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Postgame Transcripts: Week 17 at Tampa Bay

Interim head coach STEVE WILKS

(Opening Statement)

"All the credit to Tampa Bay – they made more plays than us today. Given our opportunities to come with plays, they made them, and we didn't. We've got to do a much better job of protecting the football. We can't give up explosive plays as we did. Turning the ball over led to 10 points, and you can't win against a quarterback like that turning the ball over. With that, I'll take your questions."

(On the health of the secondary and the performance of CB CJ Henderson after surrendering significant yardage in coverage)

"It's hard to say right now on the surface. I saw exactly what you saw with what you stated. Giving you the reason why – I'd have to watch the tape and then I'd be able to give you a more detailed answer on that question."

(On if there was any thought to using CB Josh Norman more often)

"We talked about it as a staff and defensively we felt like we didn't want to put him in a strange situation like that. We talked about it, but decided to stay with the guys that we had."

(On his message to the team in the locker room following the game)

"The message to the team afterwards was we didn't do what we wanted to do. They made more plays than what we did today, so we have to give those guys all the credit. We didn't play according to our DNA, which is physicality and effort, which I thought for the most part you saw that. We didn't play smart, not at all. The one thing I stated to those guys is the last element we're going to do this week, and that's finish. That's what men do. That's what good football teams do regardless of the record, regardless of the circumstances. We're going to come in tomorrow and put this game to bed and have a great week of practice with that leading to game day execution. We're going to finish next week and that's our mindset."

(On the offensive game plan coming in that seemingly put more focus on the passing game)

"Well, I think everything is based off what they're doing. As you can see, they were loading the box somewhat like Pittsburgh. So, we had to loosen them up a little bit. And I believe in taking what they give you and then coming back and being able to take what you want. I felt like at times we were able to get the ball out in open space and guys could do some things. But we shot ourselves in the foot when we turned it over."

(On the lack of over-the-top help on defense)

"Well, I think based off the call in certain situations, even if it's single-high, ok, with the ball being on the outside it's going to be tough for that post piece to get there. But one time we were in Cover 2 and the safety wasn't there – he cheated to the field."

(On the three long yardage plays to Buccaneers WR Mike Evans and if there were adjustments to combat those type of chunk plays)

"When you talk about adjustments, I don't think it's schematic. I think it's just executing your technique. The question was, did we have depth over the top – yes we did in Cover 2 – the safety wasn't there. And then one, I think Evans slowed down a little bit, which predicated CJ [Henderson] slowing down, then all of a sudden he took off, so [Tom] Brady laid it out there. So again, I don't think it's from the standpoint of adjustments, I just think you just have to go execute."

(On whether or not Panthers QB Sam Darnold forced the pass that was intercepted by Buccaneers CB Sean Murphy-Bunting at the 1-yard-line in the third quarter)

"I can't say regardless whether or not he forced it or not. Again, I have to be able to watch the tape. I just know we have to be able to protect the football."


(On what he saw as the difference today)

"Obviously, they had a good plan. I think Coach Bowles obviously got those guys ready to go. All credit to them for the way they came out and played. I thought we played really well in the first half. Obviously, the fumble at the end of the second [quarter] gave them some momentum – they kicked the field goal there. Our defense, I thought did a really good job in the redzone, holding them to a field goal there. Driving down, in the beginning of the second half, just driving down and giving my guy a shot – the pick there was unfortunate. We were driving down. I think we had some really good momentum, as an offensive going, and just didn't put it in a good spot to be able to give 'Sully' [Stephen Sullivan] a chance there. Those are the throws you gotta make in a tight ball game."

(On what the emotions are coming out of this game)

"Yeah, I mean it sucks. Obviously, we knew what we were fighting for. To come away with – to be that close. Especially going down there, Eddy [Piñeiro] kicking a field goal. Obviously we don't get the on-side but our defense coming up with three big stops there and we had a chance at the end, just came up a little short. A lot of emotion goes into it because we know the kind of preparation that goes into it throughout the week. Not just throughout the week, but throughout the whole season, to accomplish our goal. We were right there at the end and we just couldn't get it done."

(On the Panthers battling throughout the season)

"I think that's the credit to the guys in that locker room. They've been doing a good job all year with battling through adversity. You name it, we've kind of dealt with it this year. I thought we did a really good job battling through that stuff, not only off the field but on the field. I think it showed in the last few games."

(On how they specifically battled through adversity and kept fighting)

"We just continue to fight throughout the games and throughout the season. I saw it even when I wasn't playing. As I was coming back from injury, I saw it in every guy in the locker room. I knew the kind of resilience that we had."


(On his response after the defense gave up each of the big plays)
"Some of them I kind of checked up on myself. That is because of the standard I put on myself. I felt like there were times [Tom] Brady had all day in the pocket. I put that on me because even if I'm getting chipped, I didn't get to my rush fast enough to help out. That is why I said I'm disappointed in myself and the defense as a whole. We just make our adjustments, and we try to stay positive, stay in the game. We can't let one play or a couple plays destroy us, so we just try to stay positive."

(On whether the loss was tougher with it being a winnable game)

"Very. Like I said, when we hopped out on them, we can't let momentum change. We can't let it switch that fast and twist that bad. I felt like we really started fast, we just have to be able to put them away."

(On how close the defense is to becoming great)

"Yeah, I mean we went through a lot this season. At the end of the day, we didn't get what we wanted, what I think that we were capable of, and it was right there in front of us. Very, very, very realistic. It was there, we were all over them. They made more plays than we did. I tip my hat to them."


(On how frustrating today's loss was)

"It is very frustrating. We work hard to get to this position. Nobody was going to hand us anything or give us anything. A lot of credit to those guys. They went out there and made more plays than we did today. I'm proud of every guy in this locker room. I know we fought hard. Nobody gave up, everybody knew what the task was. Unfortunately, that is part of the NFL. You prepare well, you go out there and give it your all, and sometimes it doesn't work out for you. We just have to find a way to get better and continue to grow."

(On the struggles with the running game)
"I feel like, they came in and had a really good game plan. I think we were just one block here, one block there. We still had creases. I felt they were getting to us on the backside on some of our plays. It was just a tough fought game. We are not going to dominate, and run the ball 200-300 yards against everybody, it is just not going to happen. I feel like even with that being the case, we were still in the game. Like I said, they just made more plays than we did." 

(On how proud he is of the team and what he has seen the last few weeks)

"Growth. Our mentality changed. Guys who committed to the job, who committed to getting better each and every day, and people who want to win - when you are around a group of guys like that, to come up short, it is just a bad feeling. We still have another game; we still have to go and finish this season the right way and I think that could put us on a trajectory for next year. But you have to stay focused. I think we have made a lot of good strides this year. We flipped some things around when people didn't give us a chance to even be in the position that we are in right now. It is tough."


(On his coverage of Mike Evans)

"He just got me, straight up."

(On what makes defending Mike Evans difficult)

"I mean he just got me. It was nothing he did. He made plays. I didn't."

(On what it means that the team was fighting until the end)

"We fight until the end. They ended up making more plays than us."

(On whether there was confusion on the touchdown plays with Mike Evans)

"No confusion. He just made plays."

View the best in-game photos from Carolina's Week 17 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on New Years Day.

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