HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
Opening statement:Congratulations to New York, (Giants Head Coach) Joe Judge, they thoroughly got after us today. Unbelievably disappointed in our coaching staff and myself and our players and the entire Carolina Panthers. I thought the defense hung tough for a while, but in the end, some really well-thought out but simple things that they did beat us. Offensively, other than that first drive, that was not a very good day in any shape or form. Obviously, I pulled (Panthers Quarterback) Sam (Darnold) in the game. I just felt like we needed some sort of a spark. Not that anything was necessarily him, I think it's all of them. Hoping (Panthers Quarterback) PJ (Walker) would go out there and make a run or do something to kind of get us going. Sam will be our quarterback next week. He'll be our quarterback moving forward. In a game like that and I called a fake punt at the minus-15 or 20-yard line the first half trying to get us going and we checked out of it. (Safety Jeremy) Chinn checked out of it. This is obviously not anywhere good enough. I'll answer anything you guys ask today, but at the end of the day, I don't know if we realize the position that we're in. You can tell New York certainly recognized after last week the position they were in, that their backs were against the wall. They had a sense of urgency that we did not have. We'll find that this week. We'll have to find that this week moving forward. We're getting ready to play Atlanta. We can't continue to go out, and we were not the tougher team today and that's a credit to the Giants. Coming off what happened to them last week, they showed up to play today at a high level and we were not good enough.
Q: We saw (Panthers Owner) David Tepper go into the locker room afterwards, did he have any sort of message to the team or say anything?
A: No, Dave comes in after pretty much every game. He's always there just to support.
Q: Was benching Sam at all a realization that he's not the answer long-term here?
A: No. I wouldn't say that. Obviously, it wasn't what we wanted. I think I've gone on record – I think quarterbacks go through ups and downs and highs and lows. You look at (Giants Quarterback) Daniel Jones tonight, I mean, he went through the same kind of game probably last week from what I looked at. I'm not in their organization. I don't mean to speak for them, but he came out tonight and played great. Sam's got to take care of the football. Sam's got to throw on time and if it's not there, find the check downs. We can't be driving with a chance to go take the lead and throw interceptions. His sense of urgency this week, I expect to be heightened. I try to put that sense of urgency on our coaches. Obviously, it didn't show up. We'll continue to do that this week. We have to coach better, but our players have to play better as well and that starts with the quarterback.
Q: Where do you feel like the coaching staff has come up short?
A: The final score, especially offensively. I thought defensively they had a good plan. They hung in there. I think in the end we got worn down. Those were all excuses. I mean, the defense, they've got to step up. Each man on our defense has to step up, make some plays. We're in position to make plays, I just don't see us making enough plays. Offensively, obviously, we didn't protect the quarterback. We wanted to run the football more. We started out running it and didn't run it enough. We didn't run it well enough. We couldn't convert. It's like the second game in a row, the tale is two-of-15 on third down. It's just completely unacceptable. We have to coach way, way better. There's no doubt. But we also have to play better, and I think this is one of those deals where everyone that walks in that building this week starting with me, has got to have a sense of urgency that I think we should have had the last couple of weeks. It feels like it during the week, but it doesn't seem to be showing up on Sundays. At some point it's got to change.
Q: What's been the biggest thing in Sam the first three weeks of the season and the last four weeks?
A: Throwing on time, taking the open receiver, being patient, protecting the football, not throwing off his back foot – I think some of the things that we're seeing right now. I think we had some times on third down where guys were open and we're predetermining, we're thinking. Again, I understand young quarterbacks go through that, so we're obviously not coaching Sam well enough, so this isn't about Sam. We needed more from the run game. We needed some explosive plays. We needed some guys to make some big catches. But at the end of the day, as a coach, you're standing on the sidelines and sometimes you're just trying to create something to get the team going. I tried to do that, and it didn't work out obviously.
Q: (Panthers Running Back) Chuba (Hubbard) had 28 yards, I think most of that came on the first drive, what changed after that first drive? Was it the offensive line or just patience?
A: No, I think the second drive, I can't remember exactly if we were three and out, and then the third drive we were obviously down in the safety, and then the fourth drive we went three and out, and then we got going on the next drive and had a longer drive and then just didn't convert third downs. To me, the tale of the tape is really just third downs. If you want to run the football, you have to stay on the field. We made an emphasis on running the football this week. It didn't show up.
Q: A couple of those third downs, the third-and-one and the third-and-two, you threw the ball, and it didn't go well. Do you think (Panthers Offensive Coordinator) Joe (Brady) got away from the running game?
A: Some of those were – like that one third-and-two was like a – we took a sack, it was an RPO. It was a handoff to a bubble, so we came into this knowing like, 'hey, we're going to have to have some run game RPO tags.' So, a couple of those were runs called that just obviously didn't work out.
Q: They were checks…?
A: No, they were just some RPO, like the guy's going in motion and the left tackle stepped in, the defensive end knocked him back, he hits the tight end coming back on the RPO. Some of these things were things we game planned, and I was fine with those going in terms of 'hey, we're going to run the football here and the RPO here.' At the end of the day, you're thinking on one of those you're going to hand it off or you're going to throw the ball in the flat and it's going to be fourth-and-one and we're going to go. I mean, I went for it on fourth-and-one on the first drive of the game from the 30. I was determined that we were going to be a four-down team. I came here today and at the end of the day, I came here today saying, 'whatever it takes to win, we're going to try to find a way to win,' and we did not. But we went for it on fourth down. Even at the end, we went for it on fourth down and let the score get away from us a little bit. Yeah, we have to execute those plays. I think third down is – if you go back and look at us, historically, we don't play well on third down. We're just not very good.
Q: You went into it right in your opening statement, but can you go a little more into your decision as to when to insert PJ? You had many opportunities I guess there and when did you pull the trigger?
A: Yeah, I came out after halftime, like, 'all right, this just feels flat. This does not feel the way it's supposed to feel,' especially offensively. I think even the defense was kind of hanging on. I think they held them to a field goal in the first half, but we didn't have like – I just didn't feel it. So, I just said, 'okay, let's go play.' We went down the first drive and a couple things happened, and I can't remember what happened on the plays on the first drive, but the coaches didn't feel like anything was – Sam was playing fine. The next drive, I think it was third-and-two and we didn't hit (Panthers Tight End) Colin (Thompson). Colin, does he drift? I don't know. But I was just sort of like, I could feel like it was at the tipping point, right? We were now or never, and I think I waited one more drive and then went ahead and did it. The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass somebody because I know that this is going to be the story this week. I really believe sometimes – you go back to the olden days before all the pressure, quarterbacks would sometimes sit for a little bit and have to come back. It's almost, Sam will define who he is. This is up to him. Just sort of wanted to get something going because I could feel it. The field position, credit to Joe (Judge), we played on their side of the 50 the whole game. I mean our side of the 50 the whole game, excuse me, and our punting game obviously wasn't very good. Our coverage was really good. I was proud of our coverage.
Q: But you said right then, Sam will definitely be your quarterback?
A: Yeah, Sam will be the quarterback. I just wanted to get something going today. I just felt like this is it, so PJ's always ready. As long as Sam does the right things, he comes back – and obviously he's going to be really disappointed, but if you're a competitor you show up this week, and I know he's a competitor. He'll show up this week.
Q: What is it about Sam that you think gives you all the best chances to win even with this?
A: We're not winning right now, so it's going to take all of us. I think I said it a couple times, when we play really well in every other area, when we're catching every ball, when we're stepping through tackles in the run game, when we're running the football well and when we're pass protecting at a high level, then I'll look at one guy. But I think he just needs a lot of help from a lot of guys right now that he's not getting. I see the good moments, too. I see all the really good things. We're going to keep coaching him.
Q: You were pretty adamant this week that you were not in the quarterback trade market, so this doesn't change that either?
A: No. Obviously, I want Sam to play better, but he's the guy we're focused on.
Q: Would it change for you for how you will approach the deadline now?
A: I can't look to the future, but I don't believe it will. Everyone's disappointed right now. There are emotions flying around, all those things. At the end of the day, you saw the game, it wasn't very good in any regards, so to me it all goes back to like the sense – I mean, think about the way we played defense and then what it looked like today. We have to get ourselves going and moving in the right direction. This is like, the same thing happened last year, happened to me before, we've got to get it fixed. To me it's like, I want our guys – losing like this has to infuriate and upset us. If you want to see what it looks like, look what Philadelphia did when we played. Look what these guys did today. These guys came out with a sense of urgency. Sometimes you guys ask me, 'hey, so and so said something after the game,' what's it going to look like on Wednesday? What's it going to look like on Thursday? We've got to get this thing moving. I don't know that we've had that urgency that we need. It'll happen now.
Q: Did you want to make another move at punter?
A: Potentially. I mean, potentially. We'll see. I have to go back and look at the tape. They had 10 up one time. They had no returner deep. I mean, they did some good things. At this point, I don't want to sit there and say, right now anything's on the table, anything's off the table at anything, because we have to go back. I'm never very good at emotional decisions. We go back, we go through the process. After a game like this, you kind of just want to go back in the locker room and come out next week with all the same guys and see how they respond. Bad stuff happens, what do we look like next week? We better look different next week or the conversation changes. I think that's fair. I think the guys would say that's fair. I would say that's fair. This happened. This was not anything that we wanted, and I wouldn't take any credit away from them. It was a great job by them. Let's see who responds. Let's find out who has got that edge. I've always said I want us to be a serious football place. Part of that is having a real edge about ourselves and everything can't be happy go lucky. We need to become a really tough, tough franchise, a tough building and I have not got that done. When things like this happen, it goes right on my shoulders. I have not gotten that done. If we don't become a tough team soon then we're going to have to make some serious changes. That's not panic. I want to make sure I say that because I believe in what we're doing. I believe in the process we're doing, but I did not feel the urgency and the toughness and the edge that we needed. But I saw it from (Giants Defensive Lineman) Leonard Williams, and I saw it from some of them. We had some of our players had it I'm sure. When I look at the tape, I'll see some guys play really hard, play really well, but just overall unacceptable for all of us. I don't want to call any one guy out because I think you guys would all say, it kind of looked like the whole team today, so we've got to get better.
Q: How much of the offensive issues come down to just the fundamentals or techniques or even the play-calling? How much goes into all those issues?
A: I think it always comes down to those things. You always sit there and say, 'what about this? What about that?' And then you turn the tape on and it's a bad block here. It's a drop here. It's a poor route here. It's a missed read here. Sometimes it's a bad play call here. There wasn't a play today that they said that I was like, 'oh, why are we doing that?' That being said, we've just got to play better.
QB SAM DARNOLD
Q: The first three weeks of the season we could see the improvement in your footwork which you were working on in the offseason, you're going through your progressions, your extending drives with your legs. What has been different in these last four weeks?
A: I think it's just we're unable to find a rhythm out there and we've just got to go back and look at the tape. I know it sounds redundant, I say it after every single game, after the last four games, but we've got to figure out a way to get a rhythm back.
Q: (Panthers Head Coach) Matt (Rhule) said the last thing he wanted to do was embarrass somebody. Were you embarrassed today?
A: No, I think when you get to that point of getting pulled, I just internalize it, and honestly it's one of those situations where it is what it is. He thought at the time that would provide a spark, putting (Quarterback) PJ (Walker) in there, so it was his decision and he went with it.
Q: What did you take away from the decision?
A: I mean, I think that's kind of up to him, whatever he thinks was the best decision and ultimately, it's his decision, it's up to him. I want to go out there. I want to play for my teammates and be out there as much as I can.
Q: Did it sting a little bit for that to happen back in this stadium in particular?
A: No, I mean it's hard no matter where you are. I think, like I just said, as a competitor, you want to go out there and give it a hundred percent for your teammates and for the guys next to you and it was, yeah, that's pretty much my thoughts.
Q: Do you think you deserve to hang onto the job?
A: Yeah, again ultimately, it's not my decision to make that, so.
Q: It's been a rough few weeks. Would you say that you're in a slump?
A: Yeah, I think that's a good word for it. I think it's just, offensively speaking; we were unable to find a rhythm. Like I said before, we had a couple of good drives. I think the first drive we had was a good drive, we just didn't convert that last third down and we kicked a field goal, got three points, and then we went down there and then I had that turnover and that pick and I think I've just got to continue to do a better job of protecting the football because when we get down there it's points. Points that we can't afford to give up.
Q: What happened there on that play?
A: Just trying to force the ball when it wasn't there.
Q: Personally, how do you pick yourself up after a game like this?
A: It's just going back to work. I think that's the biggest thing, is going in tomorrow and understanding the task at hand—beating the Atlanta Falcons and go from there.
Q: You talked about your confidence and how it's so important to you. Does this shake your confidence in yourself at all and how do you not let it?
A: No, not at all. I'm going to go out there, I'm going to play football and give it all I've got for my teammates.
Q: Did it feel any different coming back here? Pregame, before the game, on the sidelines? Emotions? See anybody from familiar? What was the experience like coming back?
A: No. We ended up walking past the Jets locker room to start, but other than that it was just coming out here on the road to face a good Giants team and obviously didn't get the job done.
Q: How much of the offensive issues come down to fundamentals and just details versus just defenses making good plays?
A: Yeah, I think obviously we credit the defense. They came out here and played a heck of a game, but it's us not executing, so we've got to figure out the details and understand that everyone's got to be on the same page every single play and if we're not, then we're going to get out of rhythm and we're not going to have the drives that we want.
Q: What did you think of the way, why was (Giants DL) Leonard Williams such a problem for you guys? You've played with him before. Did you sense something from him, a focus or anything from him today?
A: I mean Leo's a good player, he always has been, so I knew personally that he was going to come out and (be) ready to go like he always does.
Q: One play that Matt Rhule mentioned in terms of why he sat you down for a while was the throw to (Panthers TE) Colin Thompson on third-and-two. You were a little behind him. What did you see there that didn't work?
A: I think I threw it a little low and a little off target.
Q: Was he supposed to be in a different spot or no?
A: No. I thought he did a good job of hooking it up. I've just got to put it on him.
Q: Rhule says that the team has to come out with a better sense of urgency, or this franchise as a whole has to have a better sense of urgency. Has that been there and if not, why not?
A: I think we definitely have to have that sense of urgency to keep going, but again, we've just got to stick with our process because it worked the first three weeks for a reason. We're a good football team, we can play good football, we can play great football. It's just about continuing to do what we do and not trying to do too much. After a few losses in a row, people start to wonder what's wrong, so really, it's really just understanding what we have to do and that's just execute. Whatever plays are called, whatever we have to do, we've just got to execute better and all be on the same page.
Q: Why do you think you all aren't on the same page?
A: I think it comes down to a lot of things and we have to look at the tape tomorrow and understand kind of what's happening, but it just means miscommunication on some plays, and again, I think for me personally I've got to communicate better and put the ball where it needs to be and accurately.
Q: Can this offense work effectively without Christian McCaffrey on the field?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, Christian's a great player, but, yeah, this offense is great. It's a really good system and again, we've just got to go and execute better and play better.
QB P.J. WALKER
Q: What did Coach Rhule say to you when you were coming into the game? Tell us about that process.
A: He felt that I could give the offense a little spark coming off the bench. He didn't really say much to me. He just gave me a chance to go out there and try to move the ball and get things going on offense. It took me a second to get into a rhythm. But once I got into it, I felt like I could have done a little better. I think I did alright, but I should have taken more completions in the first place. But I was trying to make plays and get back into the game and do a lot for the team, as much as I can.
Q: Was it actually Coach Rhule that told you?
A: No, it was my quarterbacks coach (Sean Ryan) who told me.
Q: Did you have any interaction with (Sam) Darnold before or after that?
A: Yes, we talked after. It was a normal conversation about things. Like I said, Coach Rhule just felt that I could give the team a spark. Sam is still the starter, so no matter, what we're going to continue to work and build as a team and continue to grow
Q: Did you notice a change in Sam over the last month or so as you guys have been losing and he's been turning the ball over?
A: It's noticeable, but we just have to go out there and continue to play. We can't just sit there and dwell on mistakes and keep overthinking things. We just have to go out there and play football. At the end of the day, this is a game that we've been playing our whole lives. We just have to go out there and keep playing.
Q: Why do you feel you all have struggled over the past few weeks?
A: Honestly, we just have to find a rhythm. I think that's really what it is. We have to find a way to run the ball, do different things play action-wise. We have to find a way to get things going offensively. And when we get big plays, we have to make sure not to let penalties beat us as well. It's hard to play football backed up. First and 15, first and 20 is hard. So, we have to go out there and stay ahead of the chains. When we're ahead of the chains, we're a really good offense.
Q: So, do you think you all are making a lot of mistakes?
DE BRIAN BURNS
Q: What did you feel like was the most disappointing thing about today?
A: Losing. There's no specific part of the game that I was most disappointed in. Just losing in general.
Q: When the offense is struggling the way it is, how much pressure do you guys feel as a defense to keep you in it, make big plays, and stuff like that?
A: We try not to buy into having that be big pressure on us or anything like that. We just try to do our job and give them spark plays when we can, but that all results from us doing our job, period. Just want to help them out because, at the end of the day, it's complementary football.
Q: (Head Coach) Matt (Rhule) talked about the idea that the almost doesn't want to make the exchanges after a game like that. He wants to bring everybody back and see how they respond. What do you think he means by that? He talked about he wants the guys playing with an edge in responding to a game like this? What do you think he means by that?
A: What, playing with an edge?
Q: Playing with an edge and responding after a performance like this. He wants to see how everybody responds.
A: He just really means attacking the week, buying into our preparation, practicing good, having a successful week. That's what he means by bouncing back, just attacking that week then being on to the next one. That's pretty much what he means by that.
Q: During the week though, Rhule says you guys are having good practices. Ahead of the Eagles game, he said you all had the best practice games you've had since he's been here, but it doesn't seem to be translating on the field on Sunday. Why do you think that is?
A: I don't know. I really can't speak on that. I feel like we let too many plays get away from us just from a technique standpoint, just a person doing their job and making a play when it's their turn to make a play. I feel like we just let the game get away from us. At that point in time, they can pretty much do what they want when they have a lead like that going into that late fourth quarter. Can't let the game get away.
View in-game photos from MetLife Stadium as the Panthers play the Giants in Week 7.