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Postgame Transcripts: Week 5 vs. San Francisco 49ers

Head coach Matt Rhule

RE: Opening Statement

Obviously, a disappointing end to that game. I thought that pick-6 right before the half really was a gut punch. I thought the guys came out and answered in the 2nd half with the kick return leading to a touchdown. But in the end, unfortunately it wasn't enough. Credit to them. I thought they played well. 

RE: The guys came out early in the 3*rd* quarter with the Christian [McCaffrey] touchdown. What and who was behind the decision to go for two that early in the quarter?

Yeah, you know, down 14 with the ball on the one. Had the ball had not been on the one, we wouldn't have done it. I think we have talked a couple times, down 14 now, there is kind of the whole analytics movement to go for two and make it a one score game. The time was pretty close to the vest. We held them to really 10 points on defense. So, had it been on the two, we wouldn't have done it but with the ball on the one, feeling like with Christian [McCaffrey] we could hopefully punch it in from a yard out.

RE: Baker [Mayfield] was limping a little bit coming into halftime and then we also saw PJ [Walker] go in there at the end. Is there any update on Baker and if he has any injuries?

They checked his ankle. He got hurt right before the half. Checked his ankle at halftime. We had PJ get warmed up. They said Baker was good to go. We kind of said, 'hey, let's go out there and see if you can move around." He took us right down the field. We scored. So, played him. Then at the end just kind of pulled him. Didn't want him to take anymore abuse to that ankle. He is one of two guys. Jaycee [Horn] left the field and (Mayfield) left the field that we will probably have some updated testing on (them).

RE: What did you see from Baker on that pick-6 obviously, like you said, it was a guy punch?

Yeah, you know, it was just a little option route to Christian [McCaffrey], you know, just trying to get a completion. I don't know, from what I could see I didn't see him get hit or anything. Just looked like it sailed on him and went over Christian's head and led to points. It just looked like it just didn't connect.

RE: You mentioned the pick 6 and Baker did get replaced late in the game. It seemed that was for mop up duty. Any thoughts now moving forward on considering a change at quarterback?

I think right now, you know, just focusing on the game. As we go through the week, I'll have updated thoughts after but I don't want to comment on anybody, how they played or didn't play until I've watched the tape. It really wasn't mop up duty at the end. Just giving PJ [walker] some reps. Just get him in there. 

RE: What was the thinking there at the end on kicking the field goal instead of going for it on 4*th* and 2?

Just it's a three-score game. You have to score three times anyways. To me, I don't even think there is a debate about it. You kick the field goal to make it a two-score game with I think it was 7-minutes left. You guys would know better than me. You have two timeouts. Get the stop. Get the ball. Unfortunately, they made a play and then wasted a little bit of time. We did get the ball down two scores with I think it was 3- or 4-minutes left. You needed three scores. We are going to take the score, extend the game. There was no debate about that with the analytics guy or anything. 

RE: You seemed somewhat optimistic on Friday that Frankie [Luvu] and Xavier [Woods] would be alright for this game. Was there something late? And how difficult was it to lose two guys of that caliber an hour and a half before the game?

This morning, I woke up thinking they would probably play. Thinking they had a chance to. But we worked them out, they weren't good to go. It's a long season. We don't want guys hurting themselves. Laviska [Shenault Jr.] went last week and got banged up. The decision was made that they couldn't go. You guys asked me all week. We had kind of hoped that Xavier would be able to play but it looked like Juston Burris did some good things. I think really in the first half, the tale was we brought some pressures, some man pressures, and they made a couple of great catches. They just kind of went up over top of guys and made a couple of great plays. It looked like Myles [Hartsfield] and those guys filled in admirably. Obviously losing [Jeremy] Chin and Woods is a big deal but hopefully our guys played really well when you watch the tape.

RE: You said this week you guy's offense just needs to get a little bit better. You felt like you were close. After this game and the totality of the last 12 games, do you feel like just getting a little bit better isn't doing it justice to what you guys do need to do? Do you feel like it needs to be more of a complete overhaul on how you are doing things entirely?

Again, and hopefully you can respect this, it's hard for me to talk about last year because Ben [McAdoo] wasn't here. Baker [Mayfield] wasn't here. I just try to focus on right now. A lot of credit to them. This is the number 1 defense in the league. They are holding people to 9, 10, 11. I thought we drove the first one down there. We wanted to play it. We thought our defense would hold us in it. We wanted to take points when we had the chance, especially early on. Unfortunately, we missed the field goal. Got in the endzone. We are not going to win unless we score more points. I think we all know that. I'm not going to sit here and lie to you. In terms of a complete and total overhaul, I don't know that that is the answer. Like I said, these guys last week got after the Rams. They had seven sacks. We knew it was going to be a challenge. I thought we held up in protection early. Late, kind of got after us. I think everything is just about improve each player. I think this was a tough game for a couple guys up front, probably on the o-line. I think that a young guy like Ickey [Elwonu] can learn from it. I thought it was good to see a guy like Shi [Smith] make a play down the field. A couple guys stepped up that we haven't necessarily seen make a ton of plays. It's hard for me to say much more other than until I watch the tape but I respect the question and completely understand the question. But it's hard for me to say anything without watching it.

RE: Sitting at 1-4, especially with all the home games, what frustrates you the most? What's most disappointing to you right now?

Just to talk about this game, you know, I believe that we had a chance to be closer than it was. You know I think the pick-6 and then I think our defense kind of hung in there. Just a couple plays late in that third quarter. I thought that 4th and four was really, really a big deal. We knocked the ball down. Unfortunately, it was a penalty. If we win that 4th down, it is a whole different game to me. I just feel like we are better than we've shown. It's how I feel but you are what your record says you are. We are 1-4. It's not where any of us intended to be. We got to get that turned around.

RE: How much or how little do you notice the crowd and things like the disparity with fans and things of that nature from your vantage point?

I don't pay attention to that. We kind of came into the game knowing San Francisco travels well. We knew that. But we didn't have to use silent count or anything like that. I know some teams that have played them had to. I was just focused on the game and what was on the field. I don't think it had an impact.

RE: The locker room seemed to be solid, seemed to be on the same page. What do you say to them after a loss like this?

That it's not good enough and has to get better. But you always stick together in life. Who you are in these moments is who you are. But they shouldn't be a happy-go-lucky locker room. It should be a 'hey, this has to change' type of deal. I would never confuse them sticking together with them also wanting to improve and win. There are a lot of guys there that are proud and want to win. They work hard at it. I trust the leadership. The guys like Shaq [Thompson] and Christian [McCaffrey] and so many more, that they will continue to battle. But there is no debating everyone in that locker room knows that that score isn't good enough. Even at the end, on 4th and 10, we are never going to quit. I hate to put the defense out there with the ball at the 10-yard line or whatever it was, the 2-yard line. But we are never going to not try and win. So, we played to the very end. But I think the guys will always stick together I hope.

RE: You have mentioned about this being a separate year but this is now 11 losses in 12 games. Have you gotten any assurances from David Tepper about your future?

I hope you guys can understand. I'm here to talk about the game. I've always been very forthright with you guys. You know, I have nothing to say about that now. Really just here to talk about the game today. I would never would want to make this about me.

RE: I think its 27 losses when the team scores 17 points on you guys. How do you keep guys from dwelling on that too much and continuing to feel like there is a chance to win games like this today?

Come in and watch the tape tomorrow and see what happened. See what we can improve on. You know those guys all want to win. They also want to play well at their own position. So, to me it's about having really good assistant coaches that coach them and help them be better at their craft, each guy, and what they can do better. Show them the stakes. Show them the opportunities. Just try to get through this hurt of this game and get to next week and try to go win one next week. To your point, the question was asked earlier, we need to score more points to have a chance to win. But, I think each guy has to make sure they are handling themselves and hey, what am I doing, what can I do better?

RE: Your thoughts on Raheem Blackshear's performance, first time as a Panther.

You know, he has been really good in practice and it's always fun to see a young guy who looks better in the game than he looks in practice. I thought there was elite confidence. I can't remember who asked me, I think you (reporter) did, thinking about his role. I think he is a guy you will continue to see his role amplified because, obviously, in a start to the season that we don't like in terms of the record and all that, I think Laviska has been a bright spot. Unfortunately, wasn't out there today. Blackshear has been a bright spot. I think once you kind of get all those guys mixed in, with the guys that we already have, the established playmakers that we have on offense, seeing Shi make that play, I think you'll see a lot of good things. That was a total change of pace. That really helped kind of ignite things in the second half. Maybe he can do some more things to help us.

QB Baker Mayfield

RE: How are you feeling right now, you know how to play through injuries but you are in a walking boot right now, so this one must be pretty intensive?

A little painful right now. Not really sure what exactly it is. Going to examine that tomorrow and find out. Just right now I'm managing the pain and yep, preventative stuff in the boot. 

RE: Is it something you'd play through next week if they give you the clearance?

Yeah, I mean that's how I'm wired. If I am able to go, I'm going to go.

RE: As far as this season is going for you right now, what experience can you lean on from the past to avoid this from snowballing into something worse than what it is right now?

Just have to get one under our belt. We have one win under our belt but we just have to play a complete game. We have to build that confidence. I hate to say it's the same message that we've been preaching but it is. It's not the end of the world, we have to find a way. Find a way to win and then just stack them up, one week at a time, one play at a time. That's the mentality. Obviously, we have a lot to get fixed to get to that point. We will look at the tape, try to get as many people as healthy as possible before we head out west.

RE: How did you get hurt?

I think somebody landed on the ankle. Honestly, I have to look back. Yeah, didn't feel too good.

Re: Go through that pick six right before the half, a gut punch, what did you see on that play?

Yeah, I mean, it is. No doubt about it, gut punch because we have a minute and 40, starting with one timeout. We believe in our two-minute offense. Just double clutched the ball and then when I released it, I don't think my feet were under me. I think the ball sailed on me a little bit. Yeah, it's a game of inches. It was probably about six inches too high for him not to be able to really touch it or deflect it. Obviously, I'd rather have a completion because he is open right there. Just have to be more in tune and just deliver the ball.

RE: What is the overriding emotion right now being 1-4? Is it anger, frustration, what is it that you are feeling right now?

A lot of frustration, you know and then the more you think about it, angry because we haven't played to our capability, to be honest with you. That's the frustrating part. And so, have to translate it to Sundays, just plain and simple. You work all week, come out on Sundays, you have to make the plays that are there. You have to take advantage of our one-on-ones and some of those plays that we have.

RE: Do you have a sense of why it's not translating?

I don't. I think I need to continue to look at the tape and look at the little details on some of those things to see if it's physical or mental, if not being able to produce on Sundays and that translating. I think there are a lot of details to be ironed out and a lot of things, like I said, to get fixed. That's why it's so frustrating. 

RE: What is the pressure like for you? The mental side of it, you have accomplished so much, Heisman trophy obviously, then you are here in this spot, your job is being questioned. How are you doing mentally with everything right now?

Did you question my job, because I'm not? I'm confident with where I am. Haven't played well enough obviously, but like I said last week, there's a lot of ball left. We have to get it fixed. That's how I am wired. I don't live in the past, I live in the moment. I'm going to figure it out and move forward.

RE: You completed two throws over 30 yards when the game was still in reach, is that something you wished you did more of, downfield aggression, in this game?

No, they came out and played a lot of man coverage. They presented us those opportunities. Like I said, those opportunities that are there, we need to make sure that we are taking advantage of them and making those plays. Obviously, you would love to have more down-the-field explosive plays, but that's just not how the game goes every time. 

RE: Are you going to have a MRI?

Yeah, getting a MRI tomorrow so we will find out.

RE: Should we call it an ankle or a foot?


RE: Did that happen in the first half, right before halftime, is that when it was?


RE: How did you manage to play (with the injury)? You played, a times, pretty well, in the second half, did you get a shot at halftime?

No shot, just tell yourself that you feel better, then you do. Go out there and play.

RE: Getting the ball more to Christian McCaffrey

Yeah, obviously you want to get the ball in your best player's hands a lot, but the way they played when they weren't in man coverage was pretty soft zone. So, some of those check downs were there, so that's why you saw a lot of that stuff. There were a lot of opportunities to get the ball in his hands, and good things happen when that's the case.

RE: You were more efficient on third down completions, but third downs still were a huge issue.

Yeah, that has been a consistent thing so far. Like I said, have to look at the tape, have to see the details of our third down plays and why we are not executing them. There are some of them that are to set up going for it on fourth down, I'll still say that. When it is a third down and we need it, we need to be more detailed, we need to execute. It's just plain and simple.

Re: What are you guys thoughts, as a player, on Coach Rhule and his job security?

We are fine in that locker room when it comes to that. Like I said, there are a lot of plays that we just have to flat out make. He can't do that, he can't go make plays for us. He can't do the execution for us, and I'm speaking from an offensive standpoint. We just have to make plays. There's one-on-ones, we have good players. We have to be better, we have to make those plays.

RE: Has it been worse for you?

Yeah, I have a walking boot on, my leg is not cut off. Yeah, I would love to be in a better position record wise, wins and losses but keep pushing forward. It is not the time to put your head down and give up. There was improvement, but we just didn't do enough today to win, so that's the very, very frustrating part.

RB Christian McCaffrey

*Re: Moments of distress *They're extremely difficult. As a leader on this team, it's like "put it on me". It's on the players and players win games. Players also lose games too. We got to make the plays, I got to be better. That's it, so it's frustrating.

*RE: Feelings after this loss *Frustration and excited to get back to work next week.

*RE: Maintaining good energy in the locker room *You have to, there's no other choice. The alternative is much worse.

*RE: Criticisms of Coach Rhule bothering Christian *There is a lot of criticism of Coach Rhule that bothers me and our coaching staff in general that bothers me. Like I said, players win games, and if players win games, players lose games. We got to make plays and execute. I'm not going to sit here and point fingers at anybody, it starts with me. I got to be better and make more plays, simple as that.

*RE: How Coach Rhule blocks outside noise *You can say what you want about him, but I've been around a lot of coaches and he's somebody that's always had my back. When you work hard and do the right thing, he'll have your back. That means something for what it's worth. I'm pissed we can't get it done for him and the rest of the staff. We need to play better as players.

*RE: Confidence in PJ Walker as a backup *I have confidence in everybody. I have confidence in PJ and Baker. I'm going to point the thumb and be better for whoever is out there. Props to Baker, jacking his ankle up and playing whole second half.

*RE: Crowd turning on the team *We got to play better. I'm not worried about the crowd. I'm worried about us. The guys in this locker room have to play better.

*RE: Christian's gameplan involvement *I think it's on the side of execution. I got to convert a 3rd and 1, catch the ball, get first downs, so we can run the ball more.

RE: *Playing under pressure *Nobody plays perfect. Just say it every week, correct the mistakes one play at a time, look at the tape, and move forward.

*RE: Baker playing through pain *Yeah I was aware. I think he came in and we didn't know what was going on. Like I said, you can't say he isn't tough. He's a fighter, it's not shocking. For us we need to fix it. We're trying, but we need to fix it.

*RE: Confidence in Coach Rhule *I have full confidence in Matt. I've always believed that the head coach and quarterback get too much credit and too much blame.

*RE: Mental execution *We just got to get back to work. I wish there was a better answer. Each play has a life of itself. Look at each play one play at a time, if there's a mistake do everything you can to fix it. If you do something well, continue to capitalize from it. That's football and that's life.

DE Brian Burns

RE: Brian this had to feel tonight from a defensive standpoint and maybe I'm wrong… you just, several injuries. Jaycee Horn goes out and maybe just too much to bear for a defense that has played pretty well all season.

Nah, at the end of the day we've got a lot of guys. They just found holes in the, in the zones and defense and they executed, and they did pretty well on third down, that was a problem. So, I wouldn't say it was too much to bear.

RE: What feels different when Frankie Luvu and Xavier Woods, and Jaycee Horn aren't on the field? What is it? A different vibe? Obviously, it's different guys, right? So how does it feel?

Yeah, it feels different. Frankie brings a lot of energy, a lot of juice, he makes a lot of, a lot of splash plays. X is one of our main communicators in the back end and you know Jeremy Chinn is the enforcer. So you know, it does make a difference but like I said we've got guys that can step up, we just got to fix the things that's on the table.

RE: Who took over those communication duties with both starting safety's out? Who was like the main, you know took X's role as like?

Myles Hartsfield and Justin Burris

RE: How much does it bother you when people attribute your struggles to coaching?

A lot because they don't know what is being said in the building. They don't know, everything that goes on in our day-to-day practices so for them to speak on it is really really ignorant. But like I said, we tune most of that because, I mean at the end of the day it's opinion, it's opinionated. But at the end of the day, who's playing? It's the players, right?

RE: What do you think most people miss? That they don't know, being in the building.

They don't play football. Like they don't know everything that goes into it, they don't know the exact play that was called. They can't, all they, all they, all they really comment on is what they see. You see what I'm saying, they don't know what goes into this. So, I mean like I don't pay that too much mind because they're not on the team. 

RE: Brian how tough to look out there tonight really from the start and see so many 49ers fans?

They [expletive] don't bother me.

RE: Brian who or what do you lean on outside of your teammates to maintain the mental fortitude in a season like this?

Outside of teammates who do I lean on?

RE: Yeah. Or what? Anything?

I lean on my trainer but the main people I lean on is my teammates because I know they going through the same thing I'm going through. So like being out there, like I said before earlier this week it takes a lot of mental stamina to you know what I'm saying, play that long and stop somebody for a long time so. But I lean on them boys as long as they with me, I know they got my back, I got theirs.

RE: Matt talked about his message in the locker room, kind of trying to keep everybody together and keep everybody up. As maybe some guys get nicked up and some injuries mount up and the losses mount up, how much more difficult does that get? And how do you maintain?

It's on the leaders. I put it on me, I put it on Shaq Thompson, I put it on all the guys with not just the guys with C on their chest but the guys that been through things like this before. Like a down slope or anything like that, going through tough times. I put it on us because at the end of the day we're the glue that holds everybody together. I gave a deep message to the guys at halftime like relax, you know what I mean, don't get too emotional, we got this, you know what I mean. But that's just encouragement, you know what I mean, so I've just got to keep, keep the team together. That's my job along with doing my job on the field and I take a lot of pride in it. 

RE: You've been through some tough stretches, where does this one rank? Is this one any different at all?

I wouldn't necessarily say it's different. I would say, they are all disappointing in its own way. I would just say, I expected a lot out of us and I feel like we got a lot more that we can, we can do and we ain't really, we ain't really holding up our end of the bargain.

RE: As somebody who does see what happens behind the scenes, why is this team and this locker room so bought into Matt Rhule?

Because like I said, people, people want blame him and he takes all the blame because you know, he's the head coach and he's a standup guy in my opinion. But that's one of the reasons why we're behind him so much because he's never, I've never personally seen him throw anybody under the bus, that's just me. Even when it comes down to meetings, he's big on accountability and I, I believe in that. I believe that if you, if you [expletive] up, you feel me, like stand up on it, stand up on what you did. And I'm the first one that will do that, like there's some plays I left out there, you feel me and I got to play better. I feel like I should, I ain't even gonna get on that. But yeah, he's, he's a big guy of accountability and I believe firmly in that.

RE: Have you ever voiced that to him?


RE: What you just said, what you appreciate about him.

Yeah. Me, me, me and Coach Rhule talk a lot. We talk a lot and we talk about, about, we try to find solutions of why things ain't working out. And like I said, I respect the man, I respect the man. He's a strong dude, he's a tough dude because all that [expletive] I heard today, sorry for the cussing. All that stuff I heard today, you know from the fans and the boos and all the red and the fire Rhule, all that. He's a strong cat, you feel me and he got my respect because he don't let that faze him and he still comes in front of us everyday and talks. I don't got nothing but respect for him.

RE: Did he address that today?


RE: What you just described?

Nah, he ain't about to bring that [expletive] up; for us? For what? Everybody heard it, ain't no point in bringing that up. At the end of the day, I told you I respect him.

CB Donte Jackson

*RE: Outside criticism of Coach Rhule *It doesn't (bother me), it's part of it. He's not out there making mistakes, it's on us. We've got to play better and that's what it is. We can't pay attention to it. There's a whole lot of ball left to play, and we've got to keep working on executing.

*RE: Missing key defenders on the field today *We got to be better and execute. Everybody is always prepared to play and go out there. We just got to execute and be better.

*RE: Defense wearing down in the second half *We have to execute and be better. Speaking for me, my job is to come here and play corner. I can't dwell on how long I have to play corner when that is my job. We just got to be better.

*RE: Where that faith in Coach Rhule comes from *The guy himself. We know what kind of ball is being coached and it's not losing ball. We got to be better as players.

C Pat Elflein

*RE: On third down situations *We've just got to evaluate the film see what it looks like. See where the errors were. Go into practice and make sure those things get corrected and don't stop until they do. That's the only thing we can do is get back to work.

*RE: What does it take for you guys to get this thing turned around? *First off, it's really hard to get wins in this league. And we haven't done a good enough job to get some, get enough yet. So we're back to work. We're going to come in tomorrow and dive in on what happened. Evaluate it, process it and get back to work.

*RE: What the kind of response do you guys have when you see all that red in the crowd in your home stadium? *You try to block all that out because there's such a big job to do on the field. So you try to not let that faze you. There's enough going on the field already.

*RE: Do you guys feel like you owe more to Matt Rhule? It's tough for him to stand up there every week and kind of take this. Do you guys feel like ownership to kind of help him out? *We got to play better. We didn't play good enough today. So, we definitely got to play better.

*RE: Going off that Christian McCaffrey said that bad football is not being coached. Do you agree with that, that the accountability is on you guys to execute the gameplan better? *I think so, I think we've got to go out and we need 11 guys doing their job. If one guy doesn't it's not going to work out. So, yeah we need to execute better.

*RE: You talked about with me last week, pointing the thumb and not the finger and everybody's got to look in the mirror and point the thumb not the finger? *Everyone's got to evaluate what they did. That's where it starts, is evaluating yourself. You don't want to start pointing fingers because each individual person has enough responsibility. That's got to come first. You know look in the mirror for sure.

View best in-game photos from Carolina's Week 5 game against San Francisco.

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