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Carolina Panthers

Postgame Transcripts: Week 2 at New York Giants

Head coach Matt Rhule

Opening Statement: Alright guys, obviously a very, very disappointing game. My heart hurts for the guys in that locker room I know how much they wanted to win the football game. Made some mistakes early in the game. The defense bailed us out through that, took the lead in the second half only to see it slip away. Obviously for our guys that's two games in a row where we've come down to the very end with a chance to win the game and come up short both times. I take full responsibility for that. That's my job, that falls on me. I have to help these guys find a way to make just one more play and win the game. They're trying, they're grinding, they're working. They left it all on the field today and we are coming up just a play or two short and I know how frustrated they are. I know you guys have a lot of questions about the game, I just want to make sure I say that we're close. I believe that in with all my heart. I think we're so close, we're coming down the stretch but we haven't found a way to get it done. That's my job, to help us get over that last hump. It's the hardest part and we haven't done it yet. Didn't do it today. So, with that I'll answer the questions that you have.

Q: What was the thought behind the third and six play call?

A: I can't say about it yet, I'd have to see the tape. We're third and six we're just trying to hit (Running Back) Christian (McCaffrey) on a quick play. We were going to go for it on fourth down, but it was fourth and seven and we weren't ready to go for that once there was the sack. So, I just saw the edge guy come off the edge and we would like to be able to stay on one side and block together but what call he made. I didn't have a chance to talk to them again about what happened. But that was really the tale of the second half. Our inability on third down to handle the pressure packages and once we took that lead, we were not able to stay on the field.

Q: You accomplished a lot what you wanted today - you shut down (Running Back Saquon) Barkley for most the game, Christian had over 100 yards, what exactly do you feel like went wrong?

A: I think it was the third downs in the second half. I think we finished at six of 18 but they weren't very good at halftime. A couple scramble plays, find someone open for them enabled them to extend drives and kick field goals. Thought we played the run well for most the day. They no yards rushing at halftime but did finish the second half with some runs. Then our inability to run the ball and stay on the field as I said. Even that last drive, two weeks in a row now both third down not really being our friend not finding a way to stay on the field, continue to get more 'at bats' for guys, more touches for guys. So, credit them, they've got a lot of pressures. The pressures change throughout the game. They did a lot of different things. Wink's (Martindale) a fantastic defensive coordinator and we picked a lot of them up but end the end, not enough. 

Q: On being intentional getting Christian McCaffrey the ball.

A: I think we felt like as we got into the game, you can tell the downhill running game is what was clicking. We felt like we had some good runs, with the downhill running game. So, coming out of last week of there not being a lot of plays in the first half. We felt like we needed to get him some more touches in the first half. I think in the second half it kind of settled into like 'Hey this is how they're playing the downhill run game'. Those were things that we tried to focus on.

Q: What did you see from (Quarterback) Baker (Mayfield) today?

A: I think the pressure, he made some good plays, I thought the pressure of having the ball in his hand at the end of the game, like the seam route, the hot that he threw to (Tight End) Ian (Thomas). I thought earlier on he burned the blitz with a couple of really nice throws that extended the drive. But in the end, we weren't able to, going back to the earlier question, I can't say on all of the blitzes I don't know the call until I talk to him afterward. So I have to go back and see as we watch the tape. But we knew it was going to be a challenge coming in with their blitz packages and all the things they would throw at us. Just weren't able to get enough of them done. I thought he competed, Baker's always going to compete. I feel like, again, as he continues to be in the offense, some of the things he did today were really high level some of the those height adjustments and hots, as he continues in the offense I think it's all going to click for him and he's going to see it and play really fast. 

Q: Why do you say you guys are close to winning?

A: Because I know how much those guys wanted to win. I'm honored to coach those guys and I told them 'At the end we're 0-2, we haven't played an NFC South game yet,' I just want them to stay locked in. I really believe that they're close. At the end of the day we're just, we haven't taken the ball away in two games, so as good of a defense as we play, to think that at halftime we'd be minus two and we would be tied 6-6 I wouldn't have believed that. All the things I know we're capable of doing just haven't quite happened yet but it doesn't mean we're not capable of doing them. So, I hurt for them, at the same time we have a lot of football left and I think we have to get better. We have to get better in terms of a lot of things. But, we're not punch drunk. We're not sitting there like' Oh gosh poor us'. We're just hurt because we took the lead in the second half, following all the way back and it felt like we got things going. Again, they made one more play than we made. 

Q: (inaudible)

A: I think our guys just want to win the games. I thought today, they did such a good job of being in the moment and not letting negative plays bother them. Just win the next rep, play the next rep. I'm sure they wanted to win but I don't think we'd want to win the game more than the other. I know our guys they'll hurt on the way home, they'll hurt tomorrow, they'll recover Tuesday and they'll come in Wednesday and be thinking about the Saints and be thinking about the NFC South. I think the takeaway for us is that we are right there. But you know what, we've got to find a way to win. We've got to find a way to win. Whether that's picking the ball off or breaking one more tackle or making a better call, whatever it is. It's all of us in that room. It's just my job as a leader to stand up and say, 'Hey it all falls on me.' I'm happy to say that for those guys and if I know those guys, those guys are going to continue to battle. 

Q: How do you improve the two and 12, the third down situations?

A: It's two games in a row. I think it comes down to, a lot of it is just perfection wise. Again, today was not about one-on-one pass rushes. I never saw a time where a guy just got straight beat. It looked like it was just bringing extra guys. So, I just think we knew the system, (Giants Defensive Coordinator) Coach Martindale is one of the best of the best at doing this and we knew there were going to be a lot of challenges. We just have to continue to work, we have to continue to improve in those areas. I think if we can protect the quarterback, a guy can get open and make plays, but we've got to go under the rest, kind of running around all the time and (inaudible). 

Q: You talk about finding a way to get over the hump. Did you consider on the fly making any changes? (Running Back) Chuba (Hubbard) had a couple of fumbles, (Wide Receiver) Shi (Smith) had a couple of drops…

A: I think Shi's one of our better players and obviously we'd love for him to catch that ball across the middle. I believe in Chuba, but you can't put the second one on the ground. I know you're down and all that. He's practiced all week at it. We're at that point right now, we don't need the change we just need to battle through and push through. That to me is how you get over the hump, is you just freaking push over the hump. You don't want to start the game like that and you can't do it again. So, we'll just continue to work at it. But I think as we head into the off week, we had two guys go down injured, we have to look at everything in terms of, 'Hey are we playing this guy and not that guy enough?' But, I didn't see anyone guy that I said, 'Hey, this guy is not (battling)'. Guys were battling. There were just a couple things wrong. 

Q: You say you guys are close, what evidence do you have that comes from that locker room?

A: Pretty much every game is going to come down to the final five minutes of the game. This is yet another one that comes down to the final five minutes of the game and that's twice now that we've had a chance to go win it. Even at the end, that last naked, we were in position to tackle (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) and get the ball back. Third and seven, as I said we were going to go for it on fourth down. They got the six yards. Matt kind of gave him the first down so that we would be able to kind of get the possession back and we had them on a third down. To me it's not like, 'hey guys we're close hang in there,' it's more like you know they're going to come down to the last five minutes of the game. Last week did, this week did. We've got to win those games though and we know that. That's why I start by saying hey that's on me. I don't think I have to prove it to them. They're the ones out there playing, they want to win so badly. If we don't kick the ball away, we're probably not going to win. If we're minus two we're probably not going to win, yet we're still having a chance. We've got to get off to a better start on offense. We have to just find a way to stay on the field on third down on offense. There's a lot of things we have to do better and yet we're still third down and a stretch with a chance to win. That's kind of how I think we all look at it. 

Q: Is it as clear what needs to be fixed in Week 2 going into Week 3?

A: Yeah, I think the things we just talked about. I thought our defense was dominant for a long stretches, we're going to have to take the ball away. We're going to have to help the offense out. I thought our offense showed some explosiveness. We had an explosive run, we had some explosive passes, but we're going to have to score touchdowns in the red zone not field goals. And the third down that I talked about. (Kicker) Eddy's (Piñeiro) coming out and hanging in there for us doing a nice job kicking. If we don't win third down on offense it's going to be hard for us to get the amount of touches and plays that we need and on defense we have to steal possessions. Those things are all still there, we just have to battle our way through it.

Q: I know it was tough decision on 4th and 16, but did you think about that?

A: I think because we went fast field goal and if it were to be closer to the two-minute warning I wouldn't have done it. We were able to get it to 2:06, use that as the play. Again, they got six yards on first down, didn't want that so we kind of... 

Q: So that was done on purpose?

A: Pretty much. It's one of those deals like, 'hey try to time the snap count out and make a tackle for a loss. If you're offsides it's okay. Give them a first down because we have three timeouts.' So, not, 'hey jump offsides but like try to jump and maybe they're going speed break.' If we get a tackle for loss great. If not, it would've been second and four and they would've run it the game would've been over. So got him to the third down. Got to see the tape because we kind of knew it was going to be a naked. We played the naked, we just over played it. Great play by Daniel, a credit to him. That was sort of the thought process, again fourth and eight was kind of the cut off mark for us to go for it. If not, we can beat the two-minute warning and make them run a play and the two-minute warning we'll kick it. That was kind of the plan.

QB Baker Mayfield

Q: What did you see on third-and-6 where they brought (Giants Safety Julian) Love off the corner?

A: We've just got to be able to handle the pressure. I mean that's not anything that we weren't aware of coming into this game. We knew that they're a pressure team, that they give you Iooks, they make it hard on you to pass it off just from an identification standpoint. It was hard for (Left Tackle) Ikey (Ekwonu) to be able to go from one person to the other and squeeze that down. That's just a tough look. I've got to do a better job of being able to get the ball out and give us a chance to win right there. It comes back to overcoming stuff in the beginning and just handling it and not having to be in that situation in the end.

Q: It think you guys got (Running Back) Christian (McCaffrey) over 100 yards. A lot of things were going right, but what went wrong that kept you guys from being more explosive and putting more points on the board?

A: Just staying on the field. I don't know what our conversion percentage was on third down, but I know that was not very good. Getting down there and getting field goals instead of touchdowns in the red zone. You look back at that and that will kill us. Obviously, the turnovers early and then they got six points off of that and then we didn't get touchdowns in the red zone. There's a huge swing in points right there. We've just got to be able to convert when we need it.

Q: You had a couple of passes batted down early, but that seemed to go away as the game went on. What was different, what changed?

A: It just comes back to them not being able to get back there to me. So, they stop rushing and put their hands up. I think that's an overcomplicated question that everybody keeps asking about. Batted passes happen all the time. 

Q: (Head Coach) Matt (Rhule) was saying he feels like the team is right there and victory is right there. Can you keep the optimism going and that belief after two losses?

A: Yeah, because there are fifteen more games. We haven't played a division game yet. We have that coming up next week. We have to settle in and believe in what we're capable of and just go execute. Like I said, it comes down to execution on Sundays. We prepare our (butts) off. We work during the week—there's no question about that. We're ready to go. We just have to come out and execute. It comes down to the little things—holding onto the ball, third down conversions, red zone, touchdowns instead of field goals and just executing. It's a lot of ball left. We're a young team that just needs to believe in the process and trust that it's going to come because once it does, we're going to get rolling.

Q: How tough were the early turnovers that you got?

A: I mean, it's the mental thing, you know. You look at it we were six-six at halftime with two turnovers, but the defense has gotten horrible field position. That's two games in a row. They held them to field goals. If you would have said we gave them the ball in positive territory and came into halftime and it was six-six, you should be pretty happy about that. Let's just eliminate our own mistakes and just go play.

Q: In the third quarter, I think it was the third down you had rolled out to the right and tried to get shot. Can you walk us through that play?

A: It's a pretty classic play. Joe Montana ran it way back in the day, Bill Walsh. Just an option rub over there. They passed it off and did a good job of trying to take (Wide Receiver) DJ (Moore) away in the flat and sunk underneath (Wide Receiver) Shi (Smith). It's just one of those looks that when you practice it, you're not really prepared for it, and we know when they pass it off that we just have to be able to take it high. It's just a bang-bang play. We're very, very close from that being an explosive play for a touchdown. I can't set up and stop my feet just because it's a sprint out or else I would try to, to give them a better ball, but it was very, very close on that one.

Q: Did you think he was going to be a little higher up?

A: No, the way he's supposed to run the route, he's supposed to come out of it and break it flat. We've just got to play ball. It's one of those things in the moment. He's a good player, he's got to be able to make plays, but that's a look that I kind of caught him off guard and we were very close to still making the play.

Q: Why aren't we seeing (Wide Receiver) Rashard (Higgins) and (Wide Receiver) Terrace (Marshall Jr.) on the field?

A: That's not a question for me. I'm playing with whoever is out there. I don't deal with playing time.

Q: It felt like you were really having to run for your life a lot of the times. Did you feel that way?

A: No. There was one drive in particular where I felt like I moved around in the pocket and created my own pressure. That's going to happen in these games where they do bring more than you have to block, and there were also lanes to run. Just trying to take advantage of that. It's finding the balance of taking off and running when there are yards to be had and also sitting in there and letting our playmakers do the work.

Q: The average fan at home may see your guys' first drive of the third quarter and see a robust, fully functioning offense and then they don't see that afterwards. How would you explain the reasoning for that?

A: Right now, you look at the efficiency on first and second down and not putting ourselves in third down – in third and long should I say. Obviously when you hit an explosive play on first down to DJ (Moore) and then you come up and you gain more yards on the second down and then your third play is a touchdown, it's when we're clicking. It's when everyone is doing their job, so we just have to eliminate negative plays so we can stay on the field and convert on third downs, most importantly, and obviously it helps if it's a shorter distance.

Q: What's your message to your team right now after this 0-2 start and being a captain on the team?

A: It's not overcomplicated to be honest with you. We just have to come out and play. It's the mental hump of the 0-2 record, but knowing that there's a lot of ball left, but also, you know, you think about it, like I said we were six-six at half time, when we should have been losing if you look at the stats and the situations, but we're very close. Eliminate our own mistakes and just go play. We put in the work, we deserve to have fun on Sundays and go execute.

RB Christian McCaffrey

Q: They got you on track today, the defense made some stands early. A lot of things were going right, but what do you feel like went wrong here?

A: I have to watch the tape. We just have to find a way to win. Find a way to win these games in the end. 

Q: (Head Coach) Matt (Rhule) talked with us – and I'm sure with you guys – about being close. At what point do you get tired of hearing about being close?

A: Every loss hurts. We're 0-2. On to Week 3. 

Q: What do you tell the guys who haven't been through something like this in this locker room? Keep your head up and keep grinding?

A: Yeah, it's the only thing to do. Getting emotional is not sustainable in this league. It's about working every single day and that's about it. You show up every day and you put in work. You work as hard as you can, taking care of your body. Perfecting the playbook, understanding their defense, being prepared for all of the looks. That's what you should consume your head with. That's what we have to consume our head with, is just work. 

Q: The struggles on third down, how frustrating is it when you can't extend drives and maybe keep things going right early and continue those on?

A: Yeah, it's frustrating. We want to convert on third downs. We want to be better on third downs and being better on first and second downs will help us out. 

Q: How much did their pressure bother your offense?

A: We'll have to check the tape. Obviously when you play teams like that, it's high risk, high reward. We just have to do a better job of taking advantage of that.

Q: Did you notice any particular theme or recurring deal on the third down issues?

A: I'll have to check the tape.

WR DJ Moore

Q: What does the offense need to do to improve?

A: We just have to start off fast. We can't have a turnover on the first play on the kick return. That just set us back. Once we fix the little things and protect the ball, we should be good.

Q: What do you tell these young guys about these tough losses and what they need to do to put them in the past?

A: It's the NFL. Every game is going to come down to the wire. As you saw today it was a close game. The young guys have to know that in the NFL, as pros, it's going to come down to the wire every time.

View best in-game photos from Carolina's game against New York.

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