Postgame Transcripts: Week 4 at Dallas Cowboys

HEAD COACH MATT RHULE

Obviously disappointed with the way today went. A lot of credit to Dallas. We knew they were a really hot team coming in and they obviously showed us that. I thought our guys showed resolve coming back at the end and making it a one score game with a chance to get a stop. Like all good teams, they found a way to make one more play and found a way to make it happen. Obviously, we're disappointed as a team. We thought we played much better. Our rush defense has been our sort of calling card. We were not able to stop the run today, not able to get to the quarterback. Not able to take the ball away. On offense, we turned the ball. We won't overreact. We'll take this as a way to make ourselves better and head into next week with some lessons learned from facing a good team on the road.

On the Panthers' third-down play in the third quarter.

I looked at the stats at halftime and we were good on third down offensively and defensively. That's why we had the lead. We had a hard time picking up some of their – they got a little more exotic in the third quarter – we had a hard time picking some of those up and just weren't quite able to connect on a couple of those plays. The first drive, obviously, we moved the ball down the field and I was happy with that. Missed the field goal and then [it] just sort of got away from us. There's going to be runs like that in games. I'd like to see us respond a little quicker. I think we just kind of let a bad play turn into a bad drive turn into a whole bad quarter. Had we regrouped a little sooner the result might be a little bit different but we did not, so third down obviously is one of the stories on offense that did not help us keep their defense off the field. In the second half, once we missed that field goal, their offense sort of had a short field for the rest of the quarter.

On the play when Jeremy Chinn jarred the ball loose, what explanation was given?

I can only, there's the world's biggest Jumbotron above you, so I could see pretty well. They just told me I could not challenge it because forward progress had been stopped. Obviously, I felt like it was a fumble but I couldn't challenge it because they said it was an unchallengeable play.

On what he saw from the two interceptions. What could he tell?

We would have liked to have signaled a different route to DJ on the second one. Diggs made a good play. The first one was just sort of an unfortunate error. Diggs was covering someone else and fell off. Robby was wide open and just was in the wrong place at the wrong time for us. Obviously, we can't turn the ball over twice. It hasn't been our MO but I thought both of those were things that could be corrected.

On how much the blitz bothered Sam Darnold in the second half (because they were barely blitzing in the first half).

They had some pressures on him in the first half but he was in pretty good rhythm. Just one thing after another in the second half and that third quarter, so finally in the fourth quarter the no-huddle kind of helped us. They were still bringing pressure in the fourth quarter. As we scored those two touchdowns, I think we started to pick it up a little bit better. One time, the tailback cuts the linebacker, and he gets up and sacks him. I think there are some things for all of us to learn in terms of getting the ball out a little quicker. I was please with our run game at times. We had some nice runs. We're just going to have to really take a long looks at this tape. Any time Sam has time, he's going to make a lot of really good decisions. If he doesn't have time, it's not quite as good. Dak had a lot of time today and Sam didn't.

On how big the inability to get to Dak Prescott was.

Honestly, I think the tale-of-the-day is more just Zeke running the football. I think he had 10 carries for 49 yards at the half, so he was averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and then, in the second half, just some of these runs. I think they had a really well put together scheme. We certainly loaded the box. We hung the corners out a lot today. A lot of it was yards after contact. I don't know that we tackled great today. I don't know that we got off block screen today. I think this was a good learning experience for us. I think we got a little bit out of character at times. As I said, as bad as it was, there's going to be some bad stretches. We still had a chance to win at the end, so we'll try to learn from it.

On if there were common threads with their run defense. Were there specific things he was disappointed with?

Obviously disappointed with the results. I thought it was an excellent job by them. They ran duo, one block makes a guy miss. They ran a nice little counter play that they hurt us a couple of times. We had some wide zones away from it. We cut one guy down. Zeke's one of the best, right? We have to get off blocks, make tackles. We weren't able to get a lot of tackles for loss and then obviously hit with the big play. We played man, we played zone, we put on pressure. [It was] a day where we struggled to get off the field.

On if there was any serious thought to onside kicking once they got it to eight?

A lot to be honest. I think the numbers say with no time-outs…obviously, you want to have time-outs, there. We what we had to do to try go get back in the game. It was one of those deals where normally I'm going to save my three time-outs for the last five minutes. Then we were going to fake a punt. They say punt safe. We said, hey, let's go for it. So just trying to do some different things to get back in the game. When you don't have any time-outs, really, about three minutes and 30 seconds is sort of that slippery slope where it's really the declaration point. So, it was 4:54, they came up for hands, we threw a punch at deep and gave our defense a chance to get off the field. We got the first run. Got a second run. It was still outside of three minutes so we knew we had one more set of downs if we can't stop them here. I took the approach today, like, I'm going to give our guys a chance to make the plays to go win the game. He made those kicks in pregame. We made those throws. Let's let them go try to win and we just came up a little bit short, so I'll try to be better next week and so will all of us.

On why he went with Zane when he's punted in when in that position before.

Just because he had made all of those kicks in pre-game. I just felt more and more comfortable with him. It certainly wasn't a matter of distance. I just felt like, coming on the road and facing a team like this, when the times came to give our guys a chance to play, we were going to go play. Obviously, I want to win the football game but we're a young team. I wanted them to come here and I want to put in their hands. I have to be a lot better as a head coach. Our coaches have to have a better plan. I wanted to give Zane a chance to make that kick. I wanted to give Charlton a chance to make those punts. I wanted to go after the punts and field goals. We went for it a couple of times on fourth down in our own territory. I try to give the guys a chance to go make the plays to win the game and I think our guys will come out this week understanding, at the end of the day – it was really getting away from us and went for it on fourth down, anyway. I don't care how much we lose by. My job is to help us win. That was the thought process. Obviously, we would have punted them down there but we needed to collect points. If we want to go be a big-time football team, we're going to have to kick field goals from the 35 - 36, and Zane can do that. I think it actually got tipped at the line of scrimmage. I'm not sure if it did or didn't but that's what they thought.

On if he's ok at this point with Zane.

Yeah, especially if it got tipped. I think some of our kickoff woes, he kicked the ball out of the end zone today. That was a major step in the right direction. I don't know if I can point to anybody today and say this guy was great. Start with me. I have to be better. We all have to be better. But, I'll tell what, we came here knowing that this would be a great test for us, so now, from here, our season really takes a jump. Either we're a way better team next week or we're not after this. We won three games we should win. We came here, we played an excellent team. We didn't play as well as we wanted but at the end of the day we still had a chance to win. Hopefully, our team, this really galvanizes us. This really brings us together because we want to be a team that's in it all the way down to the end of the season so there's going to be games like this.

QB SAM DARNOLD

On the game:

"I thought we had a chance in the second quarter, right away when we got the ball back, to put points on the board. I felt like that third quarter we just didn't play Carolina Panther football. Just wasn't good enough in that third quarter. We made a surge there at the end, but it was too late. Just not good enough. The offense, just execution-wise it wasn't there. Just gotta go back to the tape and be better from it."

On the two interceptions:

"#7 is a good player. He made two good plays on it. Obviously, there are balls I shouldn't throw. He was just waiting for that second one. On the first one, he was just reading my eyes the whole time; made a good break on it."

On the second interception:

"Obviously, I should have checked it. Again, we will learn from it."

On how the blitzing in the third quarter impacted him:

"I thought they did a good job of not only pressuring but working their pick games. I thought they did a good job of it."

On his trip to the injury tent and whether it was jersey-related:

"It wasn't injury related. They ripped my jersey and Donnie the equipment guy didn't want me to go out there with a ripped jersey. That was it. … I just got a new one."

On the first adversity of the season of the season and how they handled it:

"We are not the team that's just going to continue to look back on it and cry about it, I guess, in a simple way to put it. We are not going to be that team. Obviously, we will learn from it, watch the tape tomorrow. Tonight I know a lot of guys are going to watch the tape. We got Philly coming up, another good team. We just gotta be ready to go."

On whether this was a good test coming on the road against a good team offensively and defensively:

"Absolutely. Dallas is a really good team, so it was definitely a really good test, and I think we learned a lot about ourselves."

On the third quarter and how they have to get better:

"We just gotta continue to put together a good plan coming into the second half. That's really it. As players, you have to come out with energy and want to go out there and score. Not that everyone doesn't have that fire to be able to go do that. It's just something that I guess we gotta – we're not gonna change anything we do. We are not gonna go away from our process by any means. We definitely gotta find a way to score in the third quarter."

On the biggest takeaways from his game:

"Those two picks, I think, is just forcing the ball. Obviously, it put our defense in a really bad position. They capitalized on both turnovers. It is hard to win football games when you do that." 

On the pressure he was under and whether other teams will try to do the same thing:

"I'm sure teams will try to do the same thing, the same games and all that stuff. We just gotta be ready for it, we gotta watch the tape and grow from it."

On the grit of his team:

I saw a lot of guys that were pissed off, but in a good way. They were eager to go watch the tape and get better from this. We got a bunch of good guys in that locker room. Resilient guys. I think that is a great way to put it. You can either put your head down and sulk, or you can watch the tape, get better from it, continue to practice hard and practice well this whole next week getting ready for Philly. We got a bunch of guys in the locker room who are going to do that."

On how the team is becoming more of a downfield threat on offense:

I think it is just a matter of what defenses want to do to us. If they want to show us certain looks, we are going to take advantage of it."

WR DJ MOORE

On facing the first adversity of the season and where they go from here:

"You can only forget the bad and go up from here. That is what we plan to do tomorrow. We are going to look at the film on the plane and then tomorrow as a team. That is the only thing we can do right now."

On whether he has an idea what changed in the third quarter, specifically on offense:

"No. I just know that we gotta come out with better energy to start with. I think I had a long run. But you just have to capitalize off of little things like that, to go out and keep the energy going."

On the third quarter and how they come out with better energy:

Just all around the whole team. Offense especially. We just gotta come out with a better attitude. Because we deferred, we gotta come out with better energy. Just to know that we are going down and trying to score, coming out of the half."

On his early play when he kept his balance after a hard hit:

"Hurt. That's all I can tell you. I know I kept my balance, but that's like a hard hit. I attribute that to great balance and God. Just helping me to stay up on that one."

On what allows he and Sam Darnold to have a good connection:

"Practice. Just knowing that he can trust me to be where I am going to be within the passing concept they have. It is just building trust day in and day out."

On his connection with Sam Darnold:

"That's just timing and everything that goes with it. Just understanding the playbook. Just go out there being the receiver and the quarterback at the same time. Just knowing where you are in the progression and knowing where he is going to be looking."

On whether he feels a greater responsibility when Christian McCaffrey is not on the field:

"No, it is not consciously on my mind. We all know that 22 wasn't out there today. So, everybody had to step up. Just be really hard but take it to the next level."

On what the team learned about itself today:

"When the [inaudible] is being hit, you just have to fight back even harder. That is the main thing I took from today."

DE BRIAN BURNS

On the defense getting no sacks and whether lack of pressure was an issue:

"It wasn't really an issue to be quite honest. It was more of the running game. If you can't stop the run when you reach, then they pass the ball. That pretty much limited our options to get to the quarterback."

On Elliott running the ball as well as he did:

"I haven't watched the film to be quite honest, I don't know yet. It's probably us. Most likely it is us. I doubt it is any complete dominance of one of our guys. Probably just a mental error. We just need to get back to the drawing board and fix it."

On whether he agrees with Darnold that the team is "pissed off but in a good way:

This is the first time we have had adversity. This is one loss, one game. We have a long season. This is how we bounce back. When we get back to just building, we need to get after it."

On how he felt he played personally:

"I feel like I did what I could. There are some plays I wish I could get back. You always feel like you can do better after the play has already happened. You feel like, I should have did this, but in the moment, I was doing my job. That's all I could do. It's alright"

On changes in the secondary:

"It hurts not having those guys. But at the end of the day, it is the same responsibility for the next guy. They just have to do their job. Keep going, next man up. So we can't really harp on the guys who are missing right now. We just need to get it right."

On Haason getting dinged early and whether it was a factor for them:

"Of course you want your guy to be there with you. End of the day, it is always next guy up. I feel like we have players behind us that can play. I don't feel like any of the slack is missing. We just have to get back to the drawing board and fix these problems on our own."

On the play that was a fumble and how it getting overturned affected them:

"It's ball. That is not my call. I have to leave it up to the refs. They felt like it wasn't, I think two back-to-back, it was fumbles or whatever they got overruled. So, at the end of the day we just have to keep creating them and let the cards fall how they fall. It's not our call."

On rushing for 245 yards against the defense and whether it was alarming:

"It's not alarming. Because I am not going to let one game define us. We just have to get back to how we win. I am not going to let it define us. But it is embarrassing. It's a disappointment to me because I take that personally. That 244 yards isn't pretty. But I'm not going to let that define us as a defense."

On the third quarter where Dallas scored 23 unanswered points and how it felt on the field:

"It's frustrating. Anybody can see that. It's frustrating. You just have to keep battling. You can't get too down, you can't get too high. You have to keep battling. That's the only positive really I can take out of this game. All the stuff we went through for that 3rd quarter, all those scores, they are running the ball, everything not going our way, turnovers and everything. I don't think we stopped battling. And that is what made it a one score game. It could have got ugly. That's one thing I take out of this game. We have to answer adversity and get back to the drawing board."

S JEREMY CHINN

On the play where he knocked the ball out but the receiver was ruled down by contact:

"I haven't seen the play yet. I just talked to the guys and they thought it was out. I know you can't challenge or review a forward progress play."

On how the defense changed because the offense was able to run the ball so well:

"Once the offense can run the ball, the playbook opens up. We got to stop the run. That is where our defense starts. It starts with stopping the run."

On how the play could have swung momentum:

"It could have been huge for us. I mean, those plays change ball games. Unfortunately the call didn't go our way. Those are the plays that change games."

On how hard it is when the defense is missing so many pieces:

"We've got guys that can play; they are all assets to the defense. We still have the standard that we carry ourselves to; we just didn't play to that today."

On what he thought was a bigger factor, the lack of pressure on Dak or the ability to get the run game going:

"I would say it starts with the run game. It starts with that. You get the run game done, and you just take a way that part of the game." 

On how the defense needs to improve:

"Communication. There are a lot of things that factor into that. Tackling. That is one of the things we need to get better at. We will."

On whether this was the biggest test this season:

"So far. The road doesn't get any easier, so we will come in tomorrow and get better."

On whether he had man to man on the touchdown when the tight end slanted in:

"It was a great play call by their side. It was kind of an option. If I go outside he is going to break it in. if I go inside he is going to break it out. It was just a great play call by them."

C MATT PARADIS

On if there were common problems with the protection and how often the Cowboys were able to pressure Sam Darnold:

"That's impossible until I watch the tape. When you are playing there, we make the calls, we make the decisions on how we are going to block a look. I have to snap and block. So I couldn't tell you what all the problems were. I will have to watch the tape. We didn't protect well enough. Too much pressure on Sam."

On the interior pressure:

"They did a lot of stuff. A lot of stunts. They are a multiple style defense. They do stunts, they are going to just do straight rush, bring pressure, mug them up, drop them back, they do a lot of stuff. It has got some complexity to it, but its nothing I haven't seen before. We have to protect better."

On the third quarter and whether it was the turning point with Dallas dialing up the pressure:

"I don't know as far as pressures specifically. The third quarter, we had some turnovers that stemmed from pressure to turnovers due to everything that was going on on offense. We can't be putting our defense in holes like that and allowing that type of pressure on Sam." 

On whether this is the toughest defense they have faced from a pressure standpoint:

"That is a difficult question. They are up there, for sure. There are so many different problems that we have seen arise throughout the season. Week one is a very difficult week because you have not tape, so you get complexity from that standpoint. If it's complex then you have no idea what they are bringing. They brought some stuff we haven't seen today. For the most part, we have seen it all. We just have to block it up."

On the first adversity and how the young team will respond:

"Losing sucks. No one enjoys it. That's not why we play the game. But this team, I believe we have some grit, we have some fire. I strongly believe we are not just going to go in the tank, be in our feelings or whatever you want to call it. I love this room. I love this team. I love being around them. I love every guy in that room and I enjoy going to work. I am fired up to go to work tomorrow with those guys. I can't wait. Today sucked. We didn't have what we wanted. We are going to go tomorrow and get better."

On where he starts to get better:

"I can't give you an answer until I see the tape. It's impossible. I gave up a sack the first drive, so personally, I can't do that. I can't have a slow start. That's on me. But we gotta – we have to get better."

View photos from the field during Carolina's Week 4 game at Dallas.

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