CHARLOTTE — When Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks talks to his team, there are often references to bricks.
That's because he operates in small chunks of time, encouraging them to "win the day" and stay focused on the incremental steps they need to take.
So in the locker room after Thursday's 25-15 win over the Falcons, when he told them to "keep stacking them," that message wasn't lost on his players, who have come to recognize he has high standards for them.
"The day he came in, and he met with us. He's been preaching that since he's been in that position," Panthers defensive end Brian Burns said. "That's just part of his DNA, and he's making it part of ours.
"Physicality, effort, attention to detail, finish. Everything that he preaches to us, it has to do with our defense, and we're really buying into that."
For veteran linebacker Shaq Thompson, who has been around long enough to have a direct tie to the old days Wilks references (he was a rookie on the 2015 team that won a third straight NFC South title here), seeing the team take steps toward the old standard is energizing.
Thompson said he wasn't trying to take anything away from former coach Matt Rhule or anyone who was here previously, but when he sees what Wilks and interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb are doing, it gives him hope.
"It's just bringing back what used to be here," Thompson said. "This defense used to lead this organization. Rhule was about that, too, not going to take nothing away from Rhule. But Wilks and Al, they know a lot of history; they've been here through those times, the good times, the bad times, the playoff times. Been through a lot of stuff here, and the city knows that, the organization knows that, and the players know that. It is starting to instill that into us.
"Just getting back to ourselves. End of the day, it's all about pride, especially on national TV. Definitely got to play with some pride."
You can see from that postgame reaction that it's starting to return. More importantly, a number of facets of the game responded after the dismal loss to the Bengals the week before.
That's why that locker room was so energized in the small hours of Thursday night and Friday morning.
Go inside a celebratory locker room and see the players greet each other on the field after the Thursday Night Football victory.