HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
What is the prognosis on RB Christian McCaffrey?
"Christian strained his hamstring. I don't the severity level of it yet, to be quite honest with you, but the minute it happened, they said he's out for the game. I just saw him in there and he's moving around, but obviously, we're going to have to wait on an MRI to see what the severity is."
Is it connected to last week's injury?
"No, last week was cramps. I just think he pulled it."
How do you think you adjusted offensively in his absence?
"I thought we struggled a little bit got banged up a little bit. We got really tired. We played 78 plays last week. They had a surge of energy after that. We threw four verticals, we pushed the ball down the field and then we got rushing yards from Tommy (Tremble) and Chuba (Hubbard)and those guys. I think Lovie went into man and I think Joe did a nice job adjusting. If there is anything to take away from it I think Chuba and Royce (Freeman) stepped up and made plays. We were able to get back to throwing some of those plays that we wanted to do."
Was there a sense of shock when they scored after RB Christian McCaffrey went out?
"I don't know if they're shocked. I don't even think most of our guys knew what was going on with Christian. We're so in the moment. Everyone is kind of doing their job. I think the one thing was I thought Davis Mills did a really nice job. If we didn't play man and bring pressure he was finding guys that were open. That's why he was drafted highly. I thought Phil did a nice job getting away after they went down and kicked the field goal -- scored the touchdown before the half and after they kicked that field goal they started bringing some man pressures again. We just have to trust our guys that they're going to cover, Rashaan Melvin, Sean Chandler, Donte Jackson with a huge stop on fourth down. Those guys all stepped up in the absence of Jaycee and Juston.
How are Jaycee Horn and Juston Burris?
"Juston pulled a muscle. He was still moving on the sideline, but I think he knew he was going to be out. How long it is, I don't know, and sounds like Jaycee broke some bones in his foot. So, the extent of that, again, they'll have to do a full workup, so I don't know how long that will be or what the prognosis will be."
With the non-contact to DB Jaycee Horn, is it possible it's a Lisfranc injury?
"I don't know that it's that. I don't believe it's that. That's not been said to me. I don't know."
"Sounds like it could be a couple of bones."
What would you think the timeline may be?
"I have no idea. I honest to goodness have no idea."
Would you attribute some of these injuries to the quick turnaround?
"I don't know. I mean, that's a good question. I think the quick turnaround, but every team does it. We've been pretty healthy so far. A lot of other teams have come into these games and they've been down guys. When it comes to a broken bone, non contact, I don't know if that's that, but maybe some of pulls could be. But it is what it is. We are where we are. We love those guys and we're going to help them get better. I said to Jaycee in there, You'll be back. Don't worry about it. Jaycee Horn is a special, special, special young man, special football player. So, we'll get the other guys ready."
How unique is RB Christian McCaffrey on what you do offensively?
"Well, I mean, Christian just can kind of do everything, and so I think the biggest thing he brings is they have to account for him in every passing rep. They can't just double DJ, they can't just double Robby. They have to account for him. Sam has done a great job finding other guys, a lot of off-schedule plays that happened going to Dan Arnold, hit Tommy Tremble down the right sideline. I thought Sam played in true progression today, but Christian is amazing at his ability to win one on ones, so people have to zone everything off, and that creates a lot of windows for other people."
With all the questions about QB Sam Darnold, to see what he did tonight when the chips were down for the offense and defense with the injuries, what does that say about him and what he means to you guys?
"I think No. 1, if you watch the way we called the game it means we trust him. Even on the last drive we're throwing four verticals with him. I say to myself all the time, These are professional football players. They've been doing this their whole lives. Let them go play. Don't try to over-manage the game. Let them go play, let them make plays. Sometimes you go for it fourth and half a foot and you don't get it and they make a play, and sometimes we go make a play. I think one thing about Sam, he has some moxie. He stayed in the pocket. Had that long run called back, but finding Terrace on the third and 12, I mean, there were some huge conversions by Sam. Again, it's just him playing within the system, but also I think he has a courageousness, but he's not crossing the line going over the top. He's protecting the football and still pushing the ball down there, and look at the play Alex Erickson made. That ball, is it going to be picked, is it not going to be picked. Makes a great play. So a lot of production from a lot of different places."
From the outset, how do you think RB Royce Freeman and RB Chuba Hubbard played in RB Christian McCaffrey's stead, and what might you be looking for from them?
"Yeah, I think they just have to be starting NFL running backs, and Royce has done that before. I told Chuba at halftime, That's why we drafted you, man. I thought Chuba was outstanding. At the end of the half, we didn't give him a ton of chances, but I thought he got in there at the end and made some key runs. When we can line up in four-minute offense and run and get the first down on two plays, especially versus that stout defense, that's a credit to the offensive line, credit to the tight ends and full backs. I thought those backs hit it, and the minute Royce got in he made that nice run, cut the ball back on a dual play, which that's a veteran-run. That's a guy that's played a bunch and saw it. Those guys stepped up for us."
After RB Christian McCaffrey went out, QB Sam Darnold was sacked three times. How much did the protection break down without McCaffrey, and how much do you feel like Darnold took on his shoulders in the second half?
"I don't think any of that was attributed to Christian. I think one of them was a deep shot that we were going to throw, and Tommy came back, and just have to get on the guy; got knocked back into the quarterback. The other one was just a nice effort. The guy reached and knocked it out, and the last one was we were pushing the ball down the field in two minutes. They're good rushers and we knew they were going to be good rushers. Johnny Miller got banged up early in that game, hurt his shoulder and wouldn't come out of the game. I think once they got to the second half, the offensive line just kind of regrouped a little bit. Like we said, we practiced a bunch of one thing and saw a lot of the other. That's what you expect in the National Football League. That's why we have a system and our coaches adjusted. I think the rest of guys, they love Christian, having him out there, but they also trust everyone else. I thought they played to the system. And I told our guys, This game will be won in the last five minutes. I know Coach Culley. I know Lovie Smith. These guys are good coaches, and I know these players, they got winners over there. So, I thought they hung in there and we just made a couple plays at the end."
You guys said you drafted DB Jaycee Horn with the hopes of being able to play more aggressive man coverage. With him out, do you have to change that approach with the backups, or do you feel like they have been prepared enough to play more of that man-to-man versus zone coverage?
"Yeah, we trust those guys to play. Rashaan Melvin played the whole game. We're going to kind of stick with what we do, play our system. At the end of the day, we play a lot of zone, play a lot of man, playing some two-man at the end of the day. I thought Phil dialed it up when he needed to get the win, so we'll continue to do those things. Like I said, every one of these guys is a true pro. They're here for a reason. Opportunity comes, they get it, and they found a way to capitalize tonight, and hopefully they can do it after this little mini bye we have."
QB SAM DARNOLD
What does it say about this team that after losing RB Christian McCaffrey you guys come out and play in the second half the way you did?
"Obviously losing Christian is tough. I mean, he's a great player. I really thought Chuba (Hubbard) and Royce (Freeman), when they got in there after that, did a really great job. Yeah, losing Christian is tough, but I thought we did a good job bouncing back. In that second half, we were able to put the first half behind us and really do a good job in the second half."
It looked like you had to do more when RB Christian McCaffrey went out. How did you approach that coming into the second half? Did you say anything to your teammates?
"No. I mean, for us it's just executing the plays that are called. That's as simple as it is for us. It's just executing whatever is called. If the running back is the first option on that play, just because Christian is out doesn't mean I'm not going to go to the running back, you know what I mean? Chuba (Hubbard) and Royce (Freeman) did a great job when they got in there."
What was the mood at halftime after RB Christian McCaffrey had been in the tent? Did anybody address the team in terms of just like, Hey, we got to go play the second half?
"We weren't told about Christian's injury. I assumed just because he wasn't there. For us we had to put our head down and play a lot better. I thought we did a better job in the second half creating momentum and having a good tempo about us."
You literally put your head down on that third and inches at the goal line. Can you describe that play and losing your helmet?
"Yeah. It was hectic. There was a lot of things going on that QB sneak. I thought I got a great push back from I don't know who it was, I think Royce (Freeman), and maybe Gio (Ricci) back there in the backfield."
How about the helmet itself? Could you feel it going?
"Yeah, just kind of slid off. I think that happened after I was already in the end zone."
When was the last time you got two rushing touchdowns?
"I have no idea. You probably know. Probably college."
College or high school?
"Probably high school, yeah."
Take us through the first rushing touchdown. Was that a read play or were you going to pull it the whole time?
"It was a good play by our offense to be able to get in there and do our job."
You don't have to get too deep, but can you expand on it?
"No, I can't. Sorry."
Quick turnaround, injuries in the game, but you guys still gutted out the win. What does that say about this team?
"Yeah, we're resilient. We had a lot of guys in the building and with us in the OTAs, which kind of showed the type of team that we wanted to be. Then we went to Spartanburg. We had a great training camp, a hard training camp down there in the heat. It showed what kind of team we were when we practice against Baltimore and Indy. We always knew what kind of team we had. It was just about going out there on game day and executing. We've been doing a good job so far. We just got to take it one week at a time.
How unique of a player is RB Christian McCaffrey?
"Yeah, he's a special player. I don't know if there is any way to describe him. He's someone who you can align anywhere, and I think the greatest way to see how great a player is by how a defense has to game plan for them. When Christian is out there you can see when he starts to line up in different ways that defenses have certain checks for him when he's out there. That's a sign of a really good player."
How much was it a factor end of the second quarter where you got sacked three times after he left, and what happened in the second half to kind of stabilize that?
Yeah, for me it was holding on to the ball too long. We were trying to push the ball down field a little bit there late in the second half, and just got to play smarter that way. I must understand 'Hey, like, listen, to my feet.' That's how I like to say it. If I start kind of climbing in the pocket too much or I feel like I'm holding onto it, I'll just get rid of it.
What was RB Christian McCaffrey's mood after the game?
"I mean, you know, he's sad."
What did you say to him?
"Just that I'm thinking of him and to take his time. We'll be all right without him. Obviously, we want him back, but I want him to take his time right now and make sure he's good for the end of the season."
Do you think he'll be back this season?
"Yeah, hopefully he will be. I'm being optimistic, but, yeah."
Do you anticipate having to do a lot more without him?
"No. I think for us, we're starting to find our identity as an offense, and whatever play is a called, we just got to execute that play. That's my job, is to get us in the right play and make sure that we're kind of hitting on all cylinders and that the offense is moving in the right direction."
WR DJ MOORE
How did you all feel you responded in the second half after RB Christian McCaffrey went down? What do you think that says about you?
"I feel like we started off good in the second half. Christian went down, prayers up to him that he be back. It's all good, we did good."
How did losing him, especially in the last 12 minutes of that second quarter, impact you all?
"It didn't really impact us, it's just the next man up mentality. Everything that he was doing, the next man has to do. So, we have to execute on all cylinders, next man up mentality."
How did you feel with QB Sam Darnold?
"He did good. I know with all the pressures and stuff, he did well. I really don't know what was going on, I just know that he was making throws and just being Sam."
Did you gain more confidence out of watching your quarterback in the second half and picking up his level of play?
"I just seen Sam (Darnold) come out in the second half and just be him. Even from the joint practices, we could see that he built his confidence through the joint practices. Day 1, he was just 'OK' and the second day, it was like 'Wow, we could be something special.' Going into the second half, we just talked about being in the second day of a joint practice and we came out to end the game with a W."
You got banged up a little bit, what happened in the few times you were sitting on the sideline?
"I was good, I just got hit by a linebacker that I didn't see coming. So that was that, the blindside hits be the worst ones."
Would you attribute the quick turnaround to the amount of injuries this game?
"You could put it that way, but it's also football so things happen every day with this game. I don't know if it's from the short turnaround or just playing a physical game."
Did you get a chance to talk to RB Christian McCaffrey afterwards?
"No not long, but I just told him 'I'm with you.'"
What was he like?
"He was hurt. He was down so you just need your teammates to bring you back up."
View photos throughout Thursday Night Football in Houston in Week 3.