Postgame Transcripts: Week 12 vs. Denver

Interim head coach Steve Wilks

RE: Opening Statement

I just spoke with the guys and talked about we had an exceptional week of preparation. But as I mentioned last night, the preparation is not enough. We have to go out and execute and I thought we did that today. In all three phases, some great things showed up. When you look at how we are built from a standpoint of everything we do starts upfront, we had 185 yards rushing and then [D'Onta] Foreman had 113 of that. Very impressive in regards to that. Sam Darnold, when given the opportunity to drop back in the pocket, he was 11 of 19 for 164. We took our shots down the field which I felt like we could do today. He did a great job of connecting with DJ [Moore] on that deep one. Defensively, 3rd down, phenomenal opportunity for us to improve. They were 4 for 14 with 29% on third down. We talked about getting off the field and giving the ball back to our offense. Another key thing that we talked about all the time is time of possession. We had the ball for a little over 37 minutes today which is extremely impressive. I want to congratulate JJ Jansen for tying the most games played in Panthers history. Hell of a gentleman there. I was going to say young man but he is not a young man [laughs]. I love JJ. With that, I'll take your questions.

RE: You challenged the Day 1 and Day 2 draft picks. You challenged the offensive line. You challenged DJ Moore. To see all those guys, respond the way they did this week, what does that tell you about this locker room?

It just confirms the kind of character that we have in that locker room. Guys that care about one and another. Guys that care about their craft and try to perfect and do their job to the fullest. Very impressed but not surprised.

RE: What is your evaluation of how Sam [Darnold] played?

I thought he did a good job today. I still have to evaluate the tape but again, managed the game, ran the offense efficiently, connected down the field at times. We moved the pocket. Did a great job getting outside. We tried to establish that early on so on the surface, pretty good.

RE: What does this win mean heading into the bye week? Is the next step for this group is to beat a team like Seattle?

I think the next step, as I just finished with the guys, we need to do something that we haven't done all year. Number 1 which is to win on the road, regardless of who we are playing. Then number 2, let's win two in a row.

RE: You have experimented with extra offensive lineman on the field like Cade Mays being used as a fullback. What do you like about that look?

Again, with Gio [Ricci] being out this week, I commend the offensive coaches for trying to get creative and still find a way to utilize what we do within our system. I'm proud of Mays. As I told him at the end of the game on the sidelines, I thought he stepped up this week and preformed well.

RE: You could argue this is as good of an offensive line that Sam [Darnold's] ever had in this league. How optimistic are you about what he can do behind that offensive line?

Again, I'm proud of the guys upfront and the opportunities that they give us in the pass and run game. With Sam back there trying to operate, it just gives him a lot of confidence as you just alluded to. I can't speak for him but he may feel the same way that this may be the best he has had since he has been in the league. Hopefully, he can continue to go out there and operate in a good fashion.

RE: D'Onta Foreman had more than 100 yards rushing. DJ Moore had more than 100 receiving yards. Can you talk about the balance that your offense was able to achieve on a defense that came into the game, ranked in the top three?

I think you guys called it out last week of how we can get DJ the ball more, how we could be more creative so I think we got to get the ball to our stars. I thought, again, the offensive coaches did a great job in trying to create that formula this week. D'Onta has to get his touches in order to get going a little bit. I think he had a little over 20 carries and that is really his threshold right there. He has to get at least 20 touches to get going. Again, we created some good things with DJ just trying play action to get over the top. I felt like we could really run by these guys. As good of a secondary they have, sometimes their squad sits on things and it was good to see that.

RE: You mentioned the next thing is to win on the road. You are undefeated at home as an interim head coach. This franchise went a long time not winning at home. How special are these wins?

It's very special, particularly when you can do it in front of your home crowd. I want to continue to try to put a good product out there so we can please our fans. They came out today and supported us well. Going back, with the Thursday night game, it took me back to how it was in the past. It was electric. I want those guys to continue to come out and support us in high fashion.

RE: Was it a good problem that you had to tell them to stop the wave?

[laughs] It's always one. It's always one. (joking with reporter who asked the question)

RE: Brian Burns reached double digit sacks today. What makes him a special player?

Number 1 he is just so athletic. His speed off the edge and then his ability to be able to work his hands and then have such a great spin move. I think he puts a lot of pressure on the tackles that sometimes gets those guys to over-set and then he can turn speed into power which he does a good job of.

RE: Without seeing the tape yet, of the plays that you saw from Sam [Darnold] today, which impressed you most?

I think I can't just really pinpoint one. I love the mere fact how he was able to get outside the pocket and try to win with his feet and still have his eyes down the field to try to execute. Then when you talk about trying to push the ball down the field, that throw to DJ [Moore] was phenomenal. Just pinpoint accuracy.

RE: What [Darnold] did avoid was the big mistake. He threw the ball away a few times. Was that impressive?

We talk about that all the time. Just really trying to manage the game. When I say manage the game, I'm talking about being smart, not forcing it in there. Always ready to take your check down, particularly when we get in field goal range, not taking a sack, throwing the ball away. Just being aware of the situations. I thought he did a good job of that today.

RE: You have been wanting to see [Darnold] for a while now. What about him that you saw in practice that you felt would translate to what he did on the field today?

Just, again, his arm strength. Being able to put the ball down the field. His ability to get outside the pocket and win with his feet. Sam is extremely athletic. People probably don't really see or think that but he is fast. He has shown a lot in practice and you saw a lot of that today.

RE: Sam Darnold rolling into the end zone. Is that instinct?

Again, it's someone who is in tune to the situation and understands the rules of the game. We have to make sure we hold on to it and protect it but he was quick to get on it and realized no one touched him. Yes, it was smart of him rolling into the end zone.

RE: The mental side with [Darnold]. Is that something you have noticed over the last few weeks or months?

I really can't reflect on the past with Sam. Again, because I wasn't really here with him. But I can tell throughout this process, he has been so locked in and focused, particularly last week when he was up and dressed. His attention to detail and the questions he was asking, even during practice, and then locked in during the game. That's the only things I can go off of right now.

RE: Is Sam [Darnold] starting in Seattle?

Yes, he does start at Seattle.

RE: Was the fake punt a way to set the tone?

It was a way to set the tone early, something we had talked about all week long. We had a few up last week. It didn't really present the look but we were trying to be aggressive so we could try to steal some possessions. That's why, when you talk about 37 minutes, that was one of the situations that helps us do that.

QB Sam Darnold

RE: How good did it feel to be back out there after such a long lay off?

Yeah, it felt great to be able to get that win. I think just the preparation that went into it this whole week. We had a ton of guys going down with different sicknesses, guys were battling this week, trying to prepare for this game. It showed out there, it showed our resilience. Defense, special teams, offense, you know all three phases. It was huge to come up with this win.

RE: How long have you been practicing the fumble and roll move?

Man, ever since I can remember. Rolling in that grass when I was young. No, you know I jumped on top of it and realized no one touched me, and figured I would just try to get in the end zone anyway possible.

RE: Is that an innate muscle memory? How did you know in that moment that no one touched you, what was going on in your head in that moment?

Whenever you are on the goal line it's whatever you can do to get in the end zone. That was kind of my thought process there. It's a good highlight tape to add to the repertoire but, no, you would like to be able to hold on to the football, make that guy miss and just walk into the end zone, but it was good to get in there.

RE: DJ Moore said before the 52-yard completion, you had a conversation. What did you see, what did you convey to him?

We had kind of dialed that play up at halftime, with all the run action and runs that we had showed. We had plays dialed up even before then but I was just talking to him about his angle, where he wanted to take it based on the safety leverage and how Pat Surtain was playing him. We were just having a conversation about that.

RE: You took your shots early in the game, what was it about Denver's defense that was easy to exploit?

There was nothing easy about going up against those guys. You know Denver's defense is one of the best defenses in the league. You know you look at them on third down in the red zone situationally. I think it's just a credit to our guys, our offense and how well we prepared all week, like I said. You know it was great to just be able to go out there and kind of dictate the tempo. Whenever you can go out there and do that as an offense, you know, you're going to have a good day.

RE: Seems like the running game set up the play action, how important was that?

No doubt, our offensive line is rolling right now. Those guys are tough and there's not a whole lot of defenses that want to go out against those guys right now. Not only our offensive line, but our running backs, our tight ends, the way they are blocking, our receivers, the way they are blocking. So I mean our whole run game is setting up for the pass game. I feel like we've really figured out our identity so far this year. We just have to keep going. We just have to enjoy the bye week, I think that's first and foremost. Having a late bye, be able to enjoy it, but get right back to work.

RE: Coach Wilks put up all his star players and challenged them to be stars. Was your picture up there with them and what did you think about the whole approach?

Yeah, to be able to put the guys who need to be able to step up or who should be leaders on the team and who are leaders on the team. You want those guys to be able to step up when their numbers are called. I feel like as a whole team we did that. We have leaders, not just first rounders, second rounders, all throughout this team sprinkled, undrafted guys, late round guys, guys that we picked up in free agency. There are so many leaders on this team, whether they are vocal or lead by example. It's special to see how this group has come together. Again like I said, we just have to keep it rolling and figure out a way to win next week, or the week after.

RE: What does that say about Coach Steve Wilks that he did that?

I think Coach Wilks is a really good coach, a really good leader. To be able to stand up here and tell us exactly what he expects, and if he we don't do what he says or what he expects us to do, then we're flat out not going to win the game. I feel like that sheer honesty is respected amongst men.

RE: Wilks already declared that you would be starting in Seattle, has he communicated that to you? What does it mean to you to have that confidence, and to put you in 12 weeks into a season?

To be able to go out there, win the game, I think first and foremost. To be able to feel comfortable out there, to be honest, I think it took a couple of plays for me to finally feel comfortable out there. Once I got my feet wet a little bit out there and threw my first completion, I feel like it was smooth sailing, especially with the way that we were running the football. Yeah, I felt really comfortable. Again, as long as I get to play football, I'm happy.

RE: How do you feel you are different from the last time you had an opportunity to get live work?

I think for me, going back to that Preseason Three, there is different guys coming in and out, you're just kind of running your base system. I feel like with a week of preparation, it's just a different ball game. We had a certain attack that we were ready to attack this Denver defense with and I thought we did a really good job of that. And you know, we just kind of went about our business and did that for 60 minutes and came out with W. I think the preseason, you just kind of run your base stuff and you're looking to just execute and go about it that way.

RE: Cade Mays at fullback, what do you like about that look and how impressive is he as an athlete to be able to pull that off with that size?

For sure, big Cade man, being able to get a start. I think he started the game off for us. I don't know if the o-line feels good about that, a rookie getting the start but I'll have to talk to them about that. Cade did really good job out there for us when he got his number called, especially in that four-minute period when we had to run the ball and the defense knew that we were running the ball and we were going to try to run the clock out. Cade did a really good job when he was in there and it was good to see him.

RE: The team did not look like a 4-8 team today, how much pride are you guys taking in playing beyond the standings right now?

You know I think a lot of people can get lost in what people's records are and what have you. The NFL, it truly is any give Sunday. Anyone can beat anyone. There is so much talent out here on Sundays and on that field. If you don't come with your A game you're going to get beat. That's just how it rolls, that's just how it goes on Sunday. And for us to be able to go out there and execute and have a great week of prep and do everything that we needed to do to win that ball game, it was special. I am really proud of the guys and I know we are going to enjoy the bye week.

RE: You said as long as you get to play football you are happy, it had to be frustrating to not get to play football for almost three months

Yeah, no doubt. I think for me, it's just, you know, obviously practice is fun. You get to practice, you get to throw the ball around, but being able to go out there on Sunday and throw it and have fun with the guys, especially getting a win, nothing better than that.

RE: For yourself personally, how much validation is there after this time off, the injury, bringing in Baker Mayfield in the offseason that you get a shot today and the win?

Yeah, I mean listen, you know it truly isn't about me. There are so many guys that had a hand in this, for me to just go out there, do my job and find some completions, move the chains a couple of times. Like I said our run game was stout today. Whenever our running backs, our offensive line, our receivers, tight ends can block like that, you know we can just stay ahead of the chains and keep it rolling, have a couple good drives, and our defense can play the way that they played, I would be silly to sit up here and take all the credit. It was truly a team effort. I made my plays when I could. Just super proud of the guys in the locker room.

RE: While you were off did it help you look at the game in a different way that helped lead to your performance today?

Yeah, I think you learn a ton when you are out. To be able to sit back and watch and realize on first and second down, it's ok to check the ball down if something is not there if you don't get the premiere look that you want. And on third down, making a play, making sure that you're not turning the ball over, you're not fumbling the ball, but also understanding it is third down, we need to try get this first down. If you scramble or try to make something happen and you take a sack or you have to throw it into some coverage, and obviously you don't want to throw a pick. What I am trying to say is, it's understanding situationally football and I think that's the biggest thing that I have learned since being out, is just that. I think if I can continue to learn that, I will continue to grow as a player.

DE Brian Burns

RE: Responding to last week's loss

Every week for me is a new week. I'm proud of the team. We needed this crucial win going into the bye week. When you go that long week without any football it's good to be on the winning side.

RE: Ten sack season

It means a lot. It's long overdue. I should've had it my second year, but nobody's counting. I'm blessed and grateful to have it now. Let's keep on stacking them. I got five more games to keep going.

RE: Timing of the bye week

We got one of the late bye weeks. I think it's well needed but you hate to come off the field. I don't want to sit home and watch other people play and get sacks. I want to be out there. It's well needed because we need the rest. We've been going 12 weeks strong, so we need this week.

RE: Wilks challenging leaders on the team

It lets you know how highly he thinks of the star players on this team and he wants us to play to our potential. I think guys took that into consideration and went out there and balled. Whatever he did worked.

S Jeremy Chinn

RE: What has changed recently for the defense

The attitude. We try to win every game on defense. That's just the way we go into it. It helps a lot when the offense performed the way they did today so shoutout to them. And communication so we're all on the same page.

RE: Timing of the bye week

I'm not going to say it's bad time, I think it is a good time. We got some momentum going into it. Guys can really get their bodies together and come out stronger on the other side.

WR DJ Moore

RE: On what was different with the offense today

We take shots when shots are called. We took shots when the defense gives it to us so today we liked our one on ones and we were cooking.

RE: The keys to success being matched up against Patrick Surtain

Just giving different looks and different routes to him. He's a good corner so we just had to attack him differently.

RE: What did you think of Sam Darnold's performance today?

It was good for his first game of the season. He came out calm, cool and collected. That's usually how Sam is. I wasn't expecting anything different and he went out there and he showed what he could do.

RE: This recipe, with what you guys did today on offense, playing well and limiting mistakes on offense. Is that what you guys had been looking to do all year?

Yes. That's the best thing when everybody is on the same page and there are no mistakes. We had a few hiccups but we overcame them and it got us the win today.

RE: The tone set by the fake punt call in the first half

It shows that we're going to be aggressive throughout the whole game. We didn't back off from it. The run game was good, passing was good, defense was good, special teams was good and it all came out to a great win.

RB D'Onta Foreman

RE: Bounce back from Baltimore

We went out there and played a lot better on both sides of the ball to get the win so I'm very excited about that.

RE: Darnold returning from injury

I'm excited and happy for him (Darnold). I think a lot of us have been through things so when you get that opportunity you can't look back. You got to go and make the best of it. That's what we all try to do when we get those opportunities. I'm proud of him. He played a great game and got us another win.

RE: Being the X-Factor

Of course. That's one thing I try to talk to the guys and the quarterbacks about. I always tell them I've got you. If I get going and put us into manageable third downs I've got trust in them to convert and keep moving. Even when we come out in play action and take our shots, it helps if the running game is clicking and going. I just had to bounce back from last week. It was so horrible and terrible. I was so ready to play again I don't know what to say. I'm thankful for this and all glory to God.

View photos from the field and in the locker room after Carolina's win over Denver on Sunday.

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