HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
RE: Opening Statement
Obviously, very proud of our guys. I thought they played a good football game today. Overcame two turnovers that obviously would have allowed us to maybe play a little bit better. I thought our defense was the tale of the day – did a fantastic job of getting to the quarterback, not allowing big plays and getting off the field on third down. After our third down woes, I thought the staff went back, the players went back and they had our best week of practice, the best week of preparation and I think it showed up in the game. I thought it was a total team win. With so many of our players down, not able to play, I thought a lot of guys stepped up and we did what it took to win. Teddy [Bridgewater], I thought he was fantastic on the sidelines. We took him out before the game. He looked really good. I think everyone agreed he could play. But in my gut, I just didn't feel like it was the right thing to do so I made that decision. Teddy wanted to play like the true competitor he is but like the true team player he is, he respected my decision. I made the decision to start PJ [Walker]. Had Will [Grier] available. I think Will's got an outstanding, outstanding future. But just felt like based off this week's practice that if Teddy couldn't go, that I was going to start PJ and see how it went. Those were my decisions whether they worked or not and I think everyone this week did a fantastic job of trying to get Teddy as close as possible to being ready to play and I think besides the job the defensive staff did, I think Jake Peetz, our quarterbacks coach, did a remarkable job coaching the quarterbacks and getting three guys ready to play. With that, I'll take your guys' questions.
RE: What the defense did differently today in scheme
I don't think it was necessarily scheme, I just think we just played better. I think we have been in position to make a lot of plays on third downs and we haven't quite made them. I think today our guys went in with a real focus. We were able to, even on the last play of the game on defense, there was an unbelievable job by Shaq [Thompson] of diving and tipping the ball away. That's what we have been saying to our guys, 'hey, there are going to be opportunities." How do you get off the field on third down – you make the plays; you get off the field on third down. Whether it was Corn [Elder], whether it was Shaq [Thompson], whether it was Juston Burris – guys made those plays. I thought the defensive line showed up to play and I thought [defensive coordinator] Phil [Snow] had a nice pressure/no pressure all up look, we showed blitz the whole time and then either bailed or came. I think early on we stopped the run. Early on I think we held them to 40 yards rushing. Once we could kind of could move past having the run, the offense got enough of a lead with a 14-point lead that it became a passing game, and we could kind of go back and forth. We called a lot of the same pressures we have called, we just didn't turn a guy loose. We played a little more disciplined, played with a little more confidence and that credit to me goes to both Phil and his staff but also the players. I thought the players, again, had their best week.
RE: Making plays not only on third down but first and second today
I thought it was a great effort. We gave up the one dig early on, but I thought they did a good job of keeping plays in front of them. I thought they did a good job of rallying to the ball. I thought we tackled well. Got that early turnover, so a lot of things that were important to us, happened.
RE: What during PJ Walker's performance at practice this week led to his decision to start him and Walker's play today
I thought he practiced well and I thought he played really well today. I thought there were some things in the first half that, a lot of things in our offense receivers have to make decisions, have to make reads and if the receivers are a little bit off, you know Teddy [Bridgewater] sometimes because he has so many reps can adjust. I thought there were a couple chances for big plays where PJ was right, and the receivers was maybe a little off in his decision and it didn't quite connect. I thought in the second half, I thought the receivers really stepped up. Robby [Anderson] made a huge catch on an over route and I thought everything kind of took off from there. Obviously, PJ can't have the two goal-to-goal interceptions so those could have cost of the game. Like anything else, those are always combinations of many factors. But I thought when you go 24-for-34 in your first start, you played pretty well. I think the big play to DJ [Moore] early on was something that our team needed. I thought it was a jolt in the arm for us. I think that drive went 95 yards. I think anytime you have a 95-yard drive on your second or third drive as a starter, that gives you a chance to win.
RE: Conflicting reports on Bridgewater's availability today and the decision not to activate him ultimately
There are reports all the time and it's hard for me to comment on all of them because I hear so many of them. I meant what I said all week that I was going to take Teddy all the way up until game time. I was going to take him out there and work him out and I was going to make a decision. He was cleared to go. He was allowed to go. He wanted to go. I just felt like as I watched him move, he moved at like 80-85% and I didn't feel like it would be, at that position, especially with his history with the left knee, I didn't feel like it was the right thing to do to ask him to go out there and go against his instincts. But in terms of the reports, there are reports and I can't comment on it. I know this week I've been as straight up. There was no coach speak this week. I know Teddy and he told me at the beginning of the week he wanted to play. He prepared like a monster this week to get ready. We followed it all the way through. Could have maybe activated him and had him sit on the bench as an emergency guy but even then, I just felt like PJ, Will could go win the game for us and I felt like for Teddy, to ask him to not play to his strengths would not be smart. He is going to move in the pocket. You saw PJ today had to move, had to run, had to make some plays outside the pocket and so it just didn't seem like it was the right thing to do.
RE: Quarterback decision
We told the quarterbacks all week to just be prepared to play. That's the life of a backup quarterback. There is no time for disappointment as a backup quarterback. Your number gets called, you have to grab your helmet and go so we have to prepare to be the starter and go out and play. My decision about Teddy [Bridgewater] is just exactly what I said to David [Newton]. He was cleared to play. He wanted to play. People thought maybe he was ready to play and I just felt like he would be at 70-80-85% and knowing the competitor that he is, I didn't want to put him in harms way. I want to win games but at the same time if a player does everything they can to try and go out there and be healthy, I feel like it is my responsibility to protect them from themselves sometimes. Teddy did everything he could to go out there and be as healthy as he could to play so at the end of the day, I just couldn't make that call to put him out there. So, I made the decision and was prepared to live with it no matter what happened.
RE: DJ Moore's and Brian Burns' performances today
DJ has been a deep ball threat the last couple of weeks. We were able to hand him the ball one time. Able to get him some intermediate catches. I think that's just the way the game broke. I'm looking at this and its looking like Robby [Anderson] had seven, DJ had seven, and Curtis [Samuel] had eight. That's as good at spreading it around as possible. We have three good receivers, and we have other guys we count on as well. The quarterback went to them and those guys made plays. Burns, you know we moved him around. We played him as a linebacker, we played him as a d-end. I think a lot of the blitz packages and the show stuff where we showed blitz and came out, finally got him some more one-on-ones that I thought he won. But at the same time, I thought there was elite coverage down the field. I say that because I know Brian will be the first to tell you that the guys covered really well so he had time to get to the sack. Also, we had a lead, so they had to throw themselves back into the game. Also, we were efficient on first down so all of those things lead to production in the sack game. The biggest thing to me is Brian, as many of our guys are, are growing in terms of understanding not only in what to do but also why we do it and they can adjust. I'm really happy for Brian.
QB PJ Walker
RE: Reaction to learning that he was starting
Right before the game, (quarterbacks coach) Jake (Peetz) came up to me and told me I'll be the starter. My mindset all week (was) that if Teddy (Bridgewater) didn't go, I'm going to be up. So that was my approach all week. That's just how I approached the week.
RE: How much fun he had today
It was awesome. I felt like once I got a little comfortable after the first couple of drives, it was just go out there and play football again; go out there and have fun. I've been playing the game for a while, so just to go out there and execute and lead the guys. I was just trying to lead the guys to a victory and execute and move the ball up and down the field.
RE: How Bridgewater helped him from the sidelines
Every time I came back to the sidelines, he did a great job of showing me what he saw. He showed me everything from the pictures he saw to what he was thinking, so that helped me just have that same eye from the sidelines as well. Just to have that extra eye out there. I'm noticing things now that when I see something – just because he showed me it, I see it now and I'm like 'okay, I see why they're doing it,' or something like that.
RE: How today compared to how he envisioned his first NFL start
It's crazy because I didn't actual envision this start, my mom did. About a year and a half ago, two years ago, she called me, and she was like 'I had a dream that you were playing with the Panthers.' I was with the Colts still at the time so I'm like 'really? That's weird with me being in Indianapolis at the moment.' And life has just come full circle. Her dream came true. Mine did too today.
RE: How much more this start meant knowing his mother's dream
It was great. Just to know that she even had that dream and for me to go out there. Once I got here and signed to Carolina, at the time I was just 'man, this could be a great opportunity.' So, for me it was just run with the opportunity and make the best of it.
RE: What it feels like to come from the XFL to making his first NFL start
It's amazing. Just to have the guys around here believe in me the same way the guys in the locker room when I was in Houston believed in me as well. Just to know that these guys believe in me when I'm on the football field – that we have every chance to win, we have every chance to be successful on the football field – it just means the world to me. I know those guys have my back. The process of me coming from the XFL, it's been amazing. I've learned so much playing in the XFL, as well as in my previous years playing in the NFL, so just continuing to learn and continuing to grow as a player, it'll help me moving forward.
RE: What pregame was like for him
I didn't catch the workout that [Teddy Bridgewater] was doing. I was warming up a little bit, but I just had to stay ready. (I) didn't really know what was going on but once I got the green light to go, my mindset was already there – that I was going to be playing – so there wasn't really too much that I had to change, mentally. I was prepared. I got some extra film in all week, stayed late all week and just made sure I was prepared for this moment.
RE: Whether he spoke with his mother this week
Yes, I spoke to my mom about this whole situation and she just told me to go be me, just go play the game. This is something I've been dreaming about my whole life, so for her to just give me words of encouragement just to go out there and not think the moment is too big – just go out there and do what you do. You belong here, that's something she always told me - you belong at this place. So, just go make the best of it.
RE: What moment in the game settled his nerves
I think it was probably the play before (the long throw to DJ Moore), once I got my first hit. I've always had this mentality since I've been playing where I try to run the ball on the first play or something like that, ever since I was in college, just to get comfortable. Being that this was my first start in the NFL, I didn't really get to run the ball until we got down to the goal line. For me, it was just take what the defense was giving me; just try to move the ball up and down the field, be smart with the football as best I can. Those two interceptions are still going to bother me for the next week. But for me, it's don't move on but move on. Learn from it and move on from there.
DE Brian Burns
RE: Shutting out Detroit
It was great. Throughout the week we were preaching details, we were preaching execution, everybody doing their job at an elite level and our preparation really showed today. Man, we just had a lot of fun out there, to be honest.
RE: His favorite sack today
I would have to say, the one when I was tired as hell. They forgot to block me, and it was a freebie, because I usually don't get freebies, so that was new to me.
RE: What the difference was today compared to past weeks
Like I said, we put a lot of emphasis on details and that was one of our main problems. We really solved that today and we showed it. To be honest, everyone was just playing, just having fun. You play your best ball when you are having fun. When you're beating up on somebody else, that's when you play your best ball. You're not worried about anything that goes wrong, because you're just having fun, just getting back to the game. We really had a good time out there today.
RE: You were close to a three-sack game, are you a little disappointed that you didn't reach that?
No, man I accept anything God throws my way and if he intended for me to get two, that's what it was. He's saving my big game for a special time, I'm waiting on it, it's alright. I just want to tip my hat off to the coaches, that had a great game plan and they really utilized everybody on defense the proper way. We really went out there and made those calls right.
RE: How much did the way that you all played last week fuel the way you came into today's game?
It opened our eyes. Last week we went in at halftime 17-7, and came back out and stunk up the field. It opened our eyes to the small things that we had to pay attention to and that translated to having a great game this game.
RE: The aggressiveness on defense
It was great. We kind of forced the Lions to throw the ball by stopping the run so early in the game. We really keyed in on the run in the first half and then the second half it was pretty much pin your ears back, let's go get him. I mean that's pretty much how it went.
RE: You just learned before the game that Teddy wasn't going to play, did that put a certain responsibility on the defense to play that much better?
Yeah, I would say so. The game plan was the game plan, we were going to have great game regardless. But I felt like, knowing this was PJ's first start that we needed to give him a little momentum, a little push to make the game easier for him. I feel like we did that today. He did a great job of taking care of the ball, making his throws. They did a good job at body blows on their defense today.
RE: Can you talk about how you were used a little differently today, if so?
Like I said, the game plan was great. They had no idea where we were coming from, they didn't know if I was dropping, covering the slot, covering the back or if I was rushing off the edge or going into the B-gap. We were sending guys from all over the place and they messed up their protection a lot. Like I said, I usually don't get freebies and they decided not to block me. So me standing off the ball, me moving around and putting me in different areas, along with (Jeremy) Chinn and everybody else, that was just great disguises and great execution by the blitzes.
WR Curtis Samuel
RE: What the win meant today
It was exciting. After the tough stretch that we had, to be able to come out here at home – which is more important than anything – and get that win, especially the defense not allowing them to score at home, that was just amazing. It's a great feeling for us.
RE: How the third quarter touchdown felt
We understood that coming out of the half, we had to play better. Our focus was just to execute, execute at the highest level; everybody do their job, just all put it together and just let it come to us. Don't try to do anything different, just be yourself.
RE: His celebration
That was me playing a videogame. I'm a huge video game guy. I was playing Call of Duty, they were chasing me.
RE: How he came up with his celebration
I had that planned for last week. I did it at practice. Everything starts at practice – I do it at practice and Robby [Anderson] was like 'I think you should do that.' I had another one, just in case I score two touchdowns I've got to have another one, so I was going to pull out some dance moves, but Robby was like 'nah, do that one first.' I said alright, bet, I'll do that one.
RE: Whether his personality is coming through more now
I guess so. Scoring touchdowns, that's something I love to do but most importantly, it gives our team points. I get excited when we score so I'm going to go out there and dance. Hopefully, everyone else feels my energy.
RE: What he said to PJ Walker after catching Walker's first NFL touchdown pass
I told him to just keep on going. I was happy for him. When he came on today, he played hard for us. With Teddy [Bridgewater] being down, he played great. He put the ball in situations for us to make a play. There was one earlier or later in the game where he gave me a chance and I had to just keep on running. But PJ played well.
RE: How the late decision to start PJ Walker affected the offense
Our game plan was solid. We were confident in our game plan, no matter who was at quarterback. It's about each individual just all doing our jobs. As a receiver, we want to make it easy for him. We want to be able to create separation, win early to give him that time to be able to put a ball up for us and let us go get it. So, my mindset was just to go out there and win one-on-one matchups whenever they play man and when there was zone, find an area for them to throw the ball to me.
RE: His style and spin move when running after the catch
Playing running back mostly my whole life helps me in open field situations. Being able to make people miss, just being able to make angles for myself to get past defenders. I saw that I had a chance on the spin move, I gave a spin move, I tried to give the next defender a stiff arm and tried to get in the end zone. When I see that end zone, I need it.
RE: Whether the spin move is practiced or comes naturally
None of my moves are planned, they just happen naturally. Whatever my body does, that's what it does.
S Juston Burris
RE: How much the shutout meant
It meant everything. It was great, especially after last week, especially after that second half of last week. We just wanted to come out and show everybody we're a great defense and we did that. I think a lot of guys were running to the ball, a lot of guys saw the chance to shut them out and we started playing harder. You could see it by the d- line getting off and making great plays. It's easy as a secondary when you have a d-line that's hunting like that, so we appreciate those guys.
RE: How this week's postgame locker room compared to last week's
It was electric today. Obviously, with the win, with the shutout, offense played great, defense played great. We've still got work to be done, still games left in this season. We know we've got to get back to work tomorrow and get ready for next week, but yeah, it was electric.
RE: Who got the game balls
They went to PJ [Walker]. He's a guy that was a backup and played like he was a starter and he did a great job. As a defense, we wanted to get him the ball back so he could go make plays and give him that confidence to go and do the things that he can do. We all knew. As soon as we knew he was going to play, we knew we were still in good hands. He does some great things in practice, does some great things against us as a number one defense and he went out and showed it.
RE: Effectiveness of disguised blitzes
We're always trying to confuse the quarterback – show him something opposite, show him something different, not let him know exactly what we're in or where we're coming from – and I think that definitely helped a lot with confusing him. That definitely helped the guys go and make plays.
RE: Coming back from injury
It's been great. It was tough being out for those three weeks, not being with my guys. I was still in meetings and stuff, but it was different because I wasn't in the game and I wasn't out at practice or out on the field. But just being back, the way those guys embraced me when I came back was great, and just to be back on the field is a great feeling. I'm glad to be back.
RE: How the defense can use this performance going forward
I think it gives us confidence. Not that we lost confidence after last week, but we know that we can be a dominant defense. Everything that we need is in this room, or on this defense. I think we have the confidence to go out and shut teams down, shut teams out. This was a good offense, so to go out and not give them anything is definitely a confidence boost and we need that going forward.
S Tre Boston
RE: What was the reaction after last week, how did you get it turned around so quickly here?
I think we looked in the mirror right after the game was done, we saw who needed to be held accountable and guys came in, mentally just ready to battle, mentally to get back up. How we operated back then, it's just how we get back up off the mat for the next week. All you've got to do is go 1-0, so we knew going in this week, we'd be prepared, have to focus back in and know that we are a good team.
RE: What does the shutout mean to you?
It is not easy to do in this league. When you do it, it's a blessing. It attests to the hard work that you put in, week in, week out. Especially like Joe just got done saying, last week we got it handed to us and this week we came back out understanding that, we don't have to do anything special, we just have to do our jobs and guys went out there and they did their jobs and did them well.
RE: How much of a factor for the defense was PJ Walker getting his first start, and trying to take some of that pressure off of him?
As a defense, we knew what time it was. We knew with PJ going in there we needed to do a good job helping him. And that's not just helping him as an individual but help him as a defense, that's playing well, getting the ball, getting turnovers, giving them extra opportunities on offense, and I thought PJ did a great job with that. His two turnovers, they were on their side of the field and for us, as a defense, we take those as just punts, we take those as just kickoffs. Mentally we have to put ourselves in a good space because we knew we couldn't get down and we would never get down. We know what type of team we are, we pick our brothers back up and to go out there and do what we need to do to help PJ and the offense get started and win the game for us, is just attests again going on to the week that we had.
RE: How much of what you guys were doing different in terms of moving guys around affect what the Detroit Lions were doing on the offensive side?
We knew we had to give them different looks. You have a veteran quarterback in Matthew Stafford, great quarterback, so we knew we couldn't make it easy on him. We had to allow ourselves to go in there, disguise a little bit more and make sure that gives him just an extra tenth of second, it doesn't matter what it gets, it's just an extra second he has to read the defense and then go about playing. I thought we did a great job of it. Coach threw it on us Wednesday, Thursday and I thought we did a great job of coming out here and executing it.
RE: How good is it winning the game?
I try to keep myself the same for the media, win or loss. For us, it was great. I was jumping around, letting guys know even before the game, during the game, just trying to keep the energy there to allow guys to understand that we really got this. And for guys to show up the way that they did, for me, the last few plays were big discipline and coach talks about being disciplined on this team, being focused. To win the game like that, with them jumping offsides two times, us calling victory, it's just one of those things that you can look back and tell that this was a brand win.
RE: Anything specifically you did differently on third down this week?
Guys having their eyes on their man, guys being a little more focused, guys understanding they don't have to make the play for somebody else. They don't have to make this crazy outlandish play that nobody had seen before, just do their job. We took accountability this week, coming in each day focusing on our job. Of course just throwing a little bit of disguising against Matt Stafford, but I think it was just us individually, coaches, players coming in each and every day focused on the task and knowing that we just have to go 1-0 this week.
RE: What do you think the brand is?
Oh, the brand? We are the toughest, hardest-working team, most competitive team in the league. For us, it starts with being tough, we have to be tough, we have to work hard and we to be the most competitive team in the league. For us, that's about every week going in there, fighting, and that's something that we have seen this whole year, except for maybe one game, that the Carolina Panthers will fight you all four quarters. Coach has come in here with that and again, this was a brand win. We knew what time it was going to be. We're back on PJ at quarterback. Dinged up here and there but nobody cares. You have to go out there willing to fight, and for us that is what we did as a family, went out there and fought for each other and it showed today. Offense, defense and special teams, we played together, again this was a brand win.
RE: Brian Burns
You're talking about a guy who on a lot of teams would just be the second guy, he would be a guy who is on the upcoming. For this team, Brian Burns is our league dog. It's year two and he is our league dog. For him to take that and shoulder that and come out here and play well, game in and game out, knowing that we need him year two, it's special. He is going to be special. This is year two. I have to remind people sometimes that this guy is in year two. I can only imagine him down the road. He is going to be very, very special. We have guys like Yetur and our d-linemen, young d-linemen who are following, but Brian is playing good ball for us and we need him. As long as he is playing the way he is playing, he is going to be wreaking havoc for us for a long time.
View game action photos of the Week 11 contest between Carolina and Detroit at Bank of America Stadium.