Postgame Transcripts: Week 10 at Arizona

HEAD COACH MATT RHULE

Opening statement:

"Happy with the win, I thought that was a total team effort. It took a lot of different guys: defense; special teams; Zane (Panthers K Zane Gonzalez) yet again is someone we can really depend on. Coverage teams – (Panthers LB) Julian Stanford on the opening kickoff and just a really nice job by us. That's a great football team that we faced. They were down some guys today, but we know they're going to be back. They'll probably win their division or be in contention for it. That was a good step for us today, a lot of outstanding contributions. First and foremost, I have to start with (Panthers QB) PJ Walker – I thought he played an excellent football game. Cam (Panthers QB Cam Newton) came in and gave us a lot of nice plays as well. I thought a lot of our playmakers made plays when they had to. Defensively, pretty total defensive effort."

On the game plan for Panthers QB Cam Newton:

"He came in, he put the work in on Thursday, Friday, Saturday to learn a package – we kind of came up with some things that he knew. He's a veteran player, so his mind is 'Hey, on this play – I've run this 100 times – and it's called this now. I think the credit goes to Joe (Panthers Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady) and Sean (Panthers QBs coach Sean Ryan) as well. Cam put the work in with them and there was a good feeling down in that quarterback room."

On if this was the team's most complete game in 2021:

"I don't know, it was more complete than last week – that's kind of how short my memory is. It was a step forward from last week. I know we've had some good moments. I just challenged the team in there: 'Can we be a team that does this two weeks in a row?' Or is it going to be up-and-down and up-and-down? Today it was up. Played a good football game, we had a good week of practice. It was a trying week, there was a lot of work being done. I think anytime your backup quarterback (Walker) comes in and plays the way he played, that gives you a chance. A lot of guys rose up around him."

On what he learned about Newton off the field this week:

"Not much, kind of had a good feel for who he is. Has got a ton of energy, he's self-less. When PJ would score he was celebrating with him. He's a total team-guy. He came into my office, and he told me, 'This is all going to be about winning.' That's what it was: winning. I felt like that's who he was. I've seen 'All or Nothing,' I've watched him on TV, I know that Cam is a competitor. I think the challenge to the rest of our team was: it's not about one guy, it's about everybody. Anytime you play defense the way we played it today, you have a pretty good chance. Obviously, we're excited to have Cam here – don't get me wrong, we're excited. I kind of knew he would bring that energy, and he did."

On the injury status for RB Christian McCaffrey:

"He was buzzed down from the observer up top to check him for a big hit, a concussion. He was fine. Then late once we were up four touchdowns, I didn't want to get him banged up and I had a lot of confidence in Ameer (Panthers RB Ameer Abdullah). Unfortunately, we had that fumble on the one play, it didn't look like it was Chuba's (Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard) fault it looked just like a mishandling of the ball. We were going to let Ameer take it at the end of the game and he made a couple of nice runs to cement it." 

On whom received game balls:

"Probably not going to do that until tomorrow. Every once in a while, there is an amazing thing and I'll do it, but usually we'll sit down as a staff and talk about it and do it tomorrow."

On the difference in the team's energy this week:

"It was the same as Atlanta – it's just like how it felt on the sideline in Atlanta. We're a team that gets on the road – I think the guys go out and eat together – and we like to battle. How lucky are we to have Panther fans travel the way they did? They traveled to Houston, they certainly traveled to Atlanta, they certainly traveled here. There were a lot of blue jerseys up there which is really cool. That was just what it felt like in Atlanta – Atlanta was a different type of game, but in Atlanta we were all fighting for each other, and we were all fighting for each other today. We'll have to do that at home, that's the next big step for us. 

On if Newton may start in Week 11:

"Yeah. I think all of us would say – I know we've talked a lot about Cam (Newton), and I get it – but I think a lot of us would say that PJ (Walker) played pretty well today. We brought Cam here to play, there's no doubt about that – he knows that, and this is an amazing opportunity for PJ I just want to make sure – with everyone asking, 'Why is he here?' and 'Why did you keep him as your backup?' – that's why. I have a lot of faith in him. And with Cam, the thing with Cam is everything on the right schedule. A couple of plays – he pulled the trigger on the deep ball today; we threw the sprint out with him – he'll have to get into it this week and learn more and more and more. I'm not a big hypothetical guy – I'll walk in tomorrow, and someone's got a sprained ankle – so I kind of deal with it now. I'm just focused on this game. It was fun to have those guys out there."

On the defensive performance:

"I thought it was excellent. A couple of mistakes here and there, but any time you get that first turnover –the difference this week was we were able to capitalize on it and get a touchdown – and Donte (Panthers CB Donte Jackson) with the great interception. We gave up a run here and there, but I thought for the most part our guys did an excellent job of not giving up big plays. We had some communication things. It's a really tough offense, that same offense with Colt (Cardinals QB Colt McCoy) and those guys scored 30-something points last week. Our guys were ready for the challenge. We played a lot of guys that communicated, we got to the quarterback, stopped the run. That was a good game for us. All of that being said, they're an excellent team and they're a team that will certainly be a playoff team."

On using Newton in goal line situations:

"It was just about today for me. Obviously, Cam is a weapon – we're going to use him a lot of different ways. He did what he did today off two practices, really a day of practice. As we move forward, I hope you guys understand, I'm probably not going to answer many schematic questions – I only have a couple of advantages and that's one of them. We had two guys (Newton and Walker) that played excellent at that position today, so we'll mix and match play. It was certainly a jolt in the arm today." 

On if Newton will start in Week 11:

"I'm not going to say anything about it right now. I'll talk to you guys about it on Monday. I'm going to enjoy this win."

On how QB PJ Walker recovered after the interception:

"That play was a nice play by the kid (Cardinals S Jalen Thompson). I thought PJ played really good football today. I thought he protected the ball. Sometimes it's hard playing quarterback when you have a huge lead because you can't play super-aggressive. We had a bunch of deep play-actions in the game plan and found out pretty soon that we didn't quite need them. I thought he managed the game real well."

On how McCaffrey opens the passing game:

"We just made a commitment this week to utilize Christian in the passing game. We ran some of those same plays with Ameer (Abdullah) and he caught some, too. We just wanted to use the tailbacks. They're a big, strong, physical defense – we knew they were going to overload the box and we were going to try to utilize our backs to throw the football early. We did a nice job of that … I just want to make sure I clarify this one more time for everybody so that there's no grey area: I'm not saying anyone is not starting or starting, I'm saying I'm going to get on the bus and enjoy this win. Before the tweets go out – and they probably already went out – I'm not saying anything because even if I knew it – which I probably do in my head what I'm going to do – I'm not going to say it. Probably on Wednesday you guys are going to ask me and I'm going to say, 'Hey you guys, I'm not sure yet.' Just so we're all on the same page, it is what it is. That was fun today, let's let it be fun."

On what pleased him most about the team's performance:

"Just watching guys play defense, watching guys run the football – I think we had 166 yards rushing – watching guys score in the red zone. It was just good football all the way around. There was a lot of great football by a lot of different guys. At the end of the day, we just asked every guy to play their best football – because every guy is enough – and we would have a total team-win, and that's what it was." 

On Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady's game plan:

"I think there's been a couple of times where I've said, 'Hey, we want to run the ball more,' but pretty consistently when you guys ask me about Joe (Brady) I've said, 'Hey, I think he's calling pretty good games.' I watch the tape and I see guys open, and it's just been bad protection here or – I think you saw today – there were a lot of guys open, and we made a lot of plays. Robby (Panthers WR Robby Anderson) made a lot of big catches, which we needed. DJ (Panthers WR DJ Moore) made a big catch. I thought it was another well-called game by Joe."

On the offensive line's performance:

"166 yards rushing and no sacks, to me that's part of the narrative. Those guys went out there and they did an excellent job of protecting. That's the number four-ranked defense that we faced out there today. That's (Cardinals S) Budda Baker, that's (Cardinals LB) Chandler Jones. (Panthers WR) Dennis Daley went down, (Panthers T) Brady Christensen stepped into the game, (Panthers T) Trent Scott. If you look at the starting line-up, four guys were starting who weren't starting four or five weeks ago. That's an excellent job by (Panthers O-line coach) Pat Meyer, but more importantly by those guys. (Panthers G) Pat Elflein stepping in at center, there were some good things there."

QB PJ WALKER

On how the game felt:

"It felt great. Went out there and got the win, that was most important. We had fun as a team and played great complimentary football. Defense played well, offense played well, special teams played well. It was a blast out there."

On what allowed him to have success today:

"The guys around me. All those guys believe in me. They see the work that I put in every day at practice, and just to have those guys trust in me to go out there and play my game is something special to me. It's a great feeling."

On working with QB Cam Newton:

"It was awesome. We're building as we go. It's my third day around him, so we're building as we go, and it's going to be a fun rest of the season."

On his conversations on the sideline with Newton:

"Just keeping the offense in rhythm. There's so much talk going on about what we're seeing on the field. That's mainly what we're talking about, what we're seeing on the field. Different looks that we're getting, explaining to me different thing. Like if a guy's here, he might be open here. Great communication throughout the game, and that's something that was helpful on the sideline."

On staying on pace and keeping rhythm:

"Just go out there and try to handle business. It's an opportunity. We aren't going to let it go to waste either. So to me, it was go out there and handle business and be me."

On how the energy was different compared to other games:

"We all had a purpose. We all had a goal to go out there and win this football game. I think everyone on the sideline had that mindset. We went out there and proved them wrong. We had a ball on the field and sideline. We felt the energy throughout the day as every play went on. We felt the guys on the defensive side of the ball when we were on offense standing up on the sideline. That's all those small things that we look forward to as a team that's helping us with the chemistry that we need."

On if Newton had anything to do with the energy:

"Always. Just him being himself and bringing the juice and energy that he brings helps this team a lot. It helps us all relax, get comfortable and play great football."

On if it is surprising that Newton brings so much energy:

"No, it doesn't surprise me at all. Not one bit."

On figuring out his touchdown celebration with Newton:

"We're still trying to figure it out. It's a long rest of the season, so we'll get it down by the start of next week."

On his sleep last night:

"To be honest I slept bad. It was crazy because the night took forever to get through. It felt like this morning took forever to get here, and I just tossed and turned. I looked at my clock, it was 4 o'clock at one point, and I still haven't been to sleep. I guess I was going in and out of sleep. For me, it was just go out there and forget all the stuff that was going on the night before and throughout the week and just go play ball."

On executing Head Coach Matt Rhule's game plan:

"I feel like I executed the game plan OK. I missed the one throw that I wish I had back, but it's a game where you can't dwell on mistakes. You have to move on and keep on going. I just know those guys on the field got my back, and that's one thing I can say about those guys. They're going to go out there and protect me whether I make those mistakes or not. I know they're going to go out there and stand up to the challenge."

On biggest difference in the offense compared to previous weeks:

"The energy level I would have to say. Us converting in the red zone is major, and that's something we've been struggling with. The defense has been getting us the ball those times and putting us in position to score the football, and we would come down with a field goal, so for us as an offense to go out there and convert in the red zone is major. I think that was great today."

On his impression playing with Newton and what he learned:

"It's a long football game. He continued to tell me to stay in the game and continue to just be ready, continue to just go out there and tell the guys that we have on the sideline that we're going to need to keep going. It's a long game. It was fun out there. As the game goes and you're winning and having fun, you don't really pay attention to the clock because everything else seems to fall into place."

On the offense having more fun than it did with QB Sam Darnold:

"I'm not sure to be honest. When Sam was out there, he would play great football games. He had games he played very well, so I'm not going to sit here and say it's just because of that situation and everything. Overall, today we came out to play, and as a team, we went out there and played really good football."

On what he proved to himself as a quarterback in the league:

"I can get the job done no matter the circumstances. No matter what, it's football to me. Everybody is going to put on their pads and lace up their cleats the same way I do. It's all about going out there and executing. I went out there and executed well today."

On if he noticed a difference in WR Robby Anderson's demeanor:

"Robby has a pep in his step. He's had that for the past three or four weeks. I know everybody sees all the stuff that goes on on the sideline, but that's just the emotions and love he has for the game. I know him well. I know where his mind is, and I know how he responds to things, so for me I'm just always trying to calm him down and tell him we're going to find ways to get him the football and help him out out there. Like I said, the previous weeks he's been blocking really well, and that's something I appreciate from him because I know how hard it is to go out there and block those guys and he's out there doing it."

On the events throughout the week that he mentioned and the impact those events had:

"Everything, Cam coming in on Thursday, me being named the starter throughout the week and going out there and having short term memory. Everything that I went through this week I think prepared me for this game and mentally I was there. I was locked in and ready to go. I made a few checks that I was proud of today and that was something I was looking forward to."

On if it will be tough if Newton starts next week:

"I understand what's going on. I understand the game. I understand the business of it. It will be what it will be. For me, it's just to go out there to prepare like I am a starter like I do every week. For me, it's to go out there and overprepare the same way I did for this week. I was well prepared this week, and I will be well prepared next week going to Washington."ces. No matter what, it's football to me. Everybody is going to put on their pads and lace up their cleats the same way I do. It's all about going out there and executing. I went out there and executed well today."

On if he noticed a difference in WR Robby Anderson's demeanor:

"Robby has a pep in his step. He's had that for the past three or four weeks. I know everybody sees all the stuff that goes on on the sideline, but that's just the emotions and love he has for the game. I know him well. I know where his mind is, and I know how he responds to things, so for me I'm just always trying to calm him down and tell him we're going to find ways to get him the football and help him out out there. Like I said, the previous weeks he's been blocking really well, and that's something I appreciate from him because I know how hard it is to go out there and block those guys and he's out there doing it."

On the events throughout the week that he mentioned and the impact those events had:

"Everything, Cam coming in on Thursday, me being named the starter throughout the week and going out there and having short term memory. Everything that I went through this week I think prepared me for this game and mentally I was there. I was locked in and ready to go. I made a few checks that I was proud of today and that was something I was looking forward to."

On if it will be tough if Newton starts next week:

"I understand what's going on. I understand the game. I understand the business of it. It will be what it will be. For me, it's just to go out there to prepare like I am a starter like I do every week. For me, it's to go out there and overprepare the same way I did for this week. I was well prepared this week, and I will be well prepared next week going to Washington."

QB CAM NEWTON

On how it felt to be back:

"Impeccable. Me and my boy Robby (Anderson) had an unbelievable conversation last night over dinner, and it's great for things to come to fruition. I wouldn't even call it the new me, but I'm big on energy and that feeling on the sideline collectively as a team started with PJ, and the offense going out there… and the defense getting the turnover. That's a combination of a great team win on the road. That was a great team that we played and just for it to come to full circle, offensively, defensively, special teams, it was great work."

On what went through his mind when taking the field:

"Man, God is good. I can tell you that. It is something about the significance of today. Not only to return, this was the last college game that I played… this was the stadium I played it at. This was the first NFL game I played at, and for me to come back it… God is working in my life right now. I am not hiding away from it, but I'll tell you this. In this morning's devotion I was reading about Moses, and God spoke to Moses in the desert… Where we at? The red sea. You know what I'm saying. Come on. You have the desert, obviously the Cardinals speak on the red sea. No disrespect to them, but I am just floating at an all-time high frequency. It's almost scary. The conversations that I'm having, the people that I'm meeting, the things that I am able to do, and I can't even take the credit. I don't want to take the credit. I refuse to take the credit. This is all God's work and to be able to come into a situation… I told Robby, bring your energy. So, for him to come in today and have this type of game, we are just scratching the surface. It is so many emotions that are going on in my head right now. I just want to be obedient to (Panthers Head) Coach (Matt) Rhule. I am doing this (presser) with Robby because I don't want to be the last one on the plane."

On his emotions after his first touchdown:

"Well, I'll put it like this. This time last week I was eating a bowl of cereal. You feel me. So, I told Coach Rhule it would never happen again, and it wouldn't. That went on me. I was eating cereal last week, so that just puts things into perspective after going to Church and being with my children and really not even watching football it was just about maximizing the person that I need to be. So, for that, it was all just a rush of emotions, but yet I know a lot of people in the media, the titles of the newspapers, the blogs, and things like that… they want to make it about me. It's not about me and I keep saying it's not about me. This was an impeccable team win. I am so proud of PJ for him to look down the barrel on so many different times and deliver the ball, as well as everybody pulling together. It was exciting for us as a team, as an offense, to take turns making plays. And then when we didn't It showed. It was really sloppy football, but yet through it all I have no complaints."

On how much of the playbook he felt comfortable with:

"Two touchdowns worth."

On with everything that's happened to him in the last two years was "yesterday's price is not today's price" (Kanye West) based on the two touchdowns he had today:

"Price going up, angel investing. That's Kanye. Shoutout to the Donda."

On returning to the team:

"It's so much. You can put a microscope on it and you'll scare yourself to the real facts of how you want to look at it and it's not by happenstance … I'm here for a reason. One of those reasons is to hold everybody accountable. I told Robby that, I told DJ (Moore) that, I told C-Mac (Christian McCaffrey) that, I told D-Jac (CB Donte Jackson) that, I told (CB Stephon) Gilmore that, I told numerous players as well as coaches, 'I am no different than anybody else, and I want people to hold me accountable.' I think the thing that I have learned as growth is 'who cares who gets the glory' because at the end of the day when you have a game like this, we all win. As we keep progressing in the season, we have a big game coming up, which is our most important game, we are going to need a great week of practice and everybody pulling in the same direction and playing Carolina Panther football. That's not mistake free, that's just doing your job when your job is required for you to do it."

On accounting for touchdowns each of the first two times he touched the ball and the energy he brings:

"I'm telling you, you can't make up a lie this good. I was talking to JJ (Jansen). There're a number of players that kind of get it. 'C Mac' (Christian McCaffrey) knew. DJ (Moore) knew. JJ knows. They know my impact. That's not to say that's something I've created, but I'm just blessed to be in the community that has accepted me with open arms and who knew how today was going to happen. I was just trying to do my part. I refuse to just take full credit because I wouldn't of have gotten down there without PJ (Walker) on the third down or 'C Mac' being resilient throughout the whole time. It's so many things that it's easy for people to kind of look over. I really should thank 'C Mac.' Two times he got me down to the one-yard line and I just ate the scraps."

On how he expected to make the biggest impact when he re-joined the team:

"It wasn't that. I'm just thankful for the opportunity. It just starts with accountability first, personal accountability. And with me being in different places, with me being different as a man growing, just taking a step back. Not as a football player, but as a man, as a human. Once you get to where you are today, it's the little things. It's the little things. It's the dinners. It's the cigar talks. It's the text messages. It's the. 'Hey bro, come on now.' It's those interactions that as players you miss. Games come and go. It's so many determining factors that go into a football game. So you can't just sit up here individually and say, 'I'm going to ball out.' Because 'I'm going to ball out' sounds individualistic. That may just be your statistics. That doesn't mean team statistics. So with that being said, I'm just here for accountability, and I just want to remind myself daily that first off, a lot of people are watching, I know that. That comes with me knowing that I have to do right. I feel like I've got a lot of people's attention right now – in the building, outside of the building – and I've still got a long way to go. We all as a team, were .500 right now. We lost games that, we're going back and watching film, that we should have won. But yet, it's still keeping that microscope to the details and making sure every opportunity that we get, we maximize in a positive way." 

On his outfit for the press conference:

"See the thing is, I didn't want to double up. You didn't see the pregame. This is postgame. You've got to catch up to my mustard, you dig?"

On how far along he is on creating nicknames:

"We aren't there yet. We aren't there yet. Keep in mind though, my first day at work was on Thursday. That's a work week, and you get to sit down and analyze the situation and see my dog. He know of me, but he don't really know me, know me yet. It's going to take a couple more cigars, couple more dinners. I paid last night, next one's going to be on him."

PANTHERS WIDE RECEIVER ROBBY ANDERSON

RE: Energy being different with Cam Newton on the team

Yes, for sure. From the moment bro got there. It's like a dream come true. To come to Carolina, and for him to come back, it's like a dream come true.

RE: His two-yard touchdown reception from Cam Newton

We worked on that a couple of times, me and Cam, to get the timing of it down. That was like one of the first routes that we ran on Friday. It just connected. We knew it was going to be there. Bro put it on the money, and we executed.

RE: Getting the news that Cam Newton was joining the team

Personally, I was just excited. Me and DJ [Moore] talked about it, and we kind of heard that bro was in the building. Then, DJ checked his Apple watch and saw it. We were just happy and excited. The crazy thing about it, bro resigned back on 11/11.

RE: The offense needing the energy Cam Newton brings

I think 1,000%. You know what I'm saying?

PANTHERS RUNNING BACK CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY

RE: The impact of having Cam Newton when in the red zone

I think it just gives the defense another thing that they have to prepare for. He's a special player in every way. It definitely gives different looks for a defense to have to prepare for.

RE: What he said to PJ Walker as they exited the field

I was just so proud of him. He's somebody that just puts his head down and goes to work every single day. Always has a smile on his face, always is positive. There was a lot of noise going around him and it just such a cool story in and of itself that he comes here and gets to start this week and we beat a hell of a team on the road. I was just really proud of him, and it was fun playing next to him today.

RE: Matt Rhule making a point of saying that this can be a playoff team, all other NFC South teams losing today and the statement it makes going out to get a player of Cam Newton's caliber

I think one thing that's consistent in our building is that every single person wants to win. Obviously, the story has been Cam this whole week, but one thing that I see out of Cam, that's no different than everything I've seen before, is he's here to win. Everybody's here to win. Coaches, GM, the equipment guys. Everybody wants to win and that means doing whatever needs to be done to win. We have a lot of guys who have been in and out of our team. Everybody's trying to put the pieces together because we know we can go win. I think it's important to know that and I think today was a good example of the team that we can be. We saw it in the first three games, we saw against Atlanta. We know we can be special it's just a matter of going out there and executing every week.

RE: An extra shot of confidence with Cam Newton on the team

I don't know if confidence has ever been the issue, just execution. That comes from a lot of different things. I think the biggest thing that we're honing in on is not just confidence but learning how to use that confidence and putting it into execution and not overcomplicate things and just do our job every single day and make plays.

RE: What it's like seeing the other guys in the run game do well

It's a blast. This is such a team game and having that, keeping the momentum going and keeping the chains moving and being able to get a rest and a breather and the come back out fresh and being able to continue to move the ball forward. I think that what our O-line did today, too, was a massive statement. I want to give a shoutout to them because they were under a lot of scrutiny. There's a lot of noise talking about our O-line and disrespecting the way that those guys played and they took that personally and went out there today and played a hell of a game. They're like the silent assassins. They're only getting mentioned when something bad happens. They're a lot of strong guys mentally and emotionally who can take all that criticism and continue to fight and continue to work with guys down and injured can step up and play a game like that and dominate like that was awesome.

PANTHERS OUTSIDE LINEBACKER HAASON REDDICK

RE: Being back in Arizona and getting a sack

It felt good, real good I'm not going to lie. I'm really happy to come back here and get a W after everything I've been through here, everything that happened this offseason. For us to go out and dominate and play a game like that, I'm extremely happy.

RE: Today's team performance

Energy was just crazy today. Energy was on a different level. It carried over every drive. Even coming out of there through halftime it just carried over.

RE: Cam Newton contributing to the team's energy

Probably a lot now that I think about it. After I got the sack, came in and turned it into a touchdown. The team is in really, really high spirits.

RE: His forced fumble providing a spark

Looking back at it now, it probably was the spark. I was just going out there trying to be my best. If that's what was the spark, then I'm happy. It carried over. We were able to go out there, dominate, and get a dub.

RE: Having Cam Newton back

Cam is excited to be back. His energy is up, and he's juiced to be here. Haven't learned much about him on the field other than what I saw today, but as far as being here and being back, he's ecstatic.

RE: This team performance today propelling the group in the right direction moving forward

Hopefully it's that game and that push to keep this thing going. Started off fast, had some downs, and have been back and forth up and down. Hopefully we can get this game to push us in the right direction to where we want to be.

See photos from State Farm Stadium as Carolina takes on Arizona in Week 10.

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