Postgame Transcripts: Week 2 vs. New Orleans Saints

PANTHERS HEAD COACH MATT RHULE

RE: Opening Statement

I feel, obviously, very proud of the guys today. I thought it was a good team win. I thought our guys played hard. A lot of things we have to get corrected. A lot of guys went down today. A lot of new guys stepped up. Too many coaching errors in the first half. You know, having to call time out because we have the wrong call in or one of our players gets confused. We have to clean a lot of things up as a coaching staff first and then in the second half, offensively, we just continue to kind of have that lull, especially when we have a lead. We just have to learn how to be aggressive but still be smart. I thought at the end though, despite the woes of the kicking game, just not enough good plays in the kicking game. I thought our guys on offense made the plays they had to make. Zane [Gonzalez] stepped up and defensively, obviously, we got a lot of pressure all day and stopped the run. Obviously, the Saints have been through a lot over the last month. Respect for them. A tremendous amount of respect for Sean Payton, down coaches this week, and we know we will see them again at the end of the season for a great game.

RE: Consistent pressure from the defense

It changes things and I think there are two parts to that. I think it's stopping the run because then on 2nd and 7 you are not sitting here playing a run defense now and you know what, we trusted the players. We played a lot of bear five up guys and played man to man defense today. Keith Taylor was out there Rashaan Melvin was out there. Those guys stepped up. You know, Juston Burris went down and played the nickel. It was a tale of a lot of guys. I just think we played really well up front and I think Phil [Snow] called an amazing game. He was bringing pressures and showing pressure and coming the other side. I think it was a great job by the defensive staff but also our players. At the end of the day, they owned it. They delivered on it. I think Shaq [Thompson] continues to be a tremendous field general out there. I was proud of that part of the game.

RE: Christian McCaffrey health

Tired, cramps. I just think he was having some cramps. They had to go put a bag of fluid in him. Just cramps.

RE: Depth of defensive front

We play a lot of guys. As long as everyone does their job so guys are being diligent about doing their jobs because a lot of the things are pretty complex. They are not just four-man rush. We have gotten some pressure with the four-man rush but trying to bring different pressures. Guys have to really prepare because we have some different things up each week. I think Al Holcomb, Mike Siravo, Frank Okam and Don Johnson have done a good job of getting different guys ready at different positions. So, they are kind of teaching conceptually and the guys come out ready to execute.

RE: Sam Darnold's progression from Week 1 to Week 2

I didn't see him, I have to watch the tape, but I didn't see him miss the same throws. A couple, 2 or 3 throws, I thought he was really poised. Obviously, the one turnover can't happen. It was kind of a jumbled look and we'd just rather get rid of the ball and continue the play. But I'm not asking him to be perfect the entire season. So, I thought he made big throws in crucial downs, on third down. I thought the real story of the game was our offensive line protected him. They got some sacks late in the game when they were kind of sending a ton of people and we weren't being quite as aggressive. For the most part I thought our offensive line played really well today. You know Pat Elflein went down and Dennis Daley stepped up. He goes down. Brady Christensen goes in the game. A lot of guys were ready to go.

RE: Was Pat Elflein injury a reaggravation of injury earlier in the week?

No. Just had a strain of hamstring. We will see how long because obviously a short week so we have to see who is ready. I'll come in tomorrow and probably by tomorrow afternoon after them come in for treatment, I'll know who is ready for this week.

RE: What does this win do for your team?

I just think it means we are 1-0 this week and we have to get ready for next week. It shows a lot of the things we are doing well. It's like when you win or lose, you see what you do well and you see what you are not doing well. You can't have a field goal blocked and run back. That just can't happen in the National Football League. You can't turn the ball over on the 10-yard line. We can't have them have the ball first and goal and we make an unbelievable play, get them to 3rd-9 and then we let the quarterback run in which we all know, you guys heard me say it this week, keep Jameis [Winston] in the pocket. When those things happen, that is the mark of, hey there are a lot of things to still improve upon. There are also a lot of great things that happened out there. We just have to be really honest about what are we doing well, what are we not doing well. It's boring. It's the same thing I said last year when we would win or lose. It's just about trying to improve this week and it's a short week. The Texans are a good team. It's going to be hard. We have got to put this win behind us and understand that today is really like a Wednesday of a game week. I'm going to go home and hang out with my wife and kids and then start working tonight. It's going to be a heck of a turnaround.

RE: Starting 2-0

I'm sure the guys are happy we won. I think they have to feel like, ok, hey, I want them to feel like my hard work and preparation is working. I think that's the message. It's not about am I good enough. It's am I doing the right things to win and then they have to be honest about, hey, this is what I need to do to improve. When you win a game, it brings a whole new set of problems. We have got to improve. But I want them to be happy. They work really hard. We have guys who lay it on the line and sacrifice a lot. There is a lot of sacrifice and humility from a lot of guys in that locker room. You can't have that many sacks from that many people and not have it be everyone else doing their jobs. So that guy gets up and the camera goes on him but a lot of guys covering, doing a nice job. And it's the offense. Trust me, there are so many times 4th and 1, 4th and 2, I want to go for it but I keep saying you've got a good defense today. Trust the defense. Pump the ball down. It's just a little bit of everyone to me.

RE: Defense's success against Alvin Kamara today

I have to see the tape. Obviously, I thought we did a nice job of stopping the run and it looked like to me we had Shaq [Thompson] on Kamara and [Jeremy] Chinn on Kamara. It looked like to me that they did a good job. Alvin Kamara is one of the best players in football. I have so much respect for who he is as a player. It's just one of those days where we got some pressure. I can't say much more than that other than watching the tape.

RE: Tone set by scoring on first possession

It's one of those things that hasn't really happened. We haven't had a ton of success early. I think it was just tremendous. We executed. Everyone kind of did their jobs. [Brandon] Zylstra goes out there and I thought Zylstra was really one of the players that stepped up today. I don't know how many catches he had – three catches, a touchdown, caught a slant when they overloaded the box and brought pressure. They were kind of key crucial plays. I think that probably gave us a little bit of momentum and energy. I think the message we had to ourselves is this game is going to be all about the 4th quarter so let's play loose and free in the first half and third quarter let's play loose and free and let's get to the 4th quarter and execute. We were pretty good in the 4th quarter. Obviously, they scored that one play and after that I thought guys hung in there.

RE: How do you eliminate that second half lull?

I think we have to, again, its kind of hard. The defense is playing so well so you are not being overly aggressive. We just have to continue to go back and look at who is not quite doing their job. There are a bunch of plays we feel like we should have executed better. It's just like anything else – young teams teaching them, hey don't look at the scoreboard, just keep playing, keep playing. I thought the defense though, last week in the third quarter and again this week in the third quarter, I thought they hung in there. They got tired and they continued to play. We are just going to have to work our way through that.

RE: Blocked field goal

I thought all day our field goal protection wasn't very good. They were swimming us. Literally on the last one, I think we called time out before the last one, is that correct? I called timeout to bring them over to say 'hey, listen, they are swimming you. Everyone get your heads up.' It looked like the kick might have been low just from the field level but I have to go watch the tape. But I do know this, there was too much even on the one we missed on the extra point, there is too much in the kicker's face pressure wise. We have to get that corrected. It was just apparent to me on the field.

RE: Importance of getting off the field today

That's really all last year to have the issue of getting off the field. I think our 3rd down defense… So it's hard for me to keep referencing last year. These guys have done a good job at that. It's just all, again, its complimentary football. It's stopping the run. It's getting pressure on 2nd down. It's guys covering. Not having a ton of defensive penalties. I think the guys are working really hard on third down. They are coming in knowing, hey, we have to be better on third down. We have to be better in the two-minute which we were today. We wanted to be really good in the red zone so that touchdown will bother a lot of us because we covered everyone. On 3rdand 8 at the eight, if you cover everyone there shouldn't be a touchdown. So, we have to improve that.

_PANTHERS QUARTERBACK SAM DARNOLD _

RE: What does this win mean and does it legitimize being a factor in this division?

I mean it's a good win, good divisional win. Still a lot of things that we could clean up on offense. Defense did a great job out there but there's still a lot to clean up. Its early in the season, we're just going to keep taking it one game at a time.

RE: To get the win, but know you didn't play perfectly, is that good?

I think most teams have said the same thing. I think every team in the NFL is continuing to build and you start to find your identity as a team as the year goes on, and I think we're in the process of that. We're going to continue to work and get better.

RE: Today more than week one they rolled you out, had you some bootlegs, was that a part of the game plan?

I think, even in training camp and before the season started, Joe (Brady) had always talked about using that run game, and then booting off of it, play actions. It's not just the boot, it's play actions as well. Again, it's just great play calls by Joe and its up to us to execute them.

RE: Brandon Zylstra

(Brandon) Zylstra did amazing. The way he came out, he just made big plays. He was there, he was in the right spot every time. He did a great job.

RE: Confidence level now versus the last two or three years?

I'm just going to continue to do my job. That's all I am worried about. I have always had a lot of confidence, that's never going to change, just finding completions and continuing to move the ball down the field, it's a good feeling.

RE: Play action

When you are able to run the ball, it makes it easier to play action. It starts with the run game and I think we have been able to do a good job with that.

RE: Defense

It's great, it's complimentary football, we talk about it all of the time. But us having the ball and sustaining drives, obviously we want to do more in the red zone, we want to score more points. But to be able to stay on the field as an offense and then our defense going out and creating three and outs and stopping them, it's really good football.

RE: How has the defense made things easier for the offense?

When you are able to create three-and-outs and their defense doesn't get really the breather that they might want, it's easier for us to go out there and run the ball and have misdirection because they are a little bit more tired. That's the way the game works, so it was good.

RE: Not having McCaffrey in the huddle

Obviously, you would like to have him out there, but we have great players all around me to be able to step in. I thought Chuba (Hubbard) did a good job when he came in and that's what you need. Sometimes something is going to happen, hopefully not, something is going to happen to one guy, another guy has to step up.

RE: How did McCaffrey play when he came back in?

He played great. That rushing touchdown was an amazing run. To be able to make that safety miss, and to score on that it was obviously the turning point in the game.

RE: What plays did you make today that could define how well you are playing?

I don't know. I don't know, I think I am going to have to watch it. Again, I think I am just playing within myself. I think that is the biggest thing that I need to continue to do, is just not do too much and just take what the defense gives me, and that's pretty much it.

RE: Scoring on the first drive to set the tone offensively

Yeah, it was great play calling by Joe. Our offensive line really led the way on that drive. The energy they came out with, really that they had all day was amazing. They really set the tone early in that game, which I credit them a great deal there. And then everyone was just on the same page. We were executing at a high level and obviously you want to sustain that. We didn't do that as much in the middle of the game, coming out of the half. We will get better, we'll watch the tape and learn from it. I am really proud of the way we started.

RE: First time 2-0 as a starting quarterback in NFL career?

Are you asking? I don't know.

RE: The lull offensively after halftime, how do you eliminate that going forward?

I think you just have to come out faster. It starts with a mindset. Coming out, out of the half and understanding, ok our defense is going to get a three-and-out, we're going to get the ball and go right down the field and score. It's having that mind set.

RE: Chemistry with DJ Moore

You know, DJ (Moore) is a really good player. He is going to find a way to get open and that's kind of his thing. Whenever he gets man coverage, even in the zones, he can find those spots. That's really how everyone plays, but DJ especially.

RE: Today's win

It's a great feeling to walk out of here with a win. But like I said, we didn't execute, necessarily the way that we wanted in the second half. And I think that is going to be a huge point of emphasis this Thursday night.

RE: Shovel pass on the interception

I just tried to get it out to Chuba, it was a bad play. Tried to get it out to Chuba and should have just gone down or thrown it away.

RE: How does it feel to be 2-0?

It feels good. It's another good win, but you know this league is crazy. You have to keep your head down and keep going to work.

RE: What is the biggest thing you have to think about with it being a short week?

I think, right now, getting my body right, making sure that I am staying a day ahead as much as I can and then watching a little bit of tape tonight and getting after the Texans.

PANTHERS DEFENSIVE END BRIAN BURNS

On facing the Saints offense and the defensive performance

It says a lot. In all honesty, the defense had a very dominant performance for the second week in a row. I'm proud of them for real. I'm just liking the energy to be honest. We're all playing together and for each other and that's why we're so dominant right now.

On how additions of Haason Reddick and Morgan Fox have helped the defense and Burns

Like I said, we have great rushers on the field. They take a lot of that attention away from me most of the time. And when I can depend on somebody else to get pressure, it messes up their protection and it also helps the back end. They don't have to cover as long because there's more guys producing pressure and pushing the pocket.

On seeing more double teams

I've seen quite a few. I'm not going to say it's been overbearing or anything like that but I've seen quite a few double teams and chips and what not.

On his quarterback sack

I knew that I had a great get off. I know the tackle took a kick step to me and then he went away. At that point, he messed up. Or they messed up whatever happened. I don't know. The football gods are loving me right now. I got another freebie for the second week in a row. The refs hate me but the football gods are looking out for me.

On the strip sack that was overturned

Personally, yeah I do. Obviously because I want the sack. I just felt like it was coming across his body and he was trying to tuck it in rather than throw it but it's whatever. It's how it goes.

PANTHERS DEFENSIVE END MORGAN FOX

RE: Being two weeks into the regular season during his first year with the Panthers

Just seeing the talent that this team has. There's so much talent across the board. Made it exciting to come here with the young talent and just see how I can help. See how I can help contribute to what they already have. This team is super talented. Got great coaches and great guys here. Can't say it's panned out so far, but definitely the last few games, it's felt great.

RE: Benefitting from having interior pass rush
When guys are getting there quick and doing their job it makes everyone's job easier. It helps contribute to us playing so well as a team right now.

RE: Quarterback hit on Jameis Winston that forced him into throwing the ball away left-handed

Honestly, that stuff happens so fast it's hard to really remember. Got a rush back there, tried to get my hands on and squeeze the pocket. Looked to my right and he was right there. Just tried to hopefully make a play on the ball.

RE: What traits this defense has compared to past defensive units of the Los Angeles Rams

Just guys buying in. Buying in to doing their part. Trying to rush with each other. Play for each other and use their talents. Also, buying into the gameplan. Guys doing what they're supposed to do and doing it to the best of their ability. This team's done a really good job of being their best when their best is required. Guys have really bought into that.

PANTHERS OUTSIDE LINEBACKER HAASON REDDICK

RE: Defensive performance

First, it comes with stopping the run. I don't know the exact stat, but I don't think they had over 60 yards rushing at that time. If we could continue to stop the run and force teams to continue to have to throw the ball, then naturally it just allows us to go ahead and get after the quarterback.

RE: How does this pass rush compare to what your expectations were coming in?

Right now, exceeding. I wouldn't lie, right now we are exceeding where I thought we could be and its surprising to me, but it's just a testament to the work that we put in during training camp and OTAs. Getting here, gelling with each other, bonding, getting to know each other and everybody just committing to one goal, out there playing as hard as possible.

RE: Winning the golf cart battle

As of right now, yes. Brian (Burns) got another sack today as well, so I have to keep watching him. Try to keep a knee on him. But overall just happy for everybody. It is exciting to see the defense playing this well. I just hope that we can keep it up for the rest of the year. As long as we come in day-in and day-out, continue to work the way that we have, I think that we can.

RE: Exceeding people's expectations on continuing his level of play year after year

They see the tape, that's all I have to say about that one.

RE: Working with Brian Burns

Me and Burns, we constantly talk about pass rush. All day, every day, every time we see each other. When we are out at practice, during the game, we constantly talk about pass rush. How we are being set by the tackles on each side, what worked, what didn't work. Always picking each other's brain and trying to see, ok you use that and then let me see if I can use this and beat them with this.

PANTHERS CORNERBACK JAYCEE HORN

RE: Getting a turnover for defensive coordinator Phil Snow

I told him last week that I was going to get one back for him. I missed the first one earlier…Luckily I got another opportunity so you always want to capitalize on those.

RE: Doing pushups after dropping an interception.

That's mandatory if you dropped it.

RE: His first interception

It felt good. It felt good…Our defense came to play. The D-line got great pressure and I was able to get an easy pick.

RE: Carolina's performance on defense

Coach Snow had a great game plan. Our coaches do a good job of attacking our opponent and coming up with a great scheme. Our pass rush was playing good all game and we were able to feed off of that in the back end. It was just a team effort and we were able to go out there and slow them down a little bit.

View photos from the field during Carolina's Week 2 game against the Saints at Bank of America Stadium.

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