HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
Obviously disappointed in the outcome of that game. We made a little run at the end to push it to overtime and I was proud to show that type of grit and all that, but for most of the game they certainly outplayed us. As I told our team, we're going to have to execute and make some plays that are there offensively. As I'm sure you all know and will ask me, it was not very good until we went to the rally mode at the end, the two minute at the end, and were able to make some plays defensively. I think they were in the field way too long, we allowed them to run the football. There were bright spots to me: obviously blocking a punt was good, I thought Ryan Winslow came out for his first time and did a good job. Guys like Ian Thomas and those guys that don't say much made a lot of plays; we don't talk about them a lot but huge plays that mattered and got us back in the game. Credit to Minnesota, they went down and made a great drive at the end to win it and we'll have to improve and try to win next week.
RE: The message to the team after a game like this
As I told our guys, we're not the type of team that's going to show up and not execute and still win the game. We can't have however many drops we had, we can't have mistakes, you can't turn the ball over three times yet again. We're going to have to execute at a higher level. What does execute mean? It means everyone does their job when they have a chance to make a play. They have good players, we knew that they would make good plays – [Justin] Jefferson and all that – but we had chances to sack the quarterback, we had balls on the ground that we didn't get on, and offensively, we were significantly out of rhythm. We knew they had good players and it was going to be a tough matchup some places for us, but we'll have to get better. We have to just keep improving at it. Some guys will come back at some point here soon, that'll help us. But overall, just program-wise, team-wise we all have to be better.
RE: The back-to-back timeouts and delay of game
We lost two receivers, we lost [Brandon] Zylstra and then we lost [Terrace] Marshall so [Alex] Erickson had to go in and just got confused. There was some confusion in terms of who was who in terms of lining up. Alex is a really smart kid, he plays a lot of different positions for us. Either he or the tight end, somehow, they got confused as to who was where so we lined up poorly. Obviously, you can't call two timeouts in a row, Sam [Darnold] isn't supposed to call timeouts but he was in a bad position where they were all lined up wrong so that falls on us as coaches to get that done right. We were able to get in at halftime, Zylstra was able to come back in for us but for a while there, thankfully we had Shi [Smith] out there so we had four wideouts and then Zylstra came back and then we lost Erickson at the end of the game. So just getting guys in the right spot on the fly as guys were getting hurt.
RE: Whether the back-to-back timeout calls were on the fly
It was on the fly in terms of the substitution. It's really no excuse for it, I'm just telling you what happened. Just poor by us. The way our language works, they should know it but I don't want to put that on the guys. At the end of the day, if a guy gets hurt we have to have the next guy ready and we were lined up wrong so we had to adjust.
RE: What teams have done to neutralize the pass rush
We haven't pressured quite as much. We've played a little more four-man rush. A lot of our sacks really came on pressures, when we brought more pressure today they really got the ball out. I don't know how many sacks we did miss, I think one or two, I know we missed one on that two-minute drive that obviously would be a crucial kind of a play in terms of maybe we can block the punt or something like that. But these guys went tempo – which they haven't really done much of – early in the second quarter they went tempo and got the ball of their hands. A lot of our sacks we had early on were kind of schemed up pressures, blitzes where guys came free. Quarterbacks are seeing that and they're getting the ball out of their hand fast, which should result in us breaking up passes hopefully but it wasn't quite as much today.
RE: What this game showed about the team
That we have a long way to go. That we're not where we want to be. You can't line up and call two timeouts two plays in a row, you can't do those things; you can't take the sacks we took today, you can't turn the ball over. I like our competitive nature and our work ethic and all those things are improving, I like those things about us but the execution has to come along with it. And I don't see that, I don't see that execution right now. All I know how to do is keep working, I'm kind of out of words for it. Just keep working and guys go out and find a way to make plays.
RE: Sam Darnold's play throughout the game
That first play, we tried to line up and take a deep shot to DJ [Moore]. We wanted to back people off. I haven't seen the tape, I don't know if he got pressured or what but they doubled DJ for most of the game today. We scrambled around, Robby [Anderson] was open, he was trying to make a play and the kid made a nice play on defense. We're going to have to do a better job of getting our guys to understand that we can't have turnovers. To even be in that game with those turnovers that we did have – most times they resulted in points, the first one resulted in three, I think DJ's fumble resulted in three, and I can't remember the last one – we're just not going to be able to win doing it like that. We ran the ball fairly well at times today, it's just not enough right now. We're not running the ball enough. What Sam needed today was a little help from his friends at times. He needed some plays to be made. We dropped a lot of balls and then all of a sudden at the end, he makes that rope of a throw to Ian [Thomas] running down the middle of the field, Ian makes an unbelievable catch and all of a sudden now it looks good. So, I think when you're a quarterback who is a little out of sorts, you're out of whack, you need some guys to go out and make some plays for you. I didn't see many spectacular plays until Ian's catch. Maybe there were a couple others, I think DJ's fade there at the end, those were all plays that allowed us to score.
RE: Whether the defense got tired
Yeah, we're playing eight-man front where those balls shouldn't be run and they weren't run most of the games and today they were still able to run the football. That last drive, had we gone three-and-out after we scored the touchdown and the two-point conversion, we had a chance to get them down but letting them have a five- or six-play drive and then them winning the toss, obviously we were tired. The defense needed a couple longer drives by the offense to give them a break. WE have a lot of guys like Sean Chandler and Sam [Franklin Jr.] who are starting at safety and starting in the nickel and playing on two or three special teams, that's just kind of where we are right now. But all that being said, the job of the defense is to stop them, nothing else, so the defense needed to stop them. We needed to stop them on that last drive. Anything by a touchdown, that was the coaching point and obviously they scored the touchdown there at the end.
RE: How to get the late-game intensity earlier in the game
I think what happens is, you get to the end and people start playing – they don't rush. A lot of our issues throwing the football today were them lining up and bringing pressure and Sam [Darnold] being under duress. That might be who we are moving forward, we might need to get in no huddle and move the ball down the field the way we did there. I think right now we have to figure out, especially with Christian [McCaffrey] out and some other guys out, what our identity is. People are playing a two-man thing on DJ [Moore] and making sure DJ doesn't catch the ball. We tried to go to Robby [Anderson], we tried to go to some other guys today – Zylstra today a little bit; Terrace [Marshall Jr.] got knocked out but we had a plan for him; Shi [Smith], we had a plan for him. So, those guys have to make some plays, we have to find ways to help them make the plays. But the no huddle has helped us the last couple of weeks, so we're trying to figure out exactly what we can do to win as best we can. The defense kept us in that game for a long, long, long time. We win and lose as a team. The defense had a chance to get the stop at the end to win it but they needed a little help in that first half.
RE: What the difference was for Sam Darnold in the last drive
I think he wasn't running around back there. If you think about it, the first three plays it was incomplete, incomplete, incomplete. So, it kind of looked a lot like what we had looked like and then finally ripped a play there at the end. I think once we get a little bit of momentum, he gets going. To me, it goes back to Ian makes an unbelievable play. Ian's running down the middle of the field, guys are running with him, he catches that ball. If he doesn't catch that ball, the game's over. They take a knee and we lose by eight. But he makes a play and that gets us going on offense, so I've got to figure out exactly what we need to be on offense. At the end of the day, you're trying to formulate an identity. We want to run it, we're running it a little bit here, a little bit there, I think [Chuba Hubbard] is playing really well. We have to figure out who our core is a little bit better than what we are right now and I think we had a plan, I think we felt good about it but just today we didn't look very good at times. So, we're just going to continue to evolve and try to get better.
RE: Robby Anderson's performance today
I was happy to see him make a couple of plays on the last drive to get us back in it but, just like many of us, there were too many missed opportunities out there. We can't have that in a type of game like this. When you're playing a team like the Minnesota Vikings, you know that they're fourth in the NFL in third down. You need a bunch of guys to make plays and my point is when you see Chuba [Hubbard] take the speed sweep, Tommy [Tremble] catch the shovel pass, Ian [Thomas] make a play down the middle of the field, we're going to talk a lot about Sam [Darnold] but I think he just needs a bunch of guys making plays. That helps him obviously and we needed more.
RE: Why they got away from the run
Our inability to convert on third downs makes it hard to find some rhythm. We'd get four or five yards and think we're going to stay in good manageable position then have a bad play on second down and that leads to third-and-long where we're not able to convert third downs. If it's me, other than some of things that weren't executed right in terms of lining up, the right formation, all those things, we didn't convert enough third downs to stay on the field and keep the defense off the field. We were either explosive or nothing. We'll have to go back and look at everything. We'll have to go back and look at do we need to call more runs? I think we probably do, to be quite honest. It's something I've felt but you get in the flow of games and you're just trying to hang in there because it felt like it was getting away from us there. But that's probably what we need to do moving forward.
RE: The decision to not have Christian McCaffrey play and place him on IR
The doctors came to us on Saturday and, beyond me, just kind of came to us and felt like it was the right thing to do, just as they talked about it, to get him truly healthy.
QB SAM DARNOLD
RE: Where does the improvement plan for better protecting you begin?
I think for myself I have to get the ball out, I think that's a big thing. Just making sure that we are on time with all of our routes and for me and my feet, everything has to be working in sync. I think that's really where we are going to start. But again, we have to watch the tape and kind of figure it out.
RE: What was the difference in the offense's performance and your performance during the 96-yard drive that wasn't there for most of the game?
It was converting a huge fourth-and-10. It kind of started the way that a lot of the drives went throughout the game, we just didn't execute at a high enough level today. We were able to make a play, Ian was able to make a really good play there and then we kind of got a good rhythm going there with our two-minute offense.
RE: Is there anything you say or can say to Robby Anderson or DJ Moore when the case of the drops seems to hit them?
They are both pros, so they understand what they have to do, they understand what their job is.
RE: First offensive play, what happened and what kind of tone did that set?
Obviously it's never good, first play of the game throwing an interception. It's just trying to take a deep shot there. It felt like it wasn't there, scrambled around and then obviously with my ball placement gave the DB some room to make a play on it.
RE: What was difficult particularly in the first half?
We just couldn't find a rhythm, couldn't execute. We weren't executing at a high enough level like I said before. Again, we have to watch the tape and figure out kind of how we can execute better and what that looks like.
RE: This looked like the end of the Dallas game almost, where you got into rhythm late, what is about those situations that you guys were able to find success?
We just executed. I know you guys get tired of me saying it but that's really it. I mean we just executed at a high level during that two-minute drive like you mentioned in Dallas. But we have to execute like that on every single drive and be consistent.
RE: Do you think the no huddle is something you could use to your advantage the middle of the game?
We will talk about it. I mean we have to look at the tape and figure something other things out.
RE: If you had won that coin toss, do you think you would have scored again?
Oh, 100%. That is always our mindset, whenever we get the ball to go down there and score.
RE: How deflating was that you had that incredible drive and then never got the ball again?
Yea, I mean obviously you want to be able to get a chance to score but you know, for me, I had full trust and faith in our defense that they were going to go out there and get a stop.
RE: How do you put in to words what the last three losses looked like for the team?
It's never, you want to win games. That's the nature of this league and that's the nature of our business, you know. We just have to understand kind of what we are doing wrong. Everyone has to look themselves in the mirror, understand how they can get better, and attack this week with a purpose and get ready for this next one.
RE: How deflating was the news over the weekend that you were going to be without Christian for at least another three games?
Christian, obviously he is a good player but he is a good leader on this team as well. So without him out there on the field, obviously he is there on the sideline, but he doesn't have as big of a part. It is what it is. I think that is kind of my mindset there.
RE: Where do you feel the identity of the offense is or where it should be?
I think we have to figure that out. We have to understand what we are doing well, understand what we are not doing well and I think we just have to figure that out as players and everyone in the organization.
RE: Do you feel your role has had to change or in what you have to do differently without Christian in the past three games?
It doesn't change anything for me. I mean obviously Christian is a good player but whatever the play is called, if it's a pass play, it's my play to execute and take care of the football. Just have to keep doing that.
RE: Your numbers have dipped since losing Christian, is it because he is not there or something else?
We have to execute better. I have to do my part and I have to go out there and take care of the football and get our team down the field however I can.
RE: When the receivers have drops, do you try to change anything, what is your mindset as the quarterback?
No, not at all. It is all about trust as a quarterback. You have to trust the o-line to block, you have to trust the receivers to run and catch the football, That's really the nature of this game.
RE: Do you think you guys could benefit from the hurry up?
We will see. We will look at it and talk about it.
RE: Do you trust the protection now to where you feel comfortable?
Yea, absolutely, I thought those guys did a good job for the most part with protection. There are some things that we have to clean up and look at that.
WR DJ MOORE
RE: Reason behind dropped passes.
I don't know, you just got to focus on the ball. It's football, you just got to catch the ball at the end of the day.
RE: What was the difference in the offense in the first 55 minutes of the game and that 96-yard drive at the end?
We were all connecting. We were pitching and catching, everything was just going the way we wanted to the last five minutes on the 96-yard drive.
RE: Is there any conversation with Robby [Anderson] having his drop issues? Do you guys talk? Do you go up to him and say anything in particular?
It's always a conversation, you know, he looks to me if he seeing something different in the way he's supposed to catch the ball, I'll tell him. Sometimes I can't see it, but we'll watch it on the iPad or whatever we have on the sideline. He'll ask me "Do you think I should have turned my hands this way or that way?". And I'll just be like, "Just move on from it bro, it's the next play."
RE: Frustration with drops across receiving core.
You're frustrated, but you just go back and look at the tape. Get it over with. When I had two drops, the two drops are on me. I have to make those catches to help Sam [Darnold] out. I can't speak on Robby [Anderson] on how he feels about it but I know he's pretty upset about it too.
RE: Having any past games with drops and moving forward.
I don't really take the past game to the future games. They're all separate games. Next week's game is next week's game.
RE: Is it hard to establish an offensive identity when you won't have Christian [McCaffrey] for the next couple of games?
I mean, no, we got all the weapons we need. When somebody goes down, like Christian, somebody just has to step up. Whether it's a run-based game plan, a throw-based game plan, a mix. We all just have to go out and do our job at the end of the day. We didn't do it today so we lost.
LB HAASON REDDICK
RE: Keeping the morale up in the locker room
This is the sixth game. We have 11 more opportunities at the end of the day. The season isn't over, not even close. Watch the film, making sure that everybody understands that we have to learn from our mistakes and flush it down the tank. Get ready and go on the road and win one on the road.
RE: Whether there has been a different energy surrounding this team in the last three weeks
I don't feel like that. I really don't know what happened. I'm there and I'm playing but I'm not focusing on what's going wrong at the time. I'm just worried about going out there and trying to stop them. At the end of the day, I have to watch the film, just to see what I could have done better. I could guarantee you I wasn't perfect, so just to see what I could've done better to help out the team, get a W as well.
RE: How's the locker room today compared to last week
It's about the same. This one just hits a little bit differently. You were down and you come back to force the overtime and just didn't get the result that we wanted in overtime which is about it.
RE: Whether the defense was trying to pressure the quarterback late in the game.
Not really, I think we were more trying to stop the run as the run started getting going a little bit. When the run game is working, usually that doesn't leave a lot of opportunities to get the pass rush.
View in-game photos from the Panthers and Vikings in Week 6 at Bank of America Stadium.