HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
RE: Opening Statement
Obviously, not happy about tonight. Specifically, the second half. Let it get away from us. It hasn't really happened this year and it happened today. Credit to the Saints. They had a lot on the line. You've guys have heard me talk about December football. That was it. That was a December football second half. Sealing it. Running the football. Playing good defense. Those are all the things you have to do to be a legitimate playoff team. That's what they were, and we were not able to respond the way we like. With regards to Teddy [Bridgewater] obviously he got hit in the ankle and tried to gut through it. (It) just didn't look like he was getting the velocity and the movement. They were going to pressure us all night so we made the decision to go to PJ [Walker] and let him play the rest of the half and see what happened. Again, credit to them. Not our best football tonight.
RE: Teddy Bridgewater's performance today and whether he will be the starter next season
I'm going to talk to you guys tomorrow. I think tonight I'm going to just talk about this game and today. Obviously, we can't have those interceptions. The first one, afterwards Joe [Brady] said to me, that's just not a good play call by me. The guy saw DJ [Moore] and just came out of coverage and went and got it. I have to see it on tape to see exactly what happened. The second one just can't happen. Throwing the ball into zone coverage and trying to do a little too much. That was when he was dealing with the foot. I wasn't sure if he just couldn't get the velocity on the ball that he wanted or if he was rushing to get through his progressions, but I think tonight was the story of early on in the game of us getting down inside the 30, inside the 40 and not getting points. We had the interception inside the 40. We had the 4th and 1 that we didn't get inside the strike zone. We had many chances to score but from the 30, really, 40 on in, came up empty. We had to play better overall. I'm sure Teddy would be the first to tell you tonight was not a great night for him but it really wasn't a great night for anybody.
RE: On decision to replace Bridgewater and the play of the defense
Teddy [Bridgewater] was just what I said earlier. He got banged up. Didn't look like he was moving great. Didn't look like he had a lot of velocity pushing off that foot, so I pulled him. I thought maybe PJ [Walker] would go in there and play well and give us a spark. Again, I just didn't think Teddy looked real healthy to me. Defensively, obviously, we turned the ball over twice inside their territory. I think that's what happened, the game goes so fast for me. They had 14 points off of turnovers. We have been a team who hasn't really turned the ball over a ton. We protect the ball. To have a five-interception night obviously really hurts us. Defensively, I thought we struggled versus the run at times. Played some great defense early on third down. Got a couple sacks. Knocked the ball loose. Got our hands on a couple balls and then I think we just kind of wore down. Didn't have [Brian] Burns out there, but I thought the other guys played well in his absence. I just think we wore down as the game went on and the second half couldn't make the stops. Obviously, those turnovers didn't help us.
RE: Reasons for Bridgewater's production over the last month
Like I said, tonight I would probably just talk about this game. I'll answer everything tomorrow in terms of perspective of the year and all those different things. Tonight, I thought we had guys open early. I thought we were moving the ball. Again, just when we got down inside the 40, we kind of bogged down and missed some opportunities. We didn't hit on that one ball in the corner to DJ [Moore] that would have been a huge, obviously, touchdown for us, a big play for us. I just felt like crossing the 40, we just couldn't make something happen. Another thing, it says here 1 of 9, at one point in the first half we were 1 of 6 on third down. I talked all week we had to be efficient on offense on third down and that did not happen tonight.
RE: Whether the decision to sit Bridgewater was partly based on performance and injury
I'd rather let my words speak. Just what I said, he got hurt on that one, I don't know if it was a sack or whatever, but he came limping off. I shouldn't say that. The one that got the ball down to Curtis [Samuel] down to whatever yard line that he hit that big play. He got hit. He got up. He limped down there. If you go back and look at the tape, kind of limps handed the ball off on the run. So, I just said, 'hey, how is he doing?' They said he was fine. He went back in there and then he was just, didn't look like he had the movement or the power that he needed. So, I said, let's give PJ [Walker} a shot.
RE: Who told Teddy Bridgewater he was not going back in and how did he take it?
Joe [Brady] and the offensive staff talked to him. I didn't talk to him. Joe and (the staff) talked to him. Teddy [Bridgewater] is a consummate professional. I'm sure he was fine.
RE: Whether there was consideration to take Bridgewater out at half time
Like I said, I was watching him in the second half. It was, I'm not sure of the score at halftime, 16-7, I can't remember the score at halftime. We came up and held them to a field goal moving the ball. It just looked like he was limping. Looked like he just didn't have what he needed so I made that call.
RE: Decision to make Tommy Stevens active over Will Grier
He was going to play wildcat. Will [Grier] is a quarterback, quarterback. Tommy ran a route tonight. We knew with only two tailbacks active, we would have an opportunity to use someone else as a wildcat quarterback. Tommy filled that role. That has nothing to do with Will.
RE: Whether the decision to play Tommy Stevens was based on the lack of running backs available for the game
QB Teddy Bridgewater
RE: What the coaches shared with him about taking him out of the game
Before the half we ran a quarterback draw and I got up limping. We score the next play and they asked me how I was feeling and everything, and I really just tried to fight through it – I wanted to try to fight through it – but the coaches noticed. Before I threw that second interception, we took a shot to DJ [Moore] and I wasn't able to get everything on the ball, and I think they noticed something right there. It was really a decision they made to protect me. With the way the Saints were pressuring different things, I probably wasn't as mobile as I wanted to be. I couldn't get the velocity that I wanted on the ball. That's pretty much how the conversation went.
RE: Whether his challenges with generating velocity contributed to the second interception
I think those guys made a good play of just passing it off. It was a coverage that we expected. The corner jumped the outside route, the nickel just fell into where I was throwing the ball – he did a good job of passing it off easily. He'd run with (the) number two (receiver) – we had two under routes, the nickel usually runs with the number two – so it was a big alert to Ian [Thomas] on the corner route and the nickel did a great job of having a feel for it. He made a play.
RE: The reason for the change in his production during the latter portion of the season
As the season goes on, you fight through injuries and things like that and everyone's fighting through something. I'll watch this season and try to find out what may have happened during those six games or however many you said. Obviously, we have to be better. I have to be better, so I'll use this offseason to study myself, self-evaluate. We'll do some self-evaluating of this entire offense and, of course, we'll have conversations throughout the offseason and try to figure out and come up with a plan moving into this offseason.
RE: Whether he produced enough to return as the starter in 2021
In this business, everything is production-based. And of course, I have to be better, my production has to be better. I think, for the most part, we did a good job of keeping ourselves in the games. I was on a playoff team where I threw 14 touchdowns. It's all about executing the game plan and things like that. Of course, you want to be better in the red zone and that's an area that we have to be better at as a team. And of course, myself, I want to be better down there. So, 15 touchdowns – I had five rushing touchdowns as well – but I get paid to throw the football and obviously, I can do more. I need to do more.
RE: Whether the decision to come out of the game was his or the coaches
I think it was more their decision, along with how I felt. You watch after that quarterback draw and (I) look to the sideline, I think they were getting P.J [Walker] ready then and it was like, let me get to the sideline after the touchdown and see how I feel. Me being a fighter, I tried to stay out there and compete, but the coaches saw that on the pass to DJ [Moore] I wasn't able to generate the power and velocity that I wanted to. So, they made a decision.
RE: The strides made by the offense this season
It's so easy to point out all the bad things and, of course, the bad outweighs the good sometimes – especially when you don't have the type of season that you want to have. But when you look at this offense and see guys having career years – of course, those are the individual goals. As a unit, you want to be better situationally, but the good: like I said you've got guys like Curtis Samuel, who had a career year and DJ Moore; Robbie [Anderson] had his first 1,000-yard season; Mike Davis gaining 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his career. Little things like that get taken for granted. Also, the guys up front. This game is extremely tough. Guys work extremely hard throughout the week and sometimes the results on Sunday do not reflect how hard a guy may have worked throughout the week. I applaud that locker room that's right behind me because these guys didn't quit. Everyone fought all year through the ups and downs with our backs against the wall. We've been in so many games where we could have easily thrown the rag in and said forget it. But guys came to work every day and they continued to make the game fun and that's the type of culture you want to create around here. The winning will follow. For this year with it being a young team, I think the seeds of success were planted this year with the experience the guys were able to gain. It was valuable experience so I'm excited for this organization moving forward.
WR Curtis Samuel
RE: If it's difficult having individual success in a year the team is not as successful
I don't think it's really difficult at all. I didn't go out there really thinking, 'oh, I've got to do this, I've got to do that.' My main focus was just to be the best I can for the team. If I'm playing well, I feel like the team will be playing well. My goal coming into this season was just to be better than I was last year. I felt like I did that and that's going to be my goal moving forward – get better each and every year. Don't stay where you're at and work on things that you need to work on.
RE: Why the offense wasn't more productive this year
I'm glad we have a bunch of guys on this team that had over a thousand (yards). We wish the season went better for us, but we're just going to have to fix things moving forward, whatever the case may be. Fix things that need to be fixed and move forward and worry about next year.
RE: Locker room's confidence level in QB Teddy Bridegewater at the end of the season
It was the same as it was each and every week – high. We're glad that he's out there. Bottom line.
RE: The decision to take Bridgewater out today
I'm not a coach, I'm not a trainer, so I'm not really sure what went on. My job is to go out there each and every play and be productive and make something happen for the team.
RE: The future of this offense, improvements that can be made and where he thinks he'll be next year
I'm not really sure. I would have to, after the season, watch film and really see what we can improve. I feel like a lot of guys had great years in this offense. That's something I'm not really worried about. I'm not really focused on where I'm going to be next year. I'm glad to finish out this game with my team. I was happy to be out there.
RE: His thoughts on free agency
I'm not really worried about that. I don't know what free agency is like, I don't understand the process – I don't really focus on that. My job is – how can I become a better player next year? What part of my game do I have to work on? That's just something where I'll have to sit down, talk to people that I trust, and work on ways to improve my game next year.
QB P.J. Walker
For me it was more so just making better decisions, getting the ball out of my hands a little quicker. Especially on a few times I was hot so I just have to be ready to get the ball out, try to get the ball underneath to the guys that are flat and things like that; just to avoid those interceptions, not trying to make a big play.
RE: If his performance was disappointing given that playing in Week 17 was a chance to show off and make a statement for next year
Very disappointing on my end, just because I know what I am capable of and I know I could have played better than that. At times I showed flashes that I could make a lot of the good throws but just going out there forcing things when I shouldn't have been forcing them. I thought I did a good job at times with moving the football but just have to be a little bit more consistent.
RE: Thoughts on his performance this season overall and his opportunity
I thought I made the best of it. Being in Indy for three years, two and half years, I was able to just sit back and learn and then come here and get an opportunity to learn behind Teddy (Bridgewater), I just feel like I am growing as a player each day. Keep getting better, just keeping making strides. That's all. Just keep getting better, keep pushing myself and keep pushing the quarterback room as well.
RE: When he was told he was going into the game
I saw the hit that he suffered in the beginning, in the second quarter, but once he stayed out there I didn't know what was going on at the time. I guess Coach [Matt] Rhule made the decision to put me in and things like that. Just to protect "5" and just to make sure his ankle is fine, his leg is good. For me it was more so like about the third quarter, late third quarter.
RE: How different tonight's experience was versus the start against Detroit
Just starting off, pretty much starting the game, coming out there getting the rhythm early, mixing up the run and pass. Being down when I got in, it's just tough to go out there and to have that balance as an offense, to run the ball, to pass the ball as well just based off they know the situation. They know what we have to get done. They know we have to throw the ball down field, they know we have to convert. For me it was more so just try to take what they gave me, try to just move the ball, help the team.
S Tre Boston
RE: The locker room message after the game
There's definitely a message that comes out of today. Today, we saw who were going to be our dogs and who were going to fight when we were down and out. In a season that everybody knows that this is our last game, how will you prepare for it and how will you play it? I think some guys did a good job of coming to play today and it really showed. Guys flying around, not caring about the record, not caring about the score. Guys just wanting to put good film on tape, lead their teammates. So today was a day that you could have really learned a lesson from and that's what we said at the end. Guys have to know, yeah the season was coming to an end, but how did you finish it up? We are all competitors. When competitors see a finish line, they don't slow up. So for a lot of us, we played like it was out last game ever.
RE: If the players will take the lesson and learn from it
You hope that guys take the lesson. You hope that they prepare for this offseason ready to go. I know me, I'm anxious already. I was trying to fly around. It's in my blood, DNA. Lead these guys in every way possible. When guys don't think we are able and we're down and out – fighting, fighting, backs against the wall, fighting. I think guys are going to take that lesson and we're going to continue building. Again, I'll keep talking about building brick by brick. We built something and it's decent right now because we're looking from outside in. But from the inside out, I know it's going to be something truly good around here and I can't wait. I know we're going to build the right pieces of puzzle around here and we'll get a lot of older guys back healthy. We can only pray that we have an offseason together and really get to building that chemistry, comradery. A lot of our younger guys, that's a year older, so we're able to play good ball. And that's it.
RE: The defense's performance this year and going into next season
This defense is a good defense. I like the coaches. I like the players. If I'm being honest, we were a very young defense, like very, very young. We have great players in Derrick Brown, Yetur (Gross-Matos), Jeremy Chinn, Troy Pride. I thought we did a great job drafting our draft class this year, truthfully. But when we ask of those guys to play almost every down for us, it's a little tougher on their plate. I see those guys and a couple older guys growing together, building this team up. Those guys are the future. I promise you, Carolina's future is bright. I can only imagine if we had those guys with a veteran in front of them, allowing Yetur to come in on third down, offensive line a little tired, like amazing. Jeremy Chinn, starter, probably defensive rookie of the year. Derrick Brown, starter. We've got a good class and I like our defense. I really do. I like for us to build during the offseason. I like for us to grow into this play book. I like for us to, again, chemistry. It all adds up. If we can get together for a few months in the offseason, fly around together, build that love for each other even more, I see us being a great team overall.
RE: Not having DE Brian Burns playing today
(Brian) Burns is always a big recipe to our plan to win. It's crazy, I just got done talking about young guys. That's a year two player we are talking about that we need, on a plethora of young guys. So, yeah, we missed Burns out there today. He is one of the best rushers in the league, but at the end of the day we have to find a way. Next man up, go out there and compete, fly around, be physical and today we missed him.
QB Tommy Stevens
RE: Season's progression from Saints to Panther's practice squad to playing tonight
It's been a cool year. Obviously, it's my first year in the NFL so didn't really know what to expect. I guess it's kind of been not necessarily, obviously it's unordinary, but it's kind of all I know. It's been a fun year. Obviously, I was glad to get out there tonight and play. It's been a long year. That's for sure, but excited for the future and excited for what's next.
RE: What was it like to play against your former team and when did you find out you were going to play?
I don't remember the exact day. I knew coming in for Wednesday's practice that I was probably going to play in the game. For normal downs, we put the stuff in. I knew early. As far as playing against them, it was nothing really from my perspective. It was cool to play against them, but it would have been just as cool to play against anyone else. Obviously, a lot of familiar faces so it was cool to see those guys. As far as playing in the game, I would have been just as excited to play against anybody.
RE: Do you think it bodes well for you for next season that they turned to you in the final game of season?
Yeah, I'm excited for my future here. Since I've gotten here, I've really enjoyed it – the coaching staff, the players. Everybody around the program has really treated me well. So, I'm really looking forward to my future here in Charlotte with the Panthers.
RE: Tonight's highlight
Probably just getting out there for my first snap. I'm not sure if you guys saw my first snap was actually out at receiver. Just being able to kind of cross that off of the bucket list is something I have dreamed about since I was a little kid. Obviously, getting the first play out of the way was cool. The first carry obviously would have been just as cool. After that, it was just football again. I had a really good time tonight. It was awesome. Obviously didn't go the way we wanted to go. So we are going to hit this offseason hard and keep building to the things we want to get to.
RE: Are you disappointed you didn't get to throw any passes tonight?
No, not necessarily. It was what was in the game plan for me. I was excited to help out in the ways that I could. If that's something that we do down the line, I'll be excited to do that but going into the game I knew that this was going to be my role so I was excited to go out there and try to execute that.
RE: Comparisons to Saints QB Taysom Hill and their relationship
My time in New Orleans was cool. A lot of those guys, not necessarily just Taysom, treated me very well too. Our relationship, we don't really talk a whole lot. Obviously, when I was there it was a little bit easier to talk to him. Taysom was great with me. He always treated me very, very well. Obviously, being able to watch him on a daily basis was cool as well. I have nothing but good things to say about him.
RE: When was the play that you lined up at wide receiver and were you nervous to come in?
I want to say it was around the second or third drive, I think. It was right before, if I remember right, it was right before my first carry. Right around that same time. As far as nerves, yeah, you get a little bit of nerves going before any game really. It wasn't too much different than any game that I played in college as far as that feeling. Once you get out there and start playing, it goes away and it's just football. It was really cool to, kind of like I said earlier, cross that off and be able to play in an NFL game.
RE: What did your phone look like when you got back to the locker room?
The news kind of broke yesterday that I was going to be active and up for the game. I really haven't checked my phone too much. My parents are in town and my family is here, so it was obviously cool to have them here. They are really the only ones that I have communicated with at this point just because I wanted to let them know I was going to be doing some stuff after this. We are probably going to go out to eat after this. Yeah, at quick glance there is a lot of stuff I'm going to have to go through later. I've got a great support system with my friends and family, all my people back home, all the relationships that I made in college. I can't say enough about the people that are in my life.
View in-game photos from Carolina's Week 17 game against New Orleans at home.