What They Said: Postgame Quotes from Panthers-Broncos

HEAD COACH MATT RHULE

RE: Opening Statement

Obviously unbelievably disappointed with the result of today. I thought it was not our best, most well-played football game. I thought our team showed a lot of heart fighting back to give us a chance. To have the ball at the end with a chance to go win the game, as has happened many times this year, but just not enough execution. Too much beating ourselves to win the game. Credit to Denver. They made plays when they had to. I think ultimately today, some key penalties really hurt us and weren't able to make the plays down the stretch to win the game.

RE: What went wrong with the last offensive drive?

Let's start with that penalty. We had the ball at midfield, and it ended up being like a 20-yard penalty, so critical. Obviously, that play, I did not want a play to run before the two-minute. Unfortunately, we ran run right before the two-minute that wasn't what we wanted, so I have to get that corrected. They made the plays, and we didn't make the plays. We had been really hot, playing with a little bit of tempo the last couple of drives. We had to go close the game out and we had a great opportunity to and just weren't able to get it done.

RE: Why did you run the play before the two-minute warning and what was the design for the 4*th*-and-8 play?

Like I said, I did not want to run that play before the half, but ultimately, everything falls on me. That communication, I have to go back through and work with the staff to see how that happened. Then the 4th-and-8 play, we had Robby [Anderson] down the field and we had whomever, I forget, maybe Pharoh [Cooper] down the field, and so we expect that ball to be thrown past the sticks. Got beat on the twist inside. I haven't talked to Teddy yet. I don't know why that ball went there. Maybe he's thinking he outruns him and it's a first down but their player, number 41, made the play. Two plays that were not good enough plays to win the game.

RE: Delay of game penalty in the fourth quarter and his view of the Brian Burns roughing the passer penalty

The play on the touchdown when we had the ball down inside the six, Teddy [Bridgewater] recognized they were going to go to eight drop, so we alerted the play, alerted it too late. The play we had drawn up, not many plays that we have, there are some, not many plays – the plays that we had were not great versus eight drop and so we were down whatever we were at the time, I think eight, I just decided not to call the timeout. Throwing that ball versus that coverage, throwing that ball from the six or the nine, from the 10 or the 12, from the 10 or the 15, is about the same thing. I knew it was going to take probably two scores to win the game so I wanted to have the timeout so we could get the ball back at the end and win. That was that decision there. In terms of Burns, I thought he hit him. I thought he fell off to the side, especially looking at the replay. I think that was three plays in the first half that, three drives where a penalty extended the drive, whether it was a holding on the play with Troy Pride, whether it was that play or Jermaine Carter with the taunting. We stopped them down in the red zone. Just a lot of costly penalties in the first half to allow them to have the lead.

RE: Concern over the same issues in late game situations

I don't worry about our ability to handle adversity. I just think our execution has to be significantly better. You can't have penalties like that. You can't. I think we were third and whatever and we gave up a punt return for a touchdown. We had two guys there. We didn't make a play. Just a lot of poor execution today. Cover three and they throw the ball over our heads for a touchdown. The fact that our team battles back, I'm not worried about their mindset. But we have to play better football and ultimately, as I said earlier, that all falls back on me. I'm certainly not worried about their mindset. They'll continue to battle. At least that's what I expect them to do.

RE: How do you solve the offense not being able to pull drives together at the end of games?

At the end of the day, without trying to sound too much like a coach, it comes down to execution. It comes down to us making the plays when the plays matter. I thought you saw an offense that was – really, we didn't do anything all day, and then had in the fourth quarter a couple of really fantastic drives with tremendous tempo to go get the ball in the end zone. I expected us to go do that on that last drive and we didn't. So I don't put that on any one person. I put that on all of us collectively. We just have to execute. There is not much else to say other than that. We have to get the job done. We took a sack. Just a bunch of mistakes. We have to play better when it matters.

RE: What can you do to help team get past the one score losses with three games left?

There really is not much else you can do other than keep working to get better. We are at the moment where we have the chance to go win the game. Again, I know we're all going to focus on the end. I feel like there was some really bad execution in the first half. A bunch of things that shouldn't have happened – a punt return for a touchdown. Late in the game, some things that happened shouldn't have happened – penalties, taunting. I'm going to keep coming to work and keep fighting, scratching and clawing to get guys to understand that what you do really matters. You say, 'oh, my bad.' You can only say that so many times. We have got to coach well, and I feel, as I said again, I feel pretty good. I have come in here many of times and said, 'hey, I've got to do better.' Ultimately, I do have to do better because we are not winning but we need a tremendous sense of responsibility these last three games for everybody to get their job done. Even when it seems mundane or even when it seems trivial, you have to go do your job for us to win. That's where we are. I don't believe in panic. I don't believe in huge, huge, huge changes in the middle of the season. I think you go through the season and you try to do what you do better. We have three more opportunities. I expect us to go find a way to win but this one, to be quite honest, this one is disappointing because we didn't play to our standards certainly today.

RE: Do you have confidence that Teddy Bridgewater can be the quarterback as you build a winning program?

Absolutely. But I don't think he is going to be successful in two-minutes if he gets sacked on the first play. I don't think he is going to be successful if we have drops. I think that all us have to continue to work together to improve. I think we were down by 15 and he brought us back and they scored again. So really, at the end of the day, he scored a bunch of points in the fourth quarter. I thought he was fantastic throughout the entire fourth quarter. Again, that penalty and then the first play sack, just has to be better by everybody. I'm not going to pin it on him. I'm sure he would be the first to say, 'I have to do this, I have to do that.' But there are a lot of things that have to be improved. We are a team that, for us to win, we have to do everything right and we have to play really well. We just played okay, and we didn't do everything right. We had a chance to win but we didn't come away with the win like I feel like we should have.

RE: Broncos QB Drew Lock

We knew that he is a great fade ball thrower, so we decided not to play any press today. Now, a couple times guys played press but we kind of came in and said take away that press and we will try to keep him in the pocket. We didn't do a great job of keeping him in the pocket. We pressured him. We got the ball out. If they had the great return, the bounce around play at the beginning of the game to get off the field. So, I thought we had a lot of good pressures against him. Really, he hurt us today with screens and two deep balls. Both those deep balls, to be quite honest, if we execute, they shouldn't happen. If we are playing our assignments. I'm not talking about playing technique or playing, if we are just playing our assignments. Again, that was not a day that was up to our standards. Lock is a good, young player. He is going to do a lot of good things. You have to keep him in the pocket and not give up big plays. We haven't given up big plays all year. We gave up big plays today. That's what is really, really disappointing. We just have to get better.

RE: The plan for the cornerback rotation today

Just as they played. As guys got tired or as they struggled, we rotated somebody in for them.

RE: Panthers CB Rasul Douglas

I want to make it clear, that the last deep one, that's cover three. The deep safety should have been in the middle of the field. Sometimes things on TV look like a guy got beat. I think Rasul, like all of us, this wasn't our best day.

QB Teddy Bridgewater

RE: The last play to Curtis Samuel and late game issues

It's just trying to stay within the game plan and the system. That fourth down situation, it was one of those deals where I would've liked to get the ball past the first down. I was stepping up in the pocket, basically saw Curtis [Samuel] pop, the defense ran a stunt and I just figured get the ball out, that's better than taking a sack right there. They played good coverage on that play as well. For me, it was one of those deals where you take a sack right here it's even worse than trying to give our guys a chance. Our line did a great job of trying to pick up the game and Curtis popped but, like I said, they had good coverage. You look at us over the course of the year, we have been coming up short and I think it's just an area that we have to improve in and it starts with me. Being aggressive, you look at us against the Vikings a week ago, we were able to get a chunk play early in the two-minute drive. This week, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. But I just have to continue to have the right mindset in those situations to put us in a position to win football games.

RE: What happened before the two-minute warning

Looking back, I agree with Coach [Rhule]. It's one of those deals where we could've used the two-minute to come up with an ideal play. The play that I signaled in was actually a good play as well, but we just didn't execute it. But, like Coach said, it was one of those deals where if we use the two-minute, we can talk about it on the sideline and now come up with the right play and maybe make it fourth-and-manageable or we can come up with a play to get the first down on third down. It was one of those deals where I saw the defense kind of looming around and thought we could steal a first down, move the sticks, but looking back of course, probably should've just let the clock go to two-minute.

RE: Was that decision all on you

Yeah that's definitely me. I saw the defense mulling around and I thought maybe we could just throw an out route, get out of bounds, beat the two-minute maybe. But looking back, it's one of those deals where you wish we would've let the clock go to two minutes.

RE: How frustrating end of game issues have been

Of course you're frustrated in the heat of the moment. You want to do well in those situations and it's going to continue to bother you until you actually excel in that situation. But, we have to find some positives in those situations, look at some of the things we did well, address the things we didn't do so well and try to find a way to be great in those situations. I think if we could just become a better situational football team, starting with me, I think we could really do some great things.

RE: Targeting Curtis Samuel on fourth down instead of Anderson or Cooper

They definitely played a coverage. I had my eyes to Robby [Anderson], I knew that they were playing some type of man, waiting on Pharoh [Cooper] to run a crossing route or something like that and they were going to rob that one. The man coverage allowed the corner to be a little more aggressive on Robby, so they ran a little game inside with the d-line and as I was stepping up, I felt the looper just coming free. Our guys did a good job getting a hand on him, trying to slow him down, but like I said, Curtis [Samuel] just ended up popping as I got through the progression. I wish I could've thrown the ball to the sticks but I think it's one of those deals if I had tried to throw it to the sticks, I may have just gotten sacked or something like that. Like I said, it's one of those deals where I wish I could've gotten the ball to the sticks.

RE: Who takes responsibility for late-game issues

It's easy for Coach [Rhule] to say it's his fault and things like that but us as players, starting with me, we have to take some ownership in this as well and be accountable and understand that the coach's job is to get us to Sunday; it's our job to go out there and execute on Sundays and you watch us in the first half, we didn't do anything. We had our defense on the field too long, we were committing penalties, moving ourselves back, negative plays – when you do those types of things, that's not coaching, that's on us as players. Once I get in rhythm in these games, it's like our offense flows and everything flows off my energy, so if I could just come out hot or just have the right mindset, have the right energy and pass it along the sideline, I think it'll help us.

RE: Whether not having DJ Moore today hurt the offense's flow

We never want to make excuses. We have complete confidence in the guys who are out there with us. Guys know that in this league they get an opportunity to step up when their number is called and some of those guys made plays today. You watch Pharoh [Cooper] fly around today, he made a couple plays for us, some big first downs. He's doing some great things in the return game, he's run blocking on the perimeter, so it's one of those deals we have complete confidence and trust in everyone who's out there.

WR Curtis Samuel

RE: If he was surprised that he was thrown the ball on Carolina's late fourth down play

When a play is called, I'm going to run my route to the best of my ability, whether the ball is going to come to me or not. My job on fourth down is to try to make something happen. I had the ball and in my eyes, I have to get the first down.

RE: If he was the secondary read on the play

No, not really. We are going to go with whatever the coverage or the zone, the man, wherever takes us. Teddy is a great quarterback. He's going to make the right play.

RE: Offensive struggles

We just have to score more points than the other team, that's the bottom line. We have to execute down the stretch. When we have the ball, we have to be hungry and go score.

RE: How missed practice this week affected today's game and his thoughts on reported fines coming for players who have been placed on the reserve/COVID list

I'm not about to comment on that. You can ask the team about the fines or whatever the case may be. Whoever is out there, no matter what the situation is, next man up mentality. We are all here, we are all NFL players, we all approach the game as if we are a starter. If that is not your mentality, you don't need to be out there, no matter what the situation is. We know that injuries are part of the game. If you were on the sideline, you are the back up. Injuries are a part of the game, you have to always be ready. That is always the situation.

RE: Not closing out games with game-winning opportunities

We just have to execute, no matter what the play call is. I ain't going to put blame on anybody, whether it's us or coaches – it's no blame on anybody. Whatever play is called, we have to execute. Me, personally, everybody – have to figure it out as coach.

CB Donte Jackson

RE: If he feels like the defense has to play perfect to give Carolina a chance to win

I wouldn't say perfect, but we definitely have to execute. We can't afford to just be out there not doing our job or just you know, having brain farts. I wouldn't say perfect but I would definitely say we can't afford not to execute.

RE: What did Broncos QB Drew Lock do and what they do, specifically, that that gave you guys some trouble?

The ref called some good calls for them on third down, basically. All their drives were stopped, but they got calls on third down that helped them extend plays. He did a good job of just finding guys who were open. I don't think it was really nothing they did. It was really just us. So we just have to execute better.

RE: Returning to play after missing some time with a toe injury

Yeah, it felt great. It felt good to get out there. No issues, but I got cut by a big guy. His helmet kind of got me in my quad a little bit, I just needed to calm down for a little bit. So I think I was out for like a play and it was good though. Nothing to be worried about. I just got caught.

RE: When you say you feel great doesn't that mean it's still pain just manageable or it's really a hundred percent?

Just so great. I just feel great. I don't even want to talk about, I won't give a number, no percentage. I just feel great.

RE: Which third-down penalty stands out the most

It's a third down penalty, they all hurt. There's really none that stand out more, they just can't happen. It just can't happen. We just have to be just a little bit more disciplined and like I said, we've just got to execute. This game came down to us executing when we needed to and at times, we just didn't do that. So that's just our main focus to getting ready for Green Bay. You've just got to execute.

RE: If any of the penalties were questionable

Yeah, yeah definitely. But it's not our job to make the calls or see what calls are appropriate or not. We just have to do our part and not give them a chance to even throw their flags.

RE: Is there one that you thought was more egregious than the other, maybe Brian Burns' quarterback hit or any one that you disagreed with?

It's penalties, I disagree with all of them. Like I said, there's really none that I can pick out because on third down – you get a stop on a third down that's negated by a penalty – they all hurt. Whether it's third-and-20 or third-and-one, you know, you always just want to execute and make sure that you're doing your job and not letting the refs decide the outcome of that play.

RB Mike Davis

RE: Injuring his hand

I can't even remember. I'm good though.

RE: What are the late-game issues and what's being done to get them fixed

We've just got to figure it out. We've got to stick together in this tough time right now. We've just got to block everything out and make sure we stick together and come together as a team and just figure it out. We've just got to keep going.

RE: How the team prepares for next week

You just put it behind you. Watch film, don't spend too much time on it and just move on to the next game. We know how tough these games are coming down the stretch, it happens. Just make sure we move on.

RE: Mistakes made by everyone

I can't speak on that, all I know is we've got to stick together as a team. Mistakes happen and we can't let mistakes be the reason why we lose games. All I know is, I love this team. I love my players, I love my teammates and no matter what's going on, we've got to stick together.

LB Jeremy Chinn

RE: What he saw on his first career sack

It came on a blitz. I saw the center protected away from me, you know, just kind of wrapped around. It was wide open. It was drawn up perfectly and I was just able to capitalize on it.

*RE: If winning personal accolades is bittersweet since the team keeps losing *

The main thing is just winning. That's all I want to do is just win, be able to help my team win any way possible. You know the personal stuff, that comes secondary. But yeah winning is definitely [most important]. Yeah, it is a bittersweet feeling.

*RE: If you thought, DE Efe Obada was going to score when he recovered the fumble *

I don't know. I saw [Jerry] Jeudy, he had an angle and he was humming. I was hoping he was able to shake him off, but yeah, Jeudy was flying.

RE: Frustrations with the offense coming up short after getting a stop on defense

No, I mean, I don't see the offense having anything to do with that. Defensively, we made some mistakes, we shot ourselves in the foot a couple times. I'm never going to look at the offense and be frustrated with what they what they did.

RE: What factor COVID played this week with guys missing practice

I mean it's just adversity, really. I mean it's kind of been going on all season. You never really know what to expect. So you just had to adapt and you know, the team that does it best will be the best moving forward. It was just something we adjusted to.

RE: Beating yourselves and being more disciplined

That's what it comes down to, us just executing. Like I said, defense, we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times, a couple third downs with penalties and things like that.

RE: If there are certain things that lead to you all beating yourselves

No, I don't have an answer for that.

View photos from Carolina's Week 14 contest against Denver at Bank of America Stadium.

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