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Carolina Panthers

Postgame Transcripts: Week 1 vs. Cleveland

Head coach Matt Rhule

Opening Statement

Obviously a disappointing end to what looked like a great football game. In summation I would say, guys that I thought it just took us way to long to get started. We were kind of banking on our defense keeping us in the game until our offense could get clicking. If just took us too long offensively I thought to get clicking. The kick out of bounds at the end of the half, after we scored the touchdown, obviously didn't help. Them finishing with two field goals, obviously, was the difference in the game. A lot of things we have to correct. I think what I will say is I saw a lot of the positive things that we believe that we have. Once the offense did kind of get on track, we saw some of the explosiveness that we know that we have. We will just have to become more consistent with that.

RE: Offensive shift to being on track

I think we got that first first down right before the half and that hit the explosive, no huddle. We had a plan of being in some no huddle this game but really in the first half whether it was a botched snap on the ground, whether it was a guy not lining up right, whether it was the explosive play to Christian [McCaffrey] that was called back for a hold, a lot of plays where we just beat ourselves. Then we had that run where we scored right before the half then obviously Myles [Garrett] kind of took over there and had a run there of two sacks in a row. I think it was one of those deals where as the guys settled in we had some batted passes early, we had a lot of things. One of our points of emphasis for the offensive line was that we were going to have to drive them out in pass pro if they were going to try to sit there and mirror the quarterback and knock his hands down. It didn't happen early, we kept pushing it as the game went on. Then I think Christian made some explosive plays on that one drive. Obviously, the bad snap that he picked up and all those different things to get us going.

RE: Reason for snap difficulty today

I can't say what it was to be honest with you. I'd have to talk to those guys to see why the ball was rolled back. Obviously the last one at the end of the game, we have the ball first and ten, they have three time outs, we think have a good play and then the ball is on the ground. We almost lost the game right there. Almost turned it back over to them. They were both in the gun and under center so we will have to get to work on that tomorrow. I can't tell you why that happened.

RE: Explanations from officiating crew on the roughing the passer penalty on Brian Burns and the Browns spike

I asked for an explanation on the first play with [Brian] Burns. I did not get it. New rule in the NFL as it was explained to me, so the best I know, is that defensive linemen waving to knock the ball, if they make contact with the quarterback's helmet this year is not a foul. It has to be forcible contact. So that is a new rule. As Burns drove the tackle back in and then put his hand out, I expected that not to be a foul. It was called a foul. I got no explanation. I'm not obviously questioning anyone. I'm just talking about the new rule change as was explained to us multiple times. That's all I know about that. The second one, we just literally showed our guys two days ago a quarterback pump or mishandling a snap, can't take more than a step back. Then it becomes intentional grounding. We showed our guys them. They run outs on their spikes. They will take the out and throw the out so we showed our guys that. It looked to me that was what the quarterback was doing when he stepped back and then put the ball on the ground. I started screaming intentional grounding, ten second run off, game is about to be over. They obviously called it and then changed it. It was told to me was that he just pumped faked it. I don't know the rule. He looked like he took more than one step. He was far enough back. I've seen what they do on tape. It was explained to me that that was a foul. Then you know they came out there. They are lined up, clock is going to start on the snap and then they stopped and reset it. So unfortunately it gave maybe their kicker a little bit of time. So just a lot of things there at the end that didn't go our way I'll say probably the best that I can. Didn't go our way. I feel like we are pretty on top of the rules. We thought that would be the end of the game and but it was not. We had to keep playing. Kid made a great kick.

RE: Did you consider going for the end zone on offensive drive that scored field goal at end of the game?

We did not want to give the ball back to them. The first snap, obviously, putting the ball on the ground, might have changed us a little bit. We wanted to put the ball in McCaffrey's hands and take the game out of Garrett's hands. The third one was the same RPO that we hit DJ [Moore] so our hope was that if they brought pressure we could hit DJ one on one and win the game with a touchdown. We went with the play that got us there. The thing about RPOs is sometimes it looks like you are just running the ball but sometimes you are explosive down the field. We knew that they had no timeouts so we felt like they would not be able to go the length of the field, go however many yards, 44, 45 yards in that amount of time without a timeout. The only thing that would allow them to do that would be a penalty, an unsportsmanlike conduct, those 15-yards and the clock stopping is what allowed them to kick the field goal.

RE: Baker Mayfield's performance 2nd half, compared to 1st half

I think he, like the rest of our offense, kind of settled down. I think a lot of little things got in the way in the first half plus they are a good team. We were in a lot of third and longs. It was just not a very good half. The play he made right before the end of the half to get us back on the scoreboard gave us some energy. Then hitting the explosive play to Robbie [Anderson]. For us to have Ian [Thomas] involved in the passing game, Robbie involved in the passing game, maybe not as many touches for a couple guys but more diversity spread out which is kind of what we wanted to be on on offense. I think if a game where we are able to get off the field a little more on defense. I think that was a major story in the game was just we struggled to get off the field on defense. Too many third downs where they were able to stay on the field. A couple more possessions maybe we could have scored some more points. As I told the team, this is our first time playing together. We were hoping we would come out clicking right away but knew that we would click eventually. I thought in the third and fourth quarter offensively it looked like we clicked and defense made some plays. Eddy [Piñeiro] made the kick that we needed him to make. We just have to be better in the two-minute.

RE: Was McCaffrey's number of carries in the first half compared to second half part of the game plan?

We were not managing him. We were in 2nd and 12, 2nd and 15. We were just severely inefficient in the first half. It's hard to run the football when you are in 1st and 12, 1st and those things. A lot of those were again, because of the way that they play, were some RPO concepts where, hey, we are going to hand the ball off to Christian, oh no, DJ is open. Then we threw the ball out to him or threw the ball out to Robbie. I think the first three plays were designed to go to Christian. We just weren't always able to get it to him. Obviously he had the one screen, but with the penalty that was called back. I didn't see the penalty but we tried to get him [to be the] focal point in the first half but just didn't run the ball well enough with them having long drives and us not getting off the field and us being inefficient on first and second down, leaving us in some third and longs.

RE: Did you see a difference in Baker Mayfield's preparation this week?

I thought the whole offense at one point, I went over and sat down with them and was like, 'hey guys, this is exactly what we said it would be. We are going to have to settle down. We are going to have to execute. You have to line up properly.' There is a bunch of little things that affected us. I thought it got better as it went. Again, in the second half, I thought we executed better to a degree. Obviously, there were the two plays where Myles sacked Baker that were obviously big plays in the game. But I thought Baker just kept battling, just kept attacking and in the end made the plays that we needed to make to get back in the game.

RE: Nick Chubb's performance

I thought he was excellent. I thought at the end of the day, the biggest thing he did was that he broke tackles and got to the edge. We know the type of back that he is. We had hoped we would get them, we got them into a lot of 3rd and 6, 7, 8, 9s and just weren't able to get off the field to not allow him to pick up his rhythm, pick up his speed. I think defensively for us, we know we are facing a good back and we knew what they were going to be. We have to go back now and really kind of look at what did we do well, what did we not do well. We know we have a good defense but we are going to have to put some things together to make sure we play a little bit better. Some penalties, some extended drives. Again, if you do those things and then let a guy like Chubbs have that many carries, I mean, he is going to finish with 200 yards.

RE: Were you penalized in the first half?

Yes, that was on me. I was watching the play, running down the field and the official ran in to me, bumped into me. I was in the wrong place. I apologized to him and took the flag.

RE: Explain RPO on 3*rd* and 9 from the 15 yard line. What was Baker's option there and why didn't he throw to DJ Moore?

It's a glance at my number one and just an inside run by number two so in our mind you're putting the ball in McCaffrey's hands who had converted the 3rd and 7 and at the very least making them use their timeouts. If not, if they drop down and play man, they play one high, the safety comes out of the box, its not a clean look then you are throwing the ball to DJ. That was the play that got the drive started, the explosive to DJ, we went back to it. It just didn't work out unfortunately.

RE: Evaluation of chemistry on offense

I don't know if I can evaluate it now without watching the tape. I think, obviously, as I said, I think it took us too long to get going. I thought once we got going, I thought the explosive play to Robbie, the drive at the end, seeing the tight ends involved, those were all the things we needed to see. We have to run the football better than we did. I think part of that is being efficient and staying in drives, getting 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 plays. In the preseason we had some 13, 14, 15 play drives. We had too many three and outs early in the game. I thought the guys battled. We had some guys, Icky, some of the young guys will have to come in and watch the tape, look and see what they did well. They will have to take a jump. But, I'm excited about where they are headed. I thought that they competed and that they fought to the end. At the end of the day I felt like on offense we went down and won the game and I thought the game was won and was going to be a huge moment for our program. At the end of the day, they made one more play. We regroup and we come back next week and we go play.

RE: What did you see from Baker that has you knowing he is your guy moving forward?

I thought Baker stood in there and took all the bullets and took hits and made the plays down the stretch to get us back into the game.

QB Baker Mayfield

RE: Current emotions about this game?

Disappointed, disappointed in the way it started, honestly. A ton of mistakes, self-inflicted mistakes in the first half by our offense, can take the blame on that, for sure. Ball was on the ground too many times, just miscommunication, and just things that we can get fixed. Disappointing because there are things that we know we can do and we've handled before. Those are the ones that you think about, you harp on, but they are fixable, that's the positive.

RE: What attributed to the slow start?

I don't know, we can't hesitate. We just have to be aggressive early, have to be confident early and just go out there and just believe in the plan, don't wait for things to happen before we have to wake up. Just go out there and execute.

RE: Would you say the issues with the snaps were timing issues?

No, I just have to feel the snaps, I'll take the blame on that. Just stay in there longer and making sure, especially in critical situations, that I secure the football. The ball is king around here and I have to make sure I take care of it.

RE: Final drive

They were playing downhill with their safeties, just RPOs taking care of the ball. I am going to look back at the film and maybe there is a possible shot on one of them, I don't know. I haven't seen the tape yet but there is nothing wrong with putting the ball in our best player's hands.

RE: What helped you guys find your rhythm?

Just everyone doing their job. There was no secret sauce, there was no master plan that we came up with in the dirt in the sideline. It was just everybody going out there and doing their job and just realizing if we did our one-eleventh, good things happen.

RE: Was there an idea to save Christian McCaffrey for the second half?

I am not a part of that plan. Whenever he is in there, I notice he is in there. I don't delegate the snap counts.

RE: Buildup to the game

Everybody made this out to be there Super Bowl but despite what everybody is going to make this, there are 16 more games. The Super Bowl is not until February and this is the beginning of September. A lot of anticipation, we are going to flush this, we are going to learn from it and we are going to get better from it.

RE: Was this an emotional day for you?

It is always good to see familiar faces. Emotional, I wouldn't get too much into that. It was good to see some people. Obviously, disappointing with the way things finished. Would have loved to have bragging rights against those guys, mostly because we didn't start fast.

RE: The 75-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Anderson

Good protection upfront. Got the look we wanted and Robbie did a good job setting his landmark and keeping it thin down the hash and was able to put the ball out for him and let him run under it. Great play by him to finish it. We needed that one, we needed to score quick. It's disappointing because you think about that play but we wouldn't want it to come down to that.

RE: Interception

Slight miscommunication, but I just have to take care of the ball, what's happening and just me reacting and being able to throw it. I just have to be able to play better. He did a good job peeking with the blitz off the slots so that does interrupt his route and the timing of it. He is playing ball, he is playing fast. I am proud of Shi (Smith). He has come a long way, he is going to continue to grow. That is on me. I dropped my arm and the ball sailed on me. I have to take care of it, especially in our own territory.

RE: Did you get too conservative in the 20?

No, the run game had been working in the second half. Hindsight is 20-20 on that one. Guys upfront were playing well and we were moving it. We will look back on the tape and just realize where everything went wrong. Like I said, to me it comes down to us not starting fast and starting with me. Have to take care of the ball, have to put us in position to win.

RE: Adversity in the first half then putting the team up in the second half

Not just for me, but everybody realizing if we just did our job, our one-eleventh, good things were going to happen. That just kind of shows the resilience of this team, what we could be and what we are going to work towards. Great teams are more consistent and it starts with myself. I'll get that fixed. Yeah, the battered balls, I have to do a better job of getting the ball around them. When they see quick game, they see my feet stop. Being in that building, I know what they are talking about. They are saying stop the rush and get your hands up. I have to do a better job of finding angles and windows to throw it and we have to get their hands down. It is all around. We fought, this team fought. That's why this one is disappointing.

RE: The two Myles Garrett sacks

Flush it, move on to the next plays.

RE: The difference in playing a former team in college versus the NFL level

There is a lot more passion in college, to be honest with you. The tradition, the playing it, it was playing away at Lubbock. It is similar but also extremely different at the same time. It is also four years when I played with guys there in Cleveland. A lot more familiar faces.

RE: Reaction to seeing fans in Browns number 6 jerseys

That is the passion that comes with the city of Cleveland. I have mentioned that multiple times. I have mentioned that multiple times so far in this transition. That is the city, that is the people that I have been thankful for, for the past four years. A lot of ups and downs but that was my first home. It will always have a special place in my heart.

RE: Biggest thing you take away from today?

Don't beat ourselves. That is our number one goal when we look at the plan to win each week. Just don't beat yourself and today I didn't do a good enough job to do that.

RE: Beyond the Browns, is it more disappointing because this was an opportunity to show them who you are?

Disappointing but there is also positives when you look at it. Disappointing in the fact that we did beat ourselves in the first half. I am a fighter, I fought my whole life. That is not going to change. There are 16 more games and just like our team, our whole team showed in that second half, we are going to fight. We are going to be in games. We would like to be up in games, absolutely, everybody would, but we are not going to give up. That's not the culture we have, that's not what they built here prior to me getting here and that's not what I am ever going to accept.

RE: Reuniting with former teammates

Those are the people that I know are in my corner for life, that have seen the work that we have all put in together for years. It is always great to see those guys. Those are the only people that know the ins and outs and everything that goes on within that building. Those are the relationships that really matter. The equipment staff, some of those trainers there that I have built friendships for life. That is always great to see so I am thankful for that. 

RE: Coach Ben McAdoo

Play-calling was great. It comes down to us executing and us doing our job. I think the way I was in the first half didn't allow him to be able to call plays. I can't fault him for that, that's on me just taking care of the ball. I think moving forward, I have no doubt Coach McAdoo is the right guy for me. We have the right system, we have the right players. The world is not ending, despite the feeling right now.

RE: Did you get that hug from Nick Chubb?

I did get a hug from Nick Chubb. Nicholas Jamaal Chubb gave me a big hug, it felt good. I would have liked to have been on the other side of that hug, but it is good to see some of your best friends.

RE: Did you watch the final field goal?

I watched it. It's a long field goal and that kid has got a leg on him. It's a hell of a kick to be honest with you. Shouldn't have come down to that, we should have started faster, added more points on the board and taken care of the ball and not leave our defense in that situation. That is what I am most disappointed about. They fought, they fought, they fought, that is a great offensive rushing attack that they had there today. Being in it and seeing it from the other side, it is brutal. Can't put our defense in that position and just have to capitalize earlier.

RE: Myles Garrett exchange after the game

He just said keep going.

RB Christian McCaffrey

RE: On how the team fought back in the second half

I thought we showed a lot of fight in the second half as an offense. We just have to get going a little earlier and play better team football. After games, I don't like making too many blanket statements. We'll check the tape, fix the mistakes, capitalize on the strengths, and get back to the drawing board.

RE: Avoiding a slow start moving forward

Just staying ahead of the chains and minimizing errors.

RE: On if it was planned to limit his touches in the first half

I have no idea. I don't think anything about it. I'm just on to the next play all the time. 

RE: Whether the flow of the game affected his touches

Like I said, I have no idea. I know that it's hard to get anybody touches when you're going three and out and staying behind the chains with penalties and all that stuff. I haven't watched the tape yet. All I know is I don't really care about any of that. I just care about winning and doing my job on every play whether I get the ball or I don't.

RE: What stood out about Baker Mayfield today

I thought he showed a lot of fight. I think we need to help him out more but he showed us exactly who he is. He's a fighter and we're not going to let this one get to us. We're going to get back to the drawing board and keep going.

RE: What was the spark to help things get turned around

We just executed and did our job.                                    

RE: On the 28-yard run off the fumbled snap by Mayfield

You just have to make a play. Sometimes you just got to improvise.

RE: On Baker Mayfield on the sideline and in huddles

When the first half doesn't go our way and being able to execute in the second half, not just him but the whole entire unit, it just shows a lot of growth. We just have to start faster.

RE: Positives to take away from the game

I haven't checked the tape yet. Honestly, I hate making any statements before I look at the tape. Coach McAdoo always says that each play has a life of its own. I think that's very true. You don't make any blanket statements or say you played well or played bad. Just look at each play individually, judge that play, fix those mistakes and move on.

RE: Getting back on the field after missing time with injury last season

It felt great. It felt great.

RE: On scoring the first touchdown of the season

Scoring touchdowns is always great. It's a lot of fun. I just want to win.

DE Brian Burns

RE: On the complimentary football played to get back in the game

We just turned it on a little too late in my opinion. I feel like we should have come out faster and we would have had different results for the most part.

RE: On the roughing the passer call

I don't know. I was going 100 percent. I tried to make a play. I know that sacks can end games and I went to a move that I had been setting up all day. I don't know. They called me for it. I haven't looked at the play yet.

RE: On if he felt like it was a penalty

I didn't feel nothing. I thought it was a great play until I saw the flag and I was like dang.

RE: On disappointment of getting that penalty called on him

It's disappointing anytime whether you're in the wrong or not. When it costs your team it kills you. It's disappointing anytime you get called for something and you feel like you had a good play. Like I said, I haven't watched the play yet so I don't know.

RE: On the Browns success running the football

We have to get on that film and we have some things that we need to tighten up. I felt like they had a couple of plays that broke but I think it's minute. It's very small. It's small problems that I think we can fix.

RE: On whether it was more the Browns rushing attack or cleaning up the defense

I give them credit. They are good running the ball and we knew that coming into the game. But I mainly put the blame on us because we know what we have to do. We know where we have to be and it wasn't there.

RE: On getting stops to get back in the game

It's encouraging that we were able to turn it on. It could have been a whole lot worse than what happened but we just have to put an emphasis on starting fast. This is a prime example of starting too late and we can't have that no more.

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