run the ball. I think we were able to keep them off balanced because we were able to run the ball. It slowed them down a little bit. It made them have to really be honest and I think that helped us. When you can run the football it really does makes your play action game a little bit better as well." 

Vikings offensive line giving up the most sacks they have all season:"I think again our guys upfront got good get off, got into their creases. Again, we had some opportunities earlier in the first half. We missed those. I thought our guys were getting really close. Steve Wilks stayed aggressive with it. I thought the coverage was doing a good job back there. We missed a couple tackles that led to the big play. But for the most part they did what they are capable of and that was what we needed to do. We needed to be physical at the line and kind of put ourselves in position."

Both outside corners getting their first interceptions of the season:"It was good to see. They have been working hard. They really have. They had opportunities today and they made the plays. That's the big thing. The last few weeks we have dropped some that we should have caught so it was good to see those guys come through and make plays for us."

Having corners cheat up:"Yes, what we tried to do, like I said, is we wanted to be physical with them, get them up to press and move into it late, show one thing, do something different. I thought they functioned very well back there. I really do. I think they did a nice job." 

Offense's response to Minnesota tying game late in 4th quarter:"We had responded all day. I thought they did some really good things in response to whenever Minnesota scored, we were able to do something. The biggest thing obviously was I thought the play calling was outstanding, especially down the stretch. We missed a couple throws that gave them the chance to intercept the ball and then kick the field goals. But we felt good about our offense. We felt we really liked the opportunities we had to score late in the game and we were able to do it."* *

Offense being able to get big runs against a defense like Minnesota's:"It was good. I finally thought our guys did a nice job blocking. But again it goes back to being able to run the ball. It creates opportunities. This is a very aggressive defense that we played against. If you even hit a crease on them and you get a chance to pop one, that is what we were able to do twice."

Was the long run by Jonathan Stewart right before Matt Kalil shifts to the right side seen by Mike Shula on film?"No, that is just really one of our base runs out of an unbalanced front. Really, we were able to hit the crease. They were very aggressive like I said. I haven't had a chance to look at the tape but they were probably in man coverage. So they had everyone up at the box trying to stop us. If you get past that first level, you just have to make one guy miss and that is what Jonathan Stewart was able to do."

How does it feel to only be down by the tie breaker in the division?"It feels good because our guys are playing well. They are playing hard. We had some opportunities last week that we didn't capitalize. This week we had some opportunities, we capitalized and we made some plays. That is a very good football team that we just played. There are going to be opportunities down the line so we will see what happens. We have to take care of our business. It's in front of us and we will see what happens."

Scoring on first possession:"It is important. I think if you can score early it changes the dynamics of the game. It doesn't matter who you are playing, whether you are playing Minnesota or you are playing New Orleans or anybody else. You score early it just changes the dynamics. It forces the opponent to play the game from behind obviously. They have to be a little bit more guarded with their calls."

First time in Jonathan Stewart's career he scored three touchdowns in one game:"We didn't doubt him. That's why we kept putting Jonathan out there. We believe in who he is for us and he has been solid. He has worked hard. He had gotten better and better. He is getting stronger. One of the things we have to remember is we have to continue to feed him, we have to get the ball to Christian McCaffrey, we have to get things going with Greg Olsen and get him back in the mix. We have to keep throwing the ball to the wide receivers. We have to keep stretching the defenses. I thought some of the early calls that Mike Shula had, even though we didn't complete them, we threw them deep. That's what we are going to do. We are going to put that speed out there and let it run."

Performances of Ryan and Matt Kalil:"I thought Ryan did a nice job. He did. He made some really good calls for us up front, got us in the right protections. I haven't had a chance to watch the run game in terms of him identifying and blocking. I'll get a chance to see that tomorrow. I'm very, very happy for Matt. A lot has been said this week, written, talked about and as I said last week and the week before, I'll say it again – the guy is getting better and better at what we do. He is a little bit of a work in progress. Everybody forgets to over the last year and a half before he got here, he was playing with a bad hip. He just finished up hip surgery in the offseason, came out and I think it's an opportunity for him to continue to grow in what we do, get better and better and hone his skills. We are excited about having Matt."

How do you feel it worked out with Colin Jones having a big role to play today with Shaq Thompson out?"I thought it worked out very nicely. We were able to stick with what we do. I thought the way Steve Wilks mixed in the personnel groups in on defense, going with our base package, going with our nickel package, because it was Colin we called it frog instead of husky, going with the frog package I thought was good. If you are wondering, Colin went to TCU so it's frogs. It was good. Again, I was very happy for Colin getting the opportunity and the way he came out and played for us."

Damiere Byrd and his involvement in the passing game today:"The quickness. His quickness is something that really helps us. It opens up some stuff for him and not just him, but people around him. Again, we will continue to work with him and watch him grow as a player for us. But again, he is very quick, very fast and he is a guy that we have to continue to expand his role in what he does for us.'

Having the former Vikings players break the team down after game:"We let both Captain Munnerlyn and Matt Kalil break the team down. They were really helpful this week in terms of talking about the opponent and what to expect from the opponent. I thought those guys really fed their teammates with a lot of good information that helped us play this week. I just wanted them to get an opportunity and they earned it."

What did you tell the team after Minnesota tied the game late in 4th quarter?"Probably the biggest thing is Keep Pounding. That is our mantra around here and that's pretty much all we talked about. We got the ball back, we have an opportunity, we can grind it out and get into field goal position. We felt we could run the ball in certain situations. I don't know if you noticed, but we came out and ran the ball. We didn't throw a pass in that entire last drive."

Concern over Greg Olsen's foot?"No. No, he actually got rolled on a little bit. That's why he came off earlier and he is fine. I think the thing I'm concerned about is we have to get him back into the mix a little bit more as far as our passing game. He is too valuable a weapon for us not to use. As we gain more and more confidence in him being back, his role will expand."

Julius Peppers and Mario Addison having 9.5 sacks each:"That is pretty cool. It really is. To see them play the way they have. To see the way our push was today. I thought those guys were outstanding." 

Defense's response to red zone situations coming off of turnovers:"I think again, one of the mantras that Steve Wilks and the rest of the defense talks about is when you get into the red zone is it's got to be either turnovers or field goals. That is the mantra. Just before they went out the last thing they were told was field goals or turnovers. It is a challenge because the offense just got a little bit of momentum from their defense. I think our guys were able to hold on and do what they needed to do to give us a chance."

Quarterback Cam Newton

Did you get a text from your friend?"You know it. I was so disappointed in myself, but it's coming. I felt like I could have wheeled this one, but there are some fast guys in the NFL. All in all, this whole game was a result of persistence. As an offense you would love to see us go up by multiple scores, we were up 24-13 and we had multiple possessions. Our defense did a great job. We just have to keep feeding off that. When the levee broke at the end, it's a result of bad vibes and energy. We have to change that. Be more optimistic on the offensive side of the ball and play up to our defensive level." 

Game highs and lows:"That's just the NFL. This was as much of a playoff atmosphere as we have seen all year. Especially us having an edge with a home game. We have a very young team, young guys that we are depending on. It can become frustrating, especially in the heat of the moment. For me, I read this book a couple of times. Being in these types of games, giving leads up, bending but not breaking. That's just how it goes sometimes. Of course we would love to go up by multiple touchdowns and just be running the clock out at the end, but that was a great team that we just played. I wouldn't be surprised if we see those guys again." 

Adjustments to pressure from last year vs. the Vikings:"I wanted to get the ball out quicker. They were very hip to our protections last year. More this year with [Mike] Remmers on their team. This game is all about adjustments. We know that for a fact. We just have to keep pushing forward." 

Do you use the jumbotron to spot defenders?"I use all elements given to me. Jumbotron, people's reactions, crowd noise, teammates screaming. It doesn't matter. I was just happy to be able to have a little crease, make the most of it, and protect the football at the same time." 

How important is Jonathan Stewart's running game?"Extremely big for us. That's the physicality that as an offensive line, as a team, and as our rushing attack presents. We are going to keep doing that. It was very big for us to have that momentum at this time of the year, especially with a game of this magnitude. I'm anxious to see how he gets going moving forward." 

Eye contact with Devin Funchess on touchdown pass:"I made a couple eye contacts with a couple of people, defense included. Everything that I was told not to do, I did. Throwing across your body, those are the same plays similar to the Monday Night game where it got overturned as an interception. But sometimes you have to overcome coaching. Guys are just out there playing football. I'm happy that Fun [Funchess] was alert of the opportunity and did the rest." 

Vikings defense playing up front:"That's pretty much out of my control. We had the hog-mollys up front, they did their job. Very physical and I can't rave about our offensive line enough. The challenge was set early on this week, understanding what the task was at hand in going up against a great bunch of defensive linemen. They have a very good variety of size, speed, strength and they accepted the challenge. We are going to keep needing that momentum moving forward."

Return of Damiere Byrd:"Bud Light [Byrd] was on-point today. He had some big catches, especially coming out of halftime. That third down was very key, keeping the focus of the chip pass and making the most of it with the yac. Like I say, you never know how the game may shake out. He had a great game this week, but you never know who is going to be the person next week. But as I say, the moment can never be too big for somebody to make a play and he stepped up." 

Jonathan Stewart's 60-yard touchdown:"I didn't want to over think it. It's a feeling out process and it was kind of too early to tell. That being one of our base runs. Stew found a crease and the rest is history."

Jonathan Stewart's touchdown celebration"He's beginning to get a little bit of drip. I liked it." 

Importance of finishing the drive after his 62-yard run (4th Quarter):"It was very strategic, when I think back. If I would have scored, they would have all of their timeouts still. So I just felt like, let me just put this car back in third gear, force them to use their timeouts. The offensive line once again did a good job punching in at the end and [Jonathan Stewart] Stew just being Stew, jumping in over the top and getting in by any means necessary." 

What did you see on your 62-yard run?"Simple zone read. Like I said, it's a feeling out process throughout the whole game. I don't think that play would have been there in the first quarter because they did have a plan to try to eliminate me from the run game. One of the plays I pulled and I shouldn't have. I just try to make the most of the opportunity. With C Mac [Christian McCaffrey], Stew [Jonathan Stewart], those guy are gravitating a lot of attention in the backfield and we are just try to attack the defense with a lot of misdirection things to make them hesitate. When that happens, things are good." 

Greg Olsen talking about perseverance in the locker room:"Greg wasn't the happiest camper on the sideline. I am just happy to get him and [Ryan] Kalil back. Words can't describe that. I know he didn't have a big game, statistically, but for him to have the presence is good for him and Kalil." 

The possibility of facing Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) next week:"We are just trying to get winning DNA. Finding ways to win games late, as we did today. Going against another team that is well in hand of playing 60 minutes of football, not just when we go up. Being sufficient with that. I'm not playing him, I get to deal with his roommate, Clay Matthews." 

Listening to Beyoncé in the locker room post-game:"That's the sauce. We like Beyoncé." 

His post-game attire:"I didn't want to wear anything that everybody has seen a lot. I am going to give credit where credit is due. I was reading a GQ magazine and one of my favorite artists is, because he put Atlanta on the map, Andre 3000. In the magazine, he was talking about where he is in life right now. I was looking at the pictures and I sent them to my plug, Alberto, but he had like a brimless hat and I was like, "I want that". I have never seen anybody with one, NFL, NBA, baseball. Nobody has seen a brimless hat. So, I wanted to put the first one behind the scenes. You saw it here first. Cam Newton. Brimless hat." 

Cornerback James Bradberry

His feelings following the win:"Yeah my heart is still beating fast. It'll probably settle down after I take a shower and whatnot but it was a competitive game. We got the win though."

His pass breakup against Adam Thielen:"It was pretty much like a boot roll out and they tried to get him at the front of the sticks. The second one was a back shoulder fade, so pretty much the same route. I came with my break pretty well and was able to get the breakup." 

How the game went:"Today we had a good day, everything aligned well for us in the front end and the back end. So we went out there and competed and gave it our all."**

Linebacker Thomas Davis

Whether this was a statement win:"It was definitely a big win for us as a football team. We didn't play well at all last week. So for us to come back and really establish ourselves here at home, we knew we were going against a really good football team, they're sitting No. 1 in the NFC, so we knew we had a tough challenge ahead of us. We knew this game was going to come down to the fourth quarter." 

Creating pressure:"If you look at the guys that we have up front, I think they really speak for themselves. They did a great job with the game plan and mixing it up, throwing some blitzes in there to kind of keep them guessing. And we did a good job on the back end, disguising it a little bit and giving our defensive line a chance to get there. I mean, give those guys a chance to get there, they're going to do well." 

Finishing the game:"It's very rewarding to be able to do that and understand that we are a football team that can overcome those situations. But at the same time, once you have an 11-point lead as a defense, you have to do a much better job of closing teams out and not allowing teams to get back into the game. Fortunately, this week we were able to execute down the stretch and Cam came up with a huge run to put in scoring position."

Wide receiver Devin Funchess

Jonathan Stewart's 60-yard touchdown run:"They did a great job up front and [Jonathan Stewart] just made it happen, found the hole and turned on the jets." 

Cam Newton's 62-yard run:"Yeah, he did a great job. We had looked at that a little bit on the iPad during the game, how they had been playing the zone read and got a great read and Cam did what he did and made a play." 

Momentum from this win:"Definitely, it's a week-by-week league and we've got to prepare well every week because it's tough to win. We love that win and we'll enjoy it and then start getting ready for next week." 

Safety Colin Jones **

On the defensive stand:"That was huge. We got the stop there and it just gave us back the momentum that we could have easily lost. We were able to ride that to the end." 

Taking advance of the tough matchups:"We just played as a team. Defense was able to get a stop late. Special teams made a critical tackle on the kickoff return. The offense put their foot on the gas and finished the game off." 

Cam's big run:"I loved it."**

Center Ryan Kalil

Being back in the game:"A little tired, a little tired. It's been a while." 

How it felt emotionally:"It was a long time coming. Just glad to be back out there and get back in the rhythm of things. Obviously, not my best game. I was a little rusty. Good plays, bad plays. Gotta get better. I've just got to get back to work." 

Feeling in huddle before Cam's 62-yard run:"I think some of the leaders of the offense and Greg (Olsen) and Cam came in and made a pretty huge statement that we've got to do our part. We can't just keep leaning on the defense to make them go 3 and out or stop them at the goal line. We had to do a better job with those opportunities we had and I thought the play that they called was the right play. I thought everybody was fired up with the look they gave us and what we wanted to do with that and Cam made a huge play." 

Cam Newton's play today:"I think there are a few guys in the league that can do that and he's one of them. I'm glad he's our quarterback. At the same time though on that particular drive I was trying to hold down the celebration because we had to finish. That's a really good goal line red zone defense and we had to go down there. I thought we did a good job of pounding it in." 

Not settling for a field goal on that play:"It was huge. It puts a lot more pressure back on them and I'm glad that we finally did our part there towards the end."* *

Linebacker Luke Kuechly **

Today's win being a meaningful one:"Yeah, you know it's one of those things where when you look at the season going into the year you hope that in December you're playing games that really matter and this game mattered for a lot of reasons; for playoff implications and stuff like that. And for our guys to come out and play like that. We did a good job on defense. They did a good job on offense and Mike (Palardy) and Graham (Gano) kicked the ball well and J.J. (Jansen) had a tackle so it all worked out for us and we're happy to have a win." 

Six sacks from pass rush:"Those guys just worked their butts off and Coach Wash (Eric Washington) and Sam (Mills III), they do an excellent job getting those guys ready to go and those guys take a lot of pride getting after the quarterback. They like getting sacks. They like having fun and when you get guys up front that are able to get after the passer, I've said it a bunch before, it makes everyone's job a lot easier in the back end." 

Getting the win:"It's one of those situations where, last week we didn't play our best football game. The Saints came in and played well against us and got a win. In this time in December it's all about closing the year out and finishing,' and for us to come back after that and play a really good team, a really good defense and offense that was hot, that was big for us. We had a good week of practice. We played hard. We prepared hard. We put last week behind us. I think everyone was very happy with what we were able to do today." 

Captain Munnerlyn today:"Great. He's one of those guys that was in Minnesota, he and Matt (Kalil). They got a little insight on what they like to do. They can give you a personnel update on what this is what those guys like to do, 'this is what he does', 'he runs his route this way', 'he's got a good shake route' and you know those things are small – people don't think about them a whole lot, but the more insight you can get onto a guy the better off you'll be. I thought Cap played well today. It was good to see James (Bradberry) and Daryl (Worley) get picks. Those guys have been working so hard all year. Picks are hard to come by. Those guys have done a good job. They've been around the ball. They've batted the ball away. Sometimes the ball doesn't come your way. Those guys have fought all year and to see those guys make picks like that. Daryl made a big one for us early on in the game, then James had one and Mike (Adams) picked up the fumble. It makes me happy that those guys got picks because they've been working hard all year and its fun for those guys to do that." 

Running back Christian McCaffrey

Jonathan Stewart's 60-yard touchdown run:"They did a great job up front and [Jonathan Stewart] just made it happen, found the hole and turned on the jets." 

Cam Newton's 62-yard run:"Yeah, he did a great job. We had looked at that a little bit on the iPad during the game, how they had been playing the zone read and got a great read and Cam did what he did and made a play." 

Momentum from this win:"Definitely, it's a week-by-week league and we've got to prepare well every week because it's tough to win. We love that win and we'll enjoy it and then start getting ready for next week."**

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn

This win being a confidence booster:"It's definitely a confidence booster. They were the number one seed coming in. We went out there and competed. We almost gave it away at the end, but the offense came through for us and we made a big stop at the end." 

Beating his former team:"Yeah it's special, it's definitely special. When I first signed back here and I saw we were playing them on December 10, it's my wife's birthday by the way, I circled the game and I tried to just get through the season and wait on this game. It's a special game and a fun game. Definitely a fun game playing against some old friends. I had to get this win and now I have bragging rights all summer." 

Getting pressure on Vikings quarterback Case Keenum:"He did a great job of escaping. One time he ducked under me and I'm a 5'9 guy. I don't know how he got out of it but he did a great job of escaping. Defensive coordinator [Steve Wilks] did a great job of calling the game. He sent some pressure on him. We tried to hit him a little bit and knock these receivers off their timing." 

Tight End Greg Olsen

How he felt getting back on the field:"It felt good to get back out there, play a full game, kind of get my legs under me a little bit. It's been a while since I've played a good amount of snaps. It felt good, obviously, to beat a very good team – one of the best teams in the league – at home. It was a good day." 

How impressed he is with this win:"That's a team that's won eight in a row and that's hard to do in this league. They've been playing as well as, if not better than, anyone in the league so to come in here and play better – I still don't think we played great, I think we played better, I think our defense really put us in some good spots to capitalize offensively. Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn't. We have to work on that a little bit, put these games away. But anytime you can beat a good team like that, you'll take it." 

How they got the win:"I think it says a lot about us. I think we would prefer to just win the game regularly and not always have to make it so hard – that kind of has seemed over the years to be our thing – but teams like that, they don't just lay down. When you're up 11 halfway through the fourth quarter, you don't expect them to just lay down so you've got to finish those games out. That's something we've got to get better at, but we'll take the win."**

Defensive Tackle Kawann Short

The well contested game:"We all just came out and played today. We got a good team victory." 

What worked for them:"Upstairs, Coach [Steve] Wilks called a hell of a game. It's all about execution and that is what we did. We communicated down there and everyone was fine." 

Mario Addison and Julius Peppers big game:"Them boys man. You've got a legend right there [Julius Peppers] and Mario [Addison] is a young legend. You just see these guys out there playing hard and doing what they are doing. You got Kyle Love right here. They are just playing good ball man. As an inside player, you want to feed off those guys' motivation and that is what we did today."**

Running back Jonathan Stewart

Fighting for the ball when it came loose after his touchdown:"I knew I got over the line for the touchdown, I knew I scored, but just in case, I was fighting for the ball with [Andrew] Norwell underneath the pile. Just in case they wanted to challenge something and all that kind of stuff that they do these days, I was just making sure that I was doing my part to give us a second chance just in case something went wrong." 

His 60-yard touchdown run:"Whenever you play a team that's always in the box lined up like that. You hope to just see a hole open because you just know that there's no one else in the secondary. This week we've been practicing short yardage goal line and I've been hitting them just pretty much how I hit them today, and the offensive line has been opening up holes. They did a great job, they set the tone for the game especially against that front. Our offensive line did a great job and having [Ryan] Kalil back, I'm definitely sure that helps. That first play, I just followed [Andrew] Norwell and he led me to the promise land."

His motivation:"I play hard regardless. There's obviously an extra purpose in my life, I have a family now ­– I have a daughter now and a wife – and that obviously gives me extra motivation. But first and foremost, I play because I have the God-given ability and talent and at the end of the day everything I do is to glorify Him. I work to glorify God."**

Cornerback Daryl Worley **

The big win:"I wouldn't put any emphasis anywhere. There is always room for corrections. Just trying to do my part, honestly. Each and every play, just focusing on what I got to do to execute and complete my one-eleventh of the defense." 

Playing more snaps:"I guess we have to see how it plays out next week."

A statement win:"I wouldn't say it's a statement. Each and every week we are trying to go out and we are trying to win. Last week, I mean we fought tough, but a lot of people weren't doing their jobs. That was the key focus this week. Everyone just do your job and do your one-eleventh no matter what you are on -- special teams, offense, or defense. Just come out victorious."

Head Coach Mike Zimmer

Minnesota Vikings

Summary:"Credit Carolina. We didn't play good enough to win today. We turned the ball over and gave up big runs on defense. I give them credit and we'll get back to work."

Quarterback Case Keenum

Carolina defense what you expected?"Yes, I mean they are really good. They are a really good defense. The front seven, I think the box, they did a really great job of stopping the run all day; and obviously disrupting things in the pass game as well. Came out with a few plays that we didn't make and it's frustrating."

Wide Receiver Adam Thielen

His thoughts on the dropped touchdown:"I just dropped it. I felt confident I had caught it, but that is the NFL. You have to possess it and the ball can't move. The ball moved a little bit – that is just how it is."

AP photos from Carolina's victory over Minnesota.

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