Interim head coach Steve Wilks
RE: Opening Statement
I'm extremely proud of the men in that room. I just told them that they continue to impress me by the way they just overcome adversity. Circle the wagons and come together. That definitely wasn't a team out there today that was trying to tank it. These guys right here have come together. They believe in one another and it's about trying to win football games. I'm excited about the win today. It's a lot we can build on. We are going to get back in here tomorrow, watch the tape, continue to build on the things that we did well. Correct the things that we need to correct, and see if we can try and go on the road and get another divisional win. With that, I'll take your questions.
RE: How would you grade each phase of football today and where do you go from here?
I think it's hard to try and grade it without really trying to look in depth at the tape. But we got a win today. I thought it was complimentary in all three phases. I thought we did a good job on third-down defensively, getting off the field. Of course up front, offensive line did a great job in controlling the line of scrimmage. We were at 173 yards rushing and I thought we executed in the kicking game.
RE: How big of a boost was D'Onta [Foreman] for the running game?
He was a major boost and as we talked about before, it was going to be by committee. I thought all those guys did a great job. [Raheem] Blackshear came in there and he got his first run. I'm very proud of the game plan that we had offensively. I'm proud of the coaches and how they got these guys ready to play. I'm mostly proud of the players and how they executed.
RE: How much did that word 'tank' bother you this week?
It didn't bother me because I really keep my focus on the men in this room right here each and every day. But I just want to put it out there and let you know these men in this room have too much character to even dive into something like that. Again, just excited about the win today.
RE: Did PJ [Walker] earn a chance to start again next week?
PJ had an outstanding performance. When you look at what he did today, still got to evaluate the tape, it's going to be hard to try and pull him out.
RE: You needed to stop the run on defense but the passing defense really showed up in this one in a lot of rotating pieces. What did you take away from the performance of your secondary?
I would say this, we always want to try and make them one dimensional. I told you guys earlier in the week, I didn't want to get [Leonard] Fournette going. When you talk about the best that ever played the game, and really any of these quarterbacks in this league, it's going to be hard to really stop them from getting that passing yardage. But we do got to do a much better job and tighten things up a little bit. I felt like we were getting too much on the outside, on the perimeter with the quick outs and the hitches.
RE: Can you take a moment to celebrate the personal milestone as a guy who went to West Charlotte to get the hometown win the first time?
It feels good but I know it's a broken record man, but I really try not to keep the focus on me. It's about team, 1 of 11, many parts and one body of work. That's what I believe in.
RE: You touched on the adversity this team has faced. Did these men need this win?
We needed it in a big way because I feel like we were just so close and we wanted to really see the fruits of our labor. That's what I kept telling the guys, you know, we are close. Just keep pressing. Keep pressing. We found a way to finish today.
RE: Is there any way that without Christian [McCaffrey] it sort of forced Ben [McAdoo] and yourself to kind of be a little bit more breath, a little more spread out in terms of getting others involved offensively?
I don't want to say that was the case. I thought we pretty much had a great game plan coming in. Our focus was to do exactly what we did regardless of who was in there which really trying to spread it out a little bit and push the ball down the field which I thought PJ [Walker] did a great job today.
RE: This defense have had games where they played well early and kind of yielded late, whether it was too many plays out on the field or what. What was the difference today?
I think the difference was the mindset that those guys wanted to finish, you know. That was a huge fourth down stop. I think it was a momentum builder for us, just confidence wise, to be able to stop those guys and get off the field. I thought the defense did a good job today.
RE: Last week you said you were impressed by DJ Moore's effort blocking. Where did he impress you the most today?
We targeted him a little bit more today and I thought he came up with some critical catches at key times. He is a guy we definitely got to get the ball to more and I'm really excited moving forward and just really seeing him continuing to grow this year.
RE: In the second quarter, there was a decision not to go for just a little over a 50-yard field goal. Can you talk about that decision?
Again, it was just the mere fact I felt like we had good momentum and I didn't really want to press it. I talked to the special teams coach and we didn't really feel too confident on it so that's the reason why.
RE: I know you don't want to make it about you, what does it say about the locker room that they have kind of gravitated towards you taking over after all of the adversity they felt originally?
Again, I just think It's just really trying to set the tone and I make it about them. I make it about us. I stood in front of these guys at the beginning when I first took over here and I said, 'you know, in order for us to go forward, we are going to have to surrender their individual me for the greater we.' That's what it's all about. It's not about certain individuals. It's not about me. When we continue to keep the focus on us, I think we have a chance.
RE: Now in the division, what statement did this team make today?
We came back from LA and I told the guys on Monday, we played hard. We didn't finish. But three of the next four are divisional games so we can find ourselves by taking it one at a time, really being right back in the mix of things. It was good today to get this win, divisional win and we are on the road next week going to Atlanta and we have to have a great week of preparation and practice and we will see what we can do when we get down there.
RE: You are only about 48 hours removed or so from dealing Christian [McCaffrey]. That followed the Robbie [Anderson] trade. Was there something that galvanized this team in the last couple of days? Something you said or one of the players said in team meetings or at the hotel?
Well, I mean, last night we talked about and really went back and had a highlight film of the past and the great divisional games and the rivalries we had. It talked about really making that jump. We emphasized and talked about that. I told guys, 'man, we got to go out there with a leap of faith and believe in one another and know that we can get this thing done. Once we do, we will take off.' That was really the point of emphasis last night and guys really bought into that. We took the jump today so I'm excited.
RE: You threw deep with PJ [Walker] on the very first play of the game. What did that symbolize?
It showed that we weren't going to sit back. That we were going to be aggressive and it showed that we wanted to push the ball down the field and try to really see what we can get. Again, a divisional game at home, we felt like we wanted to be able to be aggressive today.
RE: What did you think was his [PJ Walker's] very best throw today?
It's hard to say that. That one to Tommy [Tremble] in the corner route of the end zone was pretty impressive.
RE: Was there a game ball given out and if so, who received it?
A game ball was given out to PJ [Walker] just with his performance today. Recognized the offensive line and running backs. What a great job that they did upfront. That was all the game balls given out to the players.
QB PJ Walker
PJ, Coach Wilks just shared that you received the game ball. Just given the season, going back to training camp all that you've experienced, what did it mean?
It meant a lot. It meant a lot to me. Just to have the trust in the guys around me. It felt really good. It felt really exciting in the locker room after that win today. All smiles. The joy was amazing. You know we are just going to embrace it for the next 24-hours and move on.
There was a lot of talk after last week about you being handcuffed offensively, but today what type of statement did you make about yourself today on the field?
Just that I can be trusted with the football in my hand. Make the right decisions at the right time. You know even late in the game we had an opportunity to throw the ball and I made the right decision. For me, it is to just go out there and execute what we call, whether it is bubble screens or down the field. For me, it is just to execute and go out there and play at a high level.
PJ, you really spread the ball around effectively. Tight ends, DJ, everybody, and your focus was really good on the roll-outs. Were you seeing the field really well?
I was. I put a lot of work in this week watching film. I wasn't excited, I wasn't too happy about the performance I played last week. Especially on third down. Seeing and missing some coverages that led to some three-and-outs that shouldn't have been led. So, for me it is just to go out there. I feel really good going into this game with our game plan and knowing what they were going to do defensively. Even though they are a tricky defense with a lot of blitzes and a lot of different coverages. We never saw the same thing twice back-to-back out there today. So, for me it was really good for me to see it.
PJ, after you guys trade Christian McCaffrey, one of the best players, this week what was it like in the locker room? Did it almost kind of galvanize you guys in some way?
Absolutely. It was a heartbreak for all of us. We all knew what Christian meant for this team, this program in general. But for us to go out there today and put up 170 rushing. You know that is big-ups to that o-line. That o-line played really good today and you could just see it from our backs. Our backs got opportunities to make plays and they made them.
You talked about not trying to go for that home run ball in the game. Today you did a really good job of that. What do you feel was the difference today versus the past situations?
Just me getting reps over and over again. Getting comfortable with the team. Getting comfortable with our offense and just going out there and executing and playing my game. For me, I just hope to continue it.
Is there any personal satisfaction?
No. There is no personal satisfaction for me. I really just wanted to go out there and win for the guys around. Guys like Shaq Thompson who have been here for a long time man. Me and him talk on a daily basis about just going out there and playing really good as an offense and defense. We know the special teams is going to do their job, but as an offense and defense, we've got to go out there and do our jobs. Me and Shaq always talking about it and so it came to fruition today and we went out there and handled business.
These guys couldn't even fathom tanking and obviously when that is something that is swirling around how much was it pride for you guys to come out here today.
It was a lot of pride. You know the guys around, and you can just feel the energy as you came into this building today. You just feel the energy. You feel the vibe of us wanting to go out there and play this game. We talked last night in our team meeting about making that jump and today we did. Today we did as a whole team and we went out there and we played a full game of 60 minutes and we went out there and played really well.
PJ, what's the teams outlook now that you are 2-0 in the division with more divisional matchups going forward in the next coming weeks?
We want to continue to take the next step. Continue to get better every day. Continue to get one percent better every day because you know we have a couple of division games coming up. We just have to go out there and play our game. There is a lot of football left and, as a team, we look forward to continuing to go out there. We, our mindset as a group, is phenomenal. We have a lot of guys who go out there and practice every day. You can just see the energy level on Wednesday when we were full pads. You can just feel it. And you could feel the guys hunger to just go out there and win games and that is what you saw out there today.
How do you celebrate a win and a game like you had today?
I mean you can. I can. My family is here so that is the best thing for me. So, I am going to spend some time with my family and just go out there and spend some time with them. Relax and get ready for Atlanta this week coming up.
PJ you said last week when we asked you, you never thought you would be playing against Tom Brady. What does it feel like to beat Tom Brady?
We played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today. That is all that matters. Tom is on that side of the ball. We all knew who Tom is. We all know he is the greatest quarterback that played the game. So, for me it is just to go out there and beat the Bucs, not Tom.
Do you think you could have done anything more to earn that starting position next week?
Could I have done anything more? Nah. Just went out there and played my game. Executed what we called. Move the ball down the field efficiently.
Do you think you should be the starter?
That is not my call. My call is to go out there and get ready to work Monday. That is all that is going to matter to me. I am going to go out there and be ready whether it is to start, back-up, whatever it is, I will be ready.
What did you see on the touchdown to Tommy Tremble. What did you see on that play? It might be one of the best throws.
Just seeing the cornerback. You know they played the one high shell. They play the one high shell and you know just reading 27. His eyes got on DJ Moore. You know we have been throwing DJ the ball in the flat a little bit. Me just going out there and staying patient. Seeing Tommy just trying to throw him on a higher angle up the field and put it enough air on it so he can run up under it. He went out there and he made a play and scored.
The energy can be really high after a win like this. How do you keep that under control going into next week?
There is a lot of grown men in that locker room. And it is a lot of guys that've won games and there are a lot of guys who have been through some losses. That feeling right there in that locker room after a winning is nothing like it. I am just going to be honest with y'all. There is nothing like it. For us, we just have to continue to have that feeling. Kind of continue to love that feeling and want that feeling each week. So, for us, just go out there and play our game and be great every day and go out there and do what we do.
It really seems like you and DJ have a lot of chemistry on the field. What kind of plays into that connection?
I've known DJ for a while now. Since I was in college. I kind of recruited him to go to Temple a little bit. I knew he wasn't going to go being a Philly kid so just always talking. The execution was there today. Me and him have a lot of conversations throughout the week just talking about what I see and what I think is going to be there and he gets football. So that is the best part. I think all of our receivers really get football and DJ is one of those special guys that if you get the ball in his hands he is going to go out there and make plays for you. That is my job.
He told us throughout training camp and everything that you were having these conversations and he told you "You are going to be here," tell me about those conversations.
He did. It is crazy because you know me being the person I was during camp, frustrated a little bit and you know not showing my emotions just going out there and trying to battle every day. You know me and him had a lot of talks of him just saying you are going to be here. Don't worry about it. Gods plan. It happens. So, for us it was just us talking. We talking it into happening.
PJ I am just curious when Christian gets traded what was the mood of the offensive line and the running backs this week because obviously the team runs for 173 yards. What was kind of that coming in?
We knew what Christian meant for this team. We knew what he meant to this team. But that don't stop this team. Even with, that don't stop this team from going out there and playing on Sunday. We know he is gone. We knew what he brought to the table, but we still had to go out there and execute and go out there and play at a high level. The o-line knew that, the running backs knew that, and I knew that. I think everybody on the field knew that as well. So, we went out there and we did our job today and we played at a high level.
PJ you grew up watching Tom Brady beat the Eagles in 05, you were probably a fourth grader or something during that Super Bowl. What do you think that post-game moment when you are shaking his hand as the victor?
It'll mean a lot to me. But I'll see him again. We will see him again at some point this season. I know they will be looking forward to this game and it is a long season. Like I said I am not going to sit there and dwell on this and be happy about this one win. There is a lot of football left and I just want to continue to grow as a player. Continue to get better and help this team get better as a team and I think that we've got a really good group that can do a lot of things out there. Especially in this division. Especially in this league.
Talk about trust. To show they trust you with the ball. Interception had been an issue of your career here brief. But what have you learned since that first start against Detroit a few years ago that has helped you grow where you can be trusted with the ball?
I can make every throw. But every throw doesn't get to be made. That is something I have learned and that is something I take into game planning every week. When I am out there knowing what I like. Every ball aint got to be pushed down the field. It can be thrown away. You aint got to force nothing. Live to fight another down that is how I approach the game now.
RB Chuba Hubbard
RE: Was there a certain galvanizing effect that took place after Christian got traded?
Nah, I mean Christian, that is my boy. He knows that is my boy, obviously this is a business. It is a tough business. I am learning that every day. We talked, you know, I wish all the best for him. He wished us the best, you know we all just want to succeed.
RE: Also, I mean no disrespect to Christian at all, did it force you guys to just have everybody contributing? From DJ to Tommy, to you, to Deonte, that kind of thing?
You know, every week we always just focus on doing, our best. Whether it comes together or not that is on us. This week it just came together a little more. Next week we are just going to try to improve on that even more. Just keep going from there. Like I said, we prepare the same every week, go 1-0. This week we went 1-0.
RE: You guys go to Atlanta one game within the division, you're only down one game. Is that hard to believe based on what you all have been through?
Yeah, I mean that is definitely a positive thing in the midst of everything that has happened. Like we said, 2-0 in the division now, going to look to go 3-0 and keep building from there.
RB D'Onta Foreman
How good did it feel for this offense to go out and put together the performance that you had with all the outside noise you all been dealing with the last couple of weeks?
Man, it was great. Like I said earlier in the week, I believe in each and every guy in this locker room. I believe in this team and all the hard work we put in through OTAs, to training camp, to now. All the ups and downs we've been through, all the negative talk, man we've just got to come in here and keeping fighting, keep working hard man, just keep believing. Like I said earlier in the week again, we've still got positives in the season and if we focus on those positives, and just attack those positives, man we can have a positive outcome. So, you know we've just got to keep going and keep fighting.
For you personally, I know you've been just been trying stay prepared as best as you can all season long, today, you finally got an opportunity to really get some touches. For you personally, just how did this game feel to show what you can do in this offense?
It felt great. You know, again, like I said earlier in the week, this game is about opportunities and creating opportunities for yourself. You know, when your number is called you've got to be ready, you've got to be ready to go and put your best foot forward. I feel like, man I've been waiting all season for an opportunity, and you know once you get them you just have to capitalize. I was ready to go today, and moving forward I will be ready to go.
D'Onta, obviously this is sort of a playbook for like hey, if we take care of the ball and make some plays, if we play clean football look what can happen. You guys can go back and look at this and go this is the blueprint, this is the recipe.
No doubt, I mean, I think we all believe that if we can get the running game going it will open up a lot for the passing game. And P.J. Walker played a great game, and I feel like we helped him just being able to run the ball and have him all balanced. You know we were not one dimensional today, we were able to do pretty much what we wanted to do and we came out with a win. So we've just got to build on that and capitalize on it.
Speaking of P.J., just how good did it feel to see him go and have the performance he had maybe after a rough showing at the Rams last week.
Man, it felt good. You know, it's a lot, it's a lot, it's a lot of people in this locker room that want that opportunity and want to prevail with that opportunity, so you know, I am proud of P.J. He is a pro, he has been through a lot, a lot of ups and downs in his career. But every time he gets his opportunity, he tries to fight and tries to show why he deserves to be here. So, I'm proud of him and we've just got to keep going.
WR DJ Moore
How simple is it when the offense doesn't turn over the ball, you guys are able to have wins like this?
Winning the turnover battle is a part of our game plan, you know probably across the league it is part of the game plan for everybody. You don't turn the ball over; shoot you got a high percentage chance of winning.
How crazy have things been, we've seen it on our end. You have Christian at practice on Thursday, he's not here today and you guys still figure out way. What has the last 72 hours been like?
It's been crazy, we all loved that, you know Christian is out in San Fran. But we're just going to try and keep it rolling.
How do you celebrate a win like this?
Shoot, you can't get too high on it because you still have to come back and win next week so we're going to soak it in and then come back to work on Monday.
There's a 24-hour rule, right?
Nah, ain't no 24-hour rule. You can't live off this win for too long.
What was your level of confidence when you got both feet in on the first one, the touchdown.
Very confident and I was very confident on the sideline too.
DJ, how hard has it been the last couple of weeks to shut out some of the outside noise? A lot of people have thrown out we're tanking, we're losing head coaches, losing people on offense. How hard has it been to keep that noise outside and trust what you guys are doing in the locker room?
It's not real hard, for me. Come in, have the same smile, the same fun everyday so it wasn't really too hard.
How much more special was this win?
It was pretty special because we all could have listened to it and let what happened during the week get to us but we didn't and we just came out and got the win.
What does it mean to see PJ have the performance that he did today? I know a lot of guys in this locker room are really rooting for him.
Shoot, yeah it was amazing. We always back PJ. We back all the quarterbacks no matter who's in there and we're just going to go out there and keep fighting.
DE Brian Burns
So many times this year, you guys have played well for halves or three quarters of the game and given up some scores late. What was the difference today?
I wouldn't say it was a difference. It's something that's been overdue that we should have been doing. There's just always been those one or two drives where we let go of the rope and we were preaching on the sidelines, hold on to the rope and stay locked in so we could have a complete game. There's still some holes that we have to fix but for the most part, it's good.
I know you've probably been asked this already but how did it feel to get back on Tom and finally get there?
I couldn't even do my pose because I was so excited. I just started screaming.
When was the last time you saw it like this in here (locker room)?
Like this? I don't know, I don't think it's ever been quite like this. You would have thought we won the Super Bowl but it's just a lot of excitement going on. We've been through a lot these past two weeks, this whole year actually. We just deserve it. These guys work hard, I work hard and it's deserved.
On what the past week has been like for him
I try not to pay too much attention to it because I don't want it to sway me away from what I have to get done. I just feel like if my mind is in another place and I'm not focused on the game, I won't play like I should.
Were you given assurances that they're committed to you?
We didn't bring it up. We kept it as what it was and that's just rumors and media attention. We just kept it at that. I never heard anything about that.
Check out the celebration photos of the Panthers after their 21-3 win over the Buccaneers.