On approaching this week’s matchup with the team’s playoff hopes on the line: “I think as competitors it is really clear and easy to know what we’re playing for. We’re playing for our right to keep advancing. For us, our playoffs are starting early. Past that, it’s a division game. When you talk about the division, you throw out records and statistics and how do you match up and play. For the team, the focus is not looking behind or down the road. That’s where we’re at, focused on the here and now.
On slowing down Cam Newton and the Panthers’ rushing attack: “That’s everybody’s game plan going in. The explosive plays are really what can set a team in a good way or not. Offensively for us, having those plays enable drives and you can get down and change field position. Same thing on our defense, can we eliminate the amount of explosive plays that take place? Their history has shown that with coach Shula calling all the shots they’ve got a big playbook. They’re able to use the time of possession so we know those explosive plays he had on the long run, is a real factor. We need to make sure that as a defense our tackling is right. Make sure from a concept standpoint we really nail the details of options. It’s an excellent challenge for us.”
On the Panthers’ receiving core: “When I think of Carolina and their offense, I think it’s an excellent way of featuring players. You can call them receivers, tight ends, running backs – they just do an excellent job of featuring the guys. I thought that for a long time in terms of how they use the guys. So here’s a running back who has catches, two tight ends who have had impact, the receivers who do. When I look at them and how explosive they are, I throw everybody into the mix – not just an outside spot at receiver. I think their uniqueness as an offense really belongs to them. They have a quarterback that can make runs that are designed for him that not all quarterbacks do. Then the fact that they have a unique running back and how they use him, Jonathan Stewart has played really good ball forever and then a tight end that we really regard. To me I think of receiving - who you’re throwing it to, not just their position.”
On the NFC South: “I think when you look at it, the teams – when you go through it, it’s a really tough competitive division. I think as a coach you have real appreciation for that because going through this division it hardens you. You’ve played good teams, you’ve battled for it not just once, but twice a year. I think the way you keep an eye on the other teams – that happens during free agency, during the draft – who’s added, who’s changed and how they would feature that guy. When you go through the season, I can’t speak for Carolina, but for us we had a lot of games back loaded as far as the division goes. I knew or had a sense that anyway the end of the year was going to be exciting based on the teams we were going to play down the stretch. Carolina was our first division game and that seems like a long time ago, but it was in November. Since then we’ve played quite a few so we expected it to be a really tough, competitive division.”
View the top photos from Panthers vs. Falcons by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez and second shooters Andrew Dye and Jamey Price.