HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
RE: Opening Statement
Obviously, credit to Atlanta. They played well enough to win the game. Disappointed in having the loss again, like many other games, just kind of self-inflicted wounds. Not going to win many games, in fact the odds are in the 80s against you when you have three turnovers. Three turnovers that we really didn't need to have. Obviously, the fumbles are extremely difficult and then defensively even after all of that to still have a chance at the end. A false start on the two-point play which is fine, we kicked it, well not fine but didn't hurt us. Then the kickoff return out to the 50 or 45 and then, obviously, had them third and 15, those guys have him in man and just our base coverage, day one, and we don't execute it. Credit to them. Obviously, we have to be better. Specifically, I would say with the turnovers and the turnover battle.
RE: Who is your quarterback?
Cam [Newton]. I think that was kind of the way we planned to go on. We are going to play with Cam and PJ [Walker] both. We got in the rally and PJ obviously knows that two-minute stuff better. I thought Cam did some good things today. Can't have those two turnovers though. We are just looking for things to not be catastrophic. Put a snap on the ground, ok, fall on the ball and be second and one. That's what really bothers you about that. 2nd and 1 was fixing to be a really big run I think. On the back side, we cut off the three-technique and it was going to be a good play. I think one of the things that was disappointing was where the turnovers happened. The pick six happened at the 40 going in to score. That one happened at the 40 going in to score so you guys know me, I'm not going to make huge statements after it. I don't have any strong feelings one way or another, other than I know we have to play better at that position. We can't have multiple turnover games from the quarterback position.
RE: Did Cam Newton get caught up in Pat Elflein's foot on the fumble?
I just saw what you saw on the replay. I don't know that. But even still, we just want to go to the ground (and it) be third-and-three. I had told the guys we were going to go for it on 4th down across the 50 yard-line most of the day. Bad things happen in games. You just can't let them be catastrophic. That was that play.
RE: How did defense lose track of Kyle Pitts on a critical third down?
They can't lose Kyle Pitts. It happened but it can't. It's our base, day one coverage. We had them. He should be caught and tackled. It should be 4th down. We should have the ball back, going down to score. They got jet motion. Someone just has bad eyes and doesn't put their eyes where they are supposed to be. At the end of the day, they made the plays to win the game. That play should never happen.
RE: Decision to play PJ Walker in the second half
We went into the game saying, hey, we are going play PJ in the third or fourth series of the game, depending on how the game went. Cam went right down the field and scored on the first one. I think we went 3 and out on the second when we dropped the snap. On the third one, we were driving the ball and had the pick six. I didn't want to pull him right after the pick six. Put him out there again and then let PJ kind of a 3:50 left, let him throw a play action which he threw, completed the ball to Robby [Anderson] and unfortunately was just not able to get anything going.
RE: Will you continue to split quarterback duties or is this until Cam Newton is more familiar with offense?
No, we wanted to play PJ. We thought PJ was going to do some good things for us in the game. But he went back in the second, obviously in the 4th quarter under kind of a duress situation and moved the ball for us as he typically does but we got down inside the 40 and weren't able to score and then obviously the defense got that fumble and we were able to capitalize. That was just something we planned on doing was playing PJ in a role in this game.
RE: Pick Six
It was man coverage. They mugged up like they were going to blitz. Ran the option route. Tailback beat him clean. Anytime he breaks inside the only thing you have to be careful of is a rat dropping out. We run a shallow on that play to eliminate the rat. The guy played through it. I think he was mugged up, he dropped out and made a nice play. It's a tough one for the quarterback, but at the end of the day, you're responsible for what is out in front of you when you throw the football. That would be one that we would love to just, again, be incomplete, go for a 4th down, be incomplete, punt it. Those catastrophic plays unfortunately overshadow a lot of really good plays that happened today. I thought Jeff [Nixon] did a nice job. I thought the tempo was good. I thought we moved the ball. I thought they completed more balls to more guys than we have. I thought we were more diverse. Guys played with energy. A pick-six is one thing, but three turnovers obviously is a whole other thing.
RE: Did you see conceptually what you wanted to see from Jeff Nixon's play calling?
Yeah, I thought we were at 26 runs, which when you are behind, obviously that would have been in the 30s had that happened. We ran the quarterback. We had more completions than we had. I'm not sure what the completions were but I think we were in the high teens. I think a lot of people think some of the decisions I've made was because of the run game. It's really, we haven't thrown the ball really well in previous games. This game I thought, at times, we threw the ball better. Obviously, we had the two interceptions, yet again. We had a lot of other plays that I thought were close. Robby [Anderson] caught the slant that was behind him a little bit. I thought we could have hit a couple more of those plays. I think Jeff did a nice job. Our offensive staff did a nice job. We can't have turnovers. Those guys put them in positions to make some plays. We made some plays. We just didn't make enough.
RE: Thoughts on PJ Walker's interception before the half
Just like anything else, throw the ball away and let's punt it. Enough of the catastrophic mistakes. Just to you guys, that's what I said in the locker room. Its just such an old school lesson but it's so true. When we don't beat ourselves. There wasn't a matchup out there today that we coudldn't handle. They are a good team but there wasn't a matchup we couldn't handle. There was catastrophic self-inflicted errors. In the last scoring drive, 3rd-12, in the second to last drive, quarterback escaped the pocket, hit the in-cut, boom, got the ball down there. The kickoff return. The bad punt. We didn't field a punt and (allowed) the ball down to the five so just a lot of things that we can control here and there, some guys aren't doing, but is the difference in winning and losing. So, I think that is what has to improve. PJ's play being one of them, obviously. Just throw the ball away. Punt the ball and don't give them the chance to go down and score right before the half.
RE: Offensive line performance
That's always a little bit harder to see. I think you have to watch the tape. Obviously, they got beat on the one sack there on 4th down. Got edged on that play. For the most part, like in the Miami game we were kind of under duress. I didn't feel that. The 1-0 blitz, they grabbed Elflein and pulled him. We were kind of prepared for that blitz. It's kind of one of those deals they grabbed him. Those are the two plays that I saw that weren't good enough. But I thought we ran the ball good at times. I thought we had some consistency in pass pro. Obviously, Cam[Erving] went down and some of the guys went in. Without seeing the tape, I didn't see anything that was highly alarming. Going into the game, that was the matchup I was concerned about because we were playing the new guys. I didn't feel during the game, hey, we can't handle this. Really during the game, I was saying protect the football. Stop throwing it up and we will be okay. Do what we are trained to do. When we did that, I thought we moved the ball fine.
RE: Not getting any turnovers, but almost getting several interceptions
At halftime we said to the guys, hey, we've had three chances at interceptions. Obviously, we forced the fumble at the end of the game to get us to go score. We expected our defense to go out and play dominant defense today. We knew we were going to need that with some young guys playing on the offensive line, we needed to create some turnovers. I thought because of the turnovers on offense, they started with the ball and because of the one great punt and the one bad punt, they started with the ball at the minus 45 and 50 most of the day. Two first downs and they are in scoring range. Those are the things that if we want to win games like this we have to create turnovers. We created two turnovers in the last game. We only created one today.
RE: Turf conditions - slipping
I didn't hear anyone say that no.
RE: Players effort
The effort? I have no issues with the effort. I thought guys played hard. Guys played physical. Being prepared? I think we are prepared. I don't see us making mistakes. There are some areas where we don't match up quite as well where there is not a lot of margin of error and we have to be perfect. We have to play better in terms of giving the ball away. It's real simple. You look at the games when we win the turnover battle or tie it, we usually win. When we don't win the turnover battle, we lose. That's where we are. That's where most teams are to be quite honest, but that is where we are. That wasn't unprepared when Cam slipped and fell. Cam is trying to make a play. That's not what we do here and we are trying to get that out of us. The pick-6 was a nice play by them. We have to see that and protect it. There are some times when one bad play leads to two and you can kind of see the guys press a little bit. I thought we came out of the half, you know I challenged them to have a good third quarter and we came out the half and went right down the field and scored. The things we are working on, when we do them, they show up. Guys are in here at 6 o'clock in the morning. They are here until late at night. They work hard. Like I said there are some places where the margin of error is not so overwhelming where we have to kind of be perfect. Then there are other areas where we just have to protect the football. Protect the football, we have a chance to win. That's where we are. Didn't do it enough to today but I would not say they aren't playing hard. You have DJ Moore in the tent, coming back out of the tent, they are checking his knee, he is like, 'no, I'm going.' Brian Burns is in the tent. I just respectfully say, being a guy in that room, that wouldn't be my narrative. I would just say that we have to play better and we have to get better in some areas. They prepare and they play hard.
RE: Matt Ryan
We didn't get enough pressure on Matt [Ryan]. We went man coverage. One of the things early on was we just weren't quite winning in man the way we sometimes do. I don't know how many sacks we had on him, but it wasn't enough. We needed to have him under a little bit more duress. That being said on third down, the numbers were not good. They were 50% on third down. In the first half they were in the 30s and the second half they were able to convert the 3rd- 12, the 3rd- 15. For what it is worth, I'll make sure I say it again, because Ellis [Williams] asked me last week, David [Newton] asked me this week – this is not a case of guys not being bought in or not trying. This is sometimes you get beat on a slant inside. Again, we keep trying to get better as a team. They keep trying to get better. But it just is where we are right now. We have to grind our way through it. But they are certainly trying. They play through pain. They practice. They work hard. I have no issues with this team in those regards.
QB CAM NEWTON
RE: Were you surprised when they put PJ Walker in?
It was communicated to me, P [PJ Walker] had a package for him, it was just the timing of everything. Coach Sean [Ryan] did a great job this week of communicating with us and king of telling us that PJ is going to play, just don't know when. They had a package for him and he went out there and did a pretty good job executing it as well.
RE: What happened on the interception?
I mean that's what it comes down to. Coach touched on it a couple of weeks ago about just mental stamina, just going and going and going and going and going, then all of a sudden, when that breaks, you just have to snap back and still maintain that same level of focus-ness. We had our sparks this game. Its just little things like that. Defender made a great play on the ball, I didn't see him, and they disguised it. Pretty much everything that they did, we knew it was coming. I just have to do a better job of protecting the football. Anytime you lose the turnover battle like we did today, you just run the risk of doing enough just to win and just to lose. So, that's what it came down go.
RE: The fumble exchange
I got stepped on, I just tried to hand it off, shouldn't have did it, should have just ate it. Once again, it just comes down to protecting the football. That's day one, just winning football in rec ball, high school, college and professionals, protect the football and I didn't do a good job of that today. I think that's what so frustrating because I hold myself to a high standard to do those things. When it doesn't happen, it's just inexcusable.
RE: Did you notice any difference in preparing for this game with Jeff Nixon calling the plays?
I'm not going to get into comparing and contrasting. This game just really comes down to protecting the football on my part.
RE: What do you think is the biggest issue in why you all have struggled the last three games?
You just have to really take one game at a time and I think we are growing as a team without a doubt. I only can speak myself, and that's what I'm going to do right now man. I'm just so disappointed in where we were. We had such a great momentum for those drives and it was just drive killers, it's game killers in essence because we were driving on both of those turnovers that I had. I think that's just the thing that you know to be optimistic about it all, you see what we're capable of, but we just have to do it for ourselves. We can't look for nobody else to do our job and I'm thinking, I'm speaking directly to myself. It is my job to protect the football and put this offense in the best situation to not only score points but to sustain drives. You know, moving forward that's just my plan and my plan of attack.
RE: Is it just as difficult to lose games now as it was as a rookie in 2011?
Yeah, I mean, you grow to bottle your emotions better. I could move some furniture right now if you guys allowed me to but that's not going to do anything to nobody but make the story even more of a distraction getting prepared for next week. Like I said, I'm just so disappointed in myself. I hold myself to a high standard and a lot of guys around this team hold me to a high standard too. And for me to not perform or to kind of jeopardize the game the way I did today, is just inexcusable knowing that I do know the keys to victory, I do know that coach was going to rely on me to put us in the right situations today, and more times than not, I did do it but that's just professional sports, and in essence professional football where you don't know if it's play one or play 30 or play 60 or play 80. You know you just have to constantly do your job and do it at a high level that doesn't jeopardize any lack luster in my performance.
RE: Did you think about aborting the handoff before the fumble?
Yeah, I just thought, it was second and short and I just feel somebody kind of tugging on my foot and I just wanted to keep the ball going forward. I knew we didn't, I didn't want to take no loss right there, but in hindsight, yeah, I would have just did what I should have did and you know it is what it is. But those, without a doubt, you take those turnovers away, I think it would be a different type of tempo right here, right now. I'm just, yeah, I made my point.
RE: Did you ask to go no huddle/hurry up after halftime?
No, I think that was something that the coaching staff kind of schemed up this week, knowing in being able to attack them as best we could, I know Coach Rhule and Coach Nixon had a pretty much of that type of pace before and it's just our job to go out there and execute
RE: How tough is it not winning at home?
Man, at this particular point, I just hate just, you know, wasting my voice. Like I say, man I don't know what more I can say or need to say but you know I just hold myself to a better standard than what the performance showed today.
RE: How close is the team to making progress?
We are close, we are close, but everybody needs to do their job, starting with me, including me. Preparation, prepare and then you know, just prepare for Sundays, and that's pretty much what it comes down to.
RE: How tough is it to continue to grow and feel like you are moving in the right direction but not seeing it?
I mean, for anybody else that has a job, you know you just, you go to work on Monday, and just keep going at it. Just because you don't get what you want, you don't just stop going to work, for us, it's no different. You know, we didn't have the performance that I wanted to have today, as a team, we didn't have, and we play the game to win. No need to belabor the fact and state the obvious but we just need to come in on Monday and just build off this game. Take the good, build off the good, take the bad, learn from the bad and be ready to go next week.
DE BRIAN BURNS
RE: Thoughts on the game today.
RE: Robby Anderson said the team is not where he expected to be at this point in the season.
He pretty much hit it on the head. Not what we expected. Overall, it's just disappointing to not get a dub at home, it's even more disappointing but that's where we're at right now.
RE: What did the Falcons do to prevent you all from recording a sack
I can't speak for everybody else. I don't know what was going on until I watch the film. I know that Mike Davis, or the coach had something to do with Mike Davis, coming at my side every time we were in a four-man rush he would motion out and then motion back in and pretty much chipped me every time. I can just speak on that.
RE: What happened on that 3rd-and-14 play
I'm not too sure what happened I didn't watch the film once again, but probably a miscommunication. I think he was in a ghost formation, and he probably went cross, cross back across the field and everything flowed to the left and then he kind of, I guess snuck out and that's all I can say.
RE: Why haven't we seen the results of all the hard work and preparation that the team is putting in
That's hard to pinpoint why it's not working out, but I definitely can agree that people are putting the work in, people are working hard and doing what they have to do. It just comes down to following your progress and really just leaning back on your fundamentals. Just have to stick with the process.
RE: Whether he is frustrated by not seeing the results
Very, but it's on us. We're making this bed and we have got to lay in it. We know what to do, we know what we have to focus on and it's just not getting down and at the end of the day, you just have to get it done.
WR ROBBY ANDERSON
RE: Playing with two quarterbacks and if it makes finding a rhythm on offense more difficult
No, that's a game plan thing. We prepare for that throughout the week. It's not like we practiced one quarterback and the other one was just thrown in there. We were prepared for that.
RE: Coach Jeff Nixon's first game calling plays
I think he did a good job. I think he put us in position to win. We just didn't obviously accomplish what we needed to. I think overall we had a very good plan. I feel like we were over prepared mentally. We had a great game plan. I think he did a great job. Him, all the coaches collectively this week. Personally, I was very prepared with the plays. Understanding the coverage concepts more than I have been, the way we installed and the way we did things this week. I definitely enjoyed it and think that it put us in a position to be the best we could be. We just have to take care of some other things.
RE: Fourth quarter touchdown reception
Just me and PJ [Walker] checking to something good. Me beating the defender on a good release and a good ball. Executing.
RE: Having a season-high in targets today, comfort level at this point in the season versus earlier on
I wouldn't say anything is different with my comfort level. I would say my football IQ has enhanced a lot throughout this year. With me not getting as much targets and not being able to produce throughout this year, every week and every day I was looking for more ways to improve for that to improve. So, when my moment does come I'm prepared. I definitely feel like throughout this season I've grown tremendously as a football player and obviously as a man off the field. Statistically, I'm not 100% where I'd like to be. The team, we're not 100% where I'd like us to be. As a person, I'm extremely happy with where I am. I think at the end of the day, that's more important than football. My mental and just where I am in life mentally. I'm happy with where I am. Back to football, the football aspect of it I definitely put in way more time than I ever have. Trying to recreate myself and become better.
RE: Assessing where the team is right now
We are obviously not exactly where we want to be. I feel like when you go through situations like this, it's to prepare us for the future. Being in games like that, having to fight at the end. There's going to be more games like that were we have to fight at the end. It's just a mature thing. Learning from it, or making excuses about it and it happening again.
QB P.J. WALKER
RE: Assessing his performance today
I'll start off with the interception, it's bad. Bad football on my end. Got confused, got mixed up with the disguise and everything. Just a bad play on my end, can't do that. Found a way to come back in the second half when I got an opportunity to go back out there and make some plays. Just found a way to get the ball in the end zone. That's one thing, me being out there, I try to find the rhythm when I get in there and just go. It's tough but you just have to be able to go do it.
RE: Being prepared to play each week
I expect to play every week. That's the mindset. If I'm not going into the game with an expectation to play, I don't think I will be ready. I don't think my body would respond to not being mentally ready to go out there and go play if I'm not prepared to go play. Me personally, I prepare every week like I'm playing.
RE: Coach Jeff Nixon's first game as the play caller
It was cool. We still need to work on some things. We still need to get things going. The two-minute was a little different, but I think once he gets rolling, he gets rolling. We just have to find ways to communicate a little better. That's really it, just the communication part. We just have to find ways to communicate better. Get plays in and out from up top down to the field.
RE: The difficulties of finding a rhythm coming into the game
Just being out there. Just being on the football field. Once I get my first first down, I feel like I'll be able to get started moving. For me, it's just go out there and get that first first down and see where it goes from there. Move the ball and find ways to take easy completions instead of trying to get the ball down field at times. I can revert back to the interception, it was third and six. Just me trying to make a play, doing too much. Just throw the ball away or take the sack and punt it. Just trying to find a rhythm, it's tough in itself.
RE: Communication with the play calling
Yes, they can come in a little quicker. We still need to work on those things. I'm sure it was probably going from one coach to another, talking, and everything like that. For us, we just have to find ways to get that play call in and go. Not second guess it.