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Carolina Panthers

Postgame Transcripts: Week 16 vs. Detroit

Interim head coach STEVE WILKS

RE: Opening Statement

You know, we talked all week about the true character of this football team will reveal itself and how we responded. I am very proud, again, of the men in that locker room and how we came out and played today against a good football team, a really good football team. Everything that we do starts up front. To see us bounce back and run the ball like we did today for a franchise record of 320 was impressive. Total yards was 570. Then on the defensive side of the ball, controlling the line of scrimmage there and stopping the run with 45 yards. Proud of the men and how they came out and bounced back and played. Everything that we talk about is just one at a time. We are going to enjoy tomorrow with our families, enjoy Christmas. We are going to get back in here Monday at 1 o'clock, put this game to bed and get ready for Tampa. Our mindset is still the same. It's about winning today. With that I will take your questions.

RE: You've talked about running the ball at this time of year and that wins football games and teams don't necessarily want to tackle. Is that what happened today?

I can't really tell you in regards to their side. I can just tell you that our guys were challenged. We got embarrassed last week in so many fashions. They bounced back and showed their true character in how we practiced this week and most importantly how we came out today and performed. Those guys up front accepted the challenge, the offensive line I'm talking about, was coming off the ball. D'Onta [Foreman] he had 165 yards rushing. Very impressive. Chuba [Hubbard] came in and did his job. Look at Raheem Blackshear, came in and did his job. It was a collective effort across the board.

RE: Schematically, so many of those runs were right up the gut. What did you see there and what did you take advantage of?

Again, not trying to get to the schematics of it. I just think really our guys did a great job with coming off the ball, getting to the second level which was the key for us. Really trying to create the double team and come off on the linebackers. We always feel like our running backs, if they can get to the second level before they get touched, they can do a great job in making that first guy miss. You saw a little bit of that today.

RE: The running game had some finesse in it today. You let the offensive line get out there in space. What does it say when a team can run multiple blocking schemes and push their way up field like you did?

I think you have to give a lot of credit to [Offensive Coordinator Ben] McAdoo and the offensive coaches. We constantly talk about trying to stay ahead of the curve, trying to be a little innovative in the things that we are doing because we feel like we do have the personnel. You saw a little bit of that today, some of the window dressing, getting out on the perimeter with Blackshear going one way and then all of a sudden here comes Laviska [Shenault]. So I like the creativity and now we are just looking for the consistency moving forward.

RE: You went with Chuba Hubbard and he had those two big runs right off the bat. What prompted you to go in that direction?

It's not so much again David, like you know, with D'Onta being the starter, like I said a long time ago, each guy has a different finesse and a different style. That particular run that we wanted to go with first, was just more suited for Chuba. He did a great job in getting out there. I was looking for him to score. Great job in really kick starting us to a good game.

RE: When you saw the forecast for the week, did you think this set up as a good game where you could run the ball and run the ball where more of a passing team might struggle?

Didn't really look at it in regards to that because regardless of the weather we felt like we were going to have to come in and establish the run. But the one thing that we did talk about in regards to not allowing it. That's somewhat been the theme all year. We don't allow it to get in the way. We went out there and practiced outside yesterday with a walk through. It was extremely windy. We went out there and faced it early on so today wouldn't be an issue for us.

RE: Sam Darnold's performance today and what he added to the run game

Very pleased with that because that's something that we felt like has been there for a couple of weeks. Just trying to encourage him to No. 1, go through his progressions and reads. If the end crashes down, pull it and come off the edge which he did. Awesome job with the score. Then also, just opportunities when he drops back. If it's open, don't be afraid to go get that first down. Very pleased once again with his performance. The biggest thing that we are seeing guys, across the board, we are not turning the ball over. That's the key with us. We always have a chance if we protect the football.

RE: Is this game the best example of what you want to build as far as an identity with this franchise, considering the opponent, considering the circumstances?

I think identity definitely showed today in who we are at this present time, which is really trying to establish the run. Again, I still feel like our strength is upfront. I'm proud of the way we bounced back this week, but we have to run the ball and off of that try to create big plays over the top of our play action game.

RE: A week ago this team gave up 12 of 16 third downs against the Steelers, what did it mean to not only get that turnover but then have a stretch of three-and-outs against an offense that good?

It was good because I felt like it turned the game early on. We had two opportunities on third and long and we didn't get off the field, and it was like, "ok we can't go down this road again this week." We came up with a big turnover there and the offense took the ball down the field. But you know being able to get off the field on third down was definitely the key today for us on defense.

RE: You go into January now, win and you're in scenarios. Can you speak to how far you have come in the last 10 weeks since you have taken over?

We've made progress. I think this team has definitely done some good things, we're still a long way away from where we're trying to be. Our mindset is still to try and stay in the moment, as I mentioned. We are going to enjoy tomorrow, come back on Monday and get ready to go to work. This team is still young in so many different ways. I think for me being the head coach and being the leader of this team, I've got to make sure I keep that in perspective and make sure our focus is where it needs to be. 

RE: A lot of young teams tend to take the blow out or a letdown pretty hard. It seems like this team consistently bounces back. What does that say about the young leadership in your locker room?

It says a lot about the leadership, starting with Brian Burns, Taylor Moton, Shaq Thompson, those guys. And even some of our younger guys, Jaycee Horn, those guys have just really stepped up and gives us that guidance in the locker room that we need. I wasn't concerned about how we were going to bounce back. I saw how we practiced and I saw the guys talking this week to one another, and our communication was just like over the top. You know, we got embarrassed last week. That took a lot of pride to come back and do the things that we did this week and to come out with a great performance as we did today.

RE: You mentioned Jaycee Horn, he took a pretty big hit on that wrist. Any concern that he may have cracked it?

Don't know right now. We know it's a wrist. We're just going to wait and see exactly what happens with the MRI. Jaycee is a tough guy. Hopefully nothing serious is going to come of that.

RE: Has he had an X-Ray yet, do you know?

No, not yet.

RE: When you are able to run the ball down their throats like that, what does that do for the energy of the entire team and just the grit and explosion that they play with, on both sides of the ball?

I think you are right, it just creates that momentum throughout and everybody gets excited. You see the defensive guys standing up, encouraging the offense, and it just really just fuses this team to go to another level. Again, this time of the year, establishing the run. Someone mentioned the weather, in the cold, that's rough, tough, gritty, everything that we are about.

RE: Sam Darnold won with his feet early, and then had some critical third down throws, back-to-back games where he set season highs in his passing total. Can you speak to the confidence it appears he is playing with?

I think each and every week you can see Sam (Darnold) taking the next step, that progression. I agree, I think the confidence is there. You can see it with his ability to pull the ball down and run some. He's making accurate throws. You know, we had one that Terrace (Marshall Jr.) came up with, a great throw down the sideline, and then another one where Sam put it on, we've got to come up with that. Sam is doing some good things. He's running the offense efficiently but the one thing I keep going back to, he's protecting the football.


It was a team record for total yards and for rushing, in particular the rushing, when you came out and established that on the first play that there was a mentality on this offensive line that they were going to make up for what happened next week.

Yeah, no we definitely established the run early and yeah it was incredible the way we were able to run the ball. Credit to the offensive line, the receivers, tight ends, running backs, again man they showed up today and I think responded really well from what happened last week. I thought when we needed to throw the ball we were able to do that. Our receivers, tight ends, and backs made plays. I think all around we did a really good job. I feel like in the first half we still left a little bit out there that we could have executed a little better, but yeah, I thought up front the way we ran the ball those guys played really well today. 

It wasn't just the running game of course, according to the stats you were not hit in the pocket. Can you speak to, essentially the perfect game that the offensive line pitched today?

Yeah, I mean they did a great job, right? I mean whenever you are able to establish the run it makes everything else easier. That is just football. Again, credit to the offensive line. They responded really well from what happened last week against Pittsburgh and super proud of the guys. 

You made some great runs yourself, but were you inspired by the backs and their performance?

Definitely. Whenever I see those guys run I am like dang, I want some of that. Whenever I get the chance I am going to do my part in the run game whenever I am called upon. Again, I think it is just a credit to how those running backs run the football and how our offensive line blocks. When I am able to scamper free for 10, or 15, or 5 yards we'll take it. 

Today we actually got to see you attempt some of those bigger throws. What does that say about your development as a player and letting the game come to you?

I think you just said it there at the end. I think letting the game come to me as my Dad has always told me that. From when I was a little kid playing baseball. He has always just said don't force anything. Just let the game come to you and that has kind of been my mentality. Just staying patient with everything and when we get our shots to be able to take them and hit them. So, we are just going to continue to try and do that these last couple of games and see how we finish out.


RE: What the attitude is like going into Tampa Bay with first place on the line

It means a lot. It's good. It's cool. We got an opportunity. We can't make it too big for the moment if you know what I mean by that. We've just got to take it as is it's a game. Take it one step at a time, one play at a time.

RE: His two sacks against Detroit

One of them came down just to beating my guy. The other one came down to really just watching film and using my instinct and IQ to sniff out the play action. So, I mean that's all it was. But overall, we rushed well as a front.

RE: How Coach Wilks' adjustments as head coach have impacted the team

He just made the emphasis that basically our true character is going to shine by the way we respond from last week. I think Wilks is a dog, (defensive coordinator) Al (Holcomb) is a dog. I feel like that dog is shining through us all if you dig what I'm saying. So like, I don't know. That message got the guys riled up and they played outstanding.

RE: If he is seeing the team's true identity beginning to show

Yeah, for sure. I feel like we always had that dog in us. I just feel like when you put emphasis in the right place and let guys know don't be afraid the call them out. He called some of us out again, and he needs to call us out every week because people are responding really well.


RE: Stopping Detroit's two-point conversion

 I saw the tight end kind of looking back, they were all kind of inside the numbers. 30 (Jamaal Williams) was in the backfield and I was in a call where I can just be in the backfield. So good call by Al (Holcomb) you know, putting me in that position and making a play. And then the goal line they went for the two. I was just the widest of the widest at the punch. And by the time they snapped the ball I seen the pitch, so it was reaction from there on.

RE: How seeing the offense succeed energizes the defense

It fires us up man. Because we know what our offense can do. They run the ball hard nose. For them to be on the field and keep us fresh on the sideline helps us a lot. Just complimentary football every series.

RE: Holding the Lions offense to below average production

Uh I would just say taking pride in re-establishing ourselves as a defense, as a team. You know the Pittsburgh game we kind of fumbled on the run here and there, but we took a step back and just went back to holding onto the rope as a defense and taking that pride and coming out with the dub.

RE: Closing the season knowing what's at stake

Just keep stacking days day in and day out. Good team win coming into Tampa. You know just Brady; you never know what he brings. He brings a lot to the game so it's us as a defense to make sure everyone's healthy. Jaycee (Horn) went down. 12 (Shi Smith) went down today on offense so we just got to keep healthy.


RE: The rushing performance in the first half and how it felt for both him and D'Onta Foreman to rush for 100 yards each in the first half

It was definitely good. I've got to turn those 30s (yard runs) in to 60 in just one piece obviously. I felt that the o-line did a great job blocking, the receivers did a great job. Everyone was just on point today, and it showed.

RE: The challenging of getting past last week's performance against Pittsburgh and bring energy and have the performance the team had today

I mean, Coach Wilks talked all week, saying this week's going to show our true character, our true identity, and it showed so we just pride ourselves on getting back to what we're used to doing and we got back to it.

RE: What it means to be part of the team that set single-game records for rushing yards and total yards today

You said it yourself, it's special. The fact that I was able to contribute to that, help us get a win, it's what I dreamed of when I was a kid so definitely just blessed. 


RE: 320 yards, a franchise record on the ground. That has to be an offensive lineman's dream right?

It's the best Christmas ever.

RE: Not only did you set the rushing record but Sam (Darnold) wasn't hit all game. Was this the most complete performance you've seen?

I haven't seen the film yet but at the end of the day, we got the dub. We were able to run the ball when and how we wanted to run it and Sam was able to stay clean. It's a great day in the office to me but personally I'm never satisfied. I'm always looking to find ways to continue to get better.

RE: The difference between last week against Pittsburgh and today

It feels good to go out there and have a good performance. Last week, we learned from it, grew from it and just did whatever we could to take the next step. It's what Coach Wilks talks about.

RE: How much did mixing the power run and big plays help you get in rhythm?

I think it helped. I think that's the testament to the offensive coordinator, Coach McAdoo, putting us in the right situations. Ultimately, with a run game like that, it's not just the offensive line, it's the coordinator putting us in the right spots. It's the defense doing their job so we can continue to have that lead. The passing game so that they know that's a threat as well. The receivers, credit to them because they went and blocked and did their thing in the perimeter. The tight ends did their thing. The backs stayed with their guys. It was a whole team effort.

View photos from the field, tunnel and locker room as the Panthers celebrated a record-setting win over the Lions.

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