HEAD COACH MATT RHULE
RE: Opening Statement
Obviously disappointed with the result. Great football game back and forth. Had a chance to win it and as happens both for you and against you, you have to make one more play in the fourth quarter and we were not able to make that play at the very end. I thought the second half our defense held them to six points, I think it was six points, gave us a chance to win the game. Just couldn't quite make it happen. Credit to them. Obviously, they are a great football team. Drew Brees was great at quarterback as he is. I thought (Alvin) Kamara played a great game.
RE: What went into the decision to attempt a 65-yard field goal versus letting the offense try to convert on fourth down
It was fourth-and-17. We don't have a lot of those calls we feel good about. He's made it from there. We went into the game saying, hey, 47-yard line. 47-yard line, we felt he would have a chance. Our odds with fourth-and-17 we felt like were less than that. Obviously, it was not ideal. We had the ball down at the 35 and took that sack. Obviously, that sack was a fatal blow there. That's why.
RE: On the third down sack, if Teddy Bridgewater could have gotten rid of the ball
We can't take a sack there no matter who it is. Whether it's the offensive line, the receivers, whatever, we just can't take a sack. That's the only thing that couldn't have happen there was that. Regardless of what happens, Teddy can't take that sack, the offensive line can't allow that sack, it just can't happen.
RE: If Joey Slye hit anything longer than a 60-yard field goal in pregame
No, I don't watch it in pregame to that degree. (Special teams coordinator) Chase (Blackburn) had the number at 47. Again, we shouldn't even be back there. We can't take the sack. So when we get back there it's what's the best available odds. We punt it down there, we are going to get the ball back with 15 seconds. We go for it on fourth-and-17, I don't know about those odds. And we kick a field goal, even if it is 30-40%, typically third-and-10 plus is about 25% so even if its 30%. I thought he hit it and came up whatever four or five yards short.
RE: Thoughts while watching Joey Slye's 65-yard field goal attempt and if he thought he was going to make it as it was happening
I don't remember. I was just watching it. I was hoping for him, hoping that we had good protection. We had struggled with protection earlier. He hit it and I try to not overreact. I just watch it and see what happens. We missed it. I thought we might have a chance to get the ball back with 5-7 seconds left and who knows what could happen.
RE: What made the Saints difficult to stop on third down
They did a great job of converting some third and longs. (Alvin) Kamara made it tough. They won verse man to man. I think in the first half they were 6-of-6 on third down and 3-of-3 in the red zone. So, areas that we pride ourselves on. I think when you play Drew Brees you have to know he is going to be efficient. He was efficient. We didn't make the plays or call the plays. Just a team effort on our end to get them off the field.
RE: Eli Apple playing a lot of snaps and if he saw anything from Troy Pride Jr. and how the cornerbacks played without Rasul Douglas
I thought they played fine. I have to watch the tape to see more. We tried to play Eli (Apple) and at one point he went down and then came back up. Nothing beyond just rotating them and feeling like he was going to play well and getting him into the game.
RE: Mike Davis and the difficulty getting the running game going
I don't think we had a lot of plays. I don't know how many total plays we had in the game. It just felt like one of those games based upon the way they were playing, based upon the way our guys were playing it was going to be plays through the air. Felt like it was one of those games it was going to be, hey, throw it and then mix in the runs. Thought Mike (Davis) played well. We hit him on a couple passes. He made guys miss. Just felt like one of those, hey, let's throw the ball. Obviously, we had the big play to DJ [Moore] which was a quick drive. Nothing particular about the run game other than we are kind of one of those hey, get the lead and then run the football type teams. More pass first. Obviously, couldn't quite get the lead, we were always kind of chasing from behind.
QB TEDDY BRIDGEWATER
It's a tough one to let get away from you. That was a good football team we played against and we were a few plays away, but in this league being a few plays away can get you beat. We've got a short week, so we've got to hurry up and put this game to bed. We'll get an opportunity to play the Saints again at the end of the season, but it's a short week like I said; we've got to get ready for Atlanta.
RE: What he saw on the sack at the end of the game
We had the perfect play call – probably would've scored a touchdown if we had got it off – but they schemed up that protection that we had called well and I really had nowhere to throw the ball. As I tried to step up, I was going to throw it away but there were no outlets for me to just dirt it. Hats off to those guys, they schemed up the protection that we had called and they prevented us from making a play and forced us out of field goal range.
RE: Adjustments the offense had to make throughout the game
When you look at the game, we didn't really have many possessions, so we just tried to maximize every drive that we got. We wanted to make sure that we were finishing in the end zone so it was one of those games where the game might go a little different from what the game plan was. We left a couple plays out there today – a couple big plays – and if you leave too many plays against a team like that, you get beat.
RE: The difficulty of finding a rhythm with less snaps and the defense having difficulty getting third down stops
It goes hand-in-hand. For us, when we put together long drives – 14-play scoring drives and things like that – it gives our defense a break. So, if we can just continue to do our part to help our defense stay fresh and locked and loaded, I think we'll continue to complement each other – the offense will complement the defense, the defense will complement the offense and special teams.
RE: How the offense changes with Curtis Samuel on the field
Curtis is just a guy that shows up for us. I've been saying he does everything that we ask him to do. When his number is called, he's out there making plays for us. You saw him score a touchdown from the backfield, you see him make big catches on third down, so to have him out there on the field, he's a huge asset to this team.
RE: What was said on the Saints sideline between him and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton
He was just saying it was a flag on both teams, the play is dead, basically.
RE: Whether it was more emotional playing against his old team
No, not at all. To me, it was another game on our schedule. Of course, those guys hold a special place in my life and my heart, but when I'm going against them, it's a different approach. I just want to go out there and play the game I know how to play and try to get our team in the end zone as many times as we could.
RE: Thoughts on the 65-yard field goal attempt by Joey Slye
It just shows that Coach (Matt Rhule) has supreme confidence in his players. I think as an offense we can't put ourselves in that situation. If we could dirt the ball or something on that third down – you see a guy kick a 65-yard field goal and just miss it, so if we just dirt the ball right there on third down and give him a chance from 20 yards closer, there's a chance for us to tie the game up. But, like I said, it just shows that Coach has supreme confidence in his players.
RE: Whether he wanted the offense to go for it on fourth-and-17
It's a tough situation. If we had made it a more manageable down and distance, I think we probably would've went for it or something. I don't know, but like I said, to see Coach tell Joey (Slye) to go out there and kick a 65-yard field goal, that's supreme confidence in his players. It's no knock against the offense or anything but we have guys on this team who we truly believe in and that was put on display when Coach called the field goal team out there.
RE: How it falls on him to lead the team following this loss in a short week
It's all about understanding that you've got more opportunities. You've got to be able to turn the page fast in this league. We've got an Atlanta team coming into town that I'm pretty sure after we played them, they felt the same way that they may have been one or two plays away from tying the game or beating us, so we have to make sure that we have the right mindset going into this game that nothing's going to be handed to us. Like I said, we get an opportunity to play the Saints again at the end of this year and Atlanta's getting another opportunity to play us, so we're going to make sure that we attack this week with the right mindset and be smart. I'm going to continue to stress to the younger guys on this team that Thursday's going to be here. You get, basically, a day and a half of preparation, so it's a quick turnaround but no one's going to feel sorry for you once you get out there.
WR DJ Moore
RE: How important his early touchdown was
It was just to get us going. It was a play that was unexpected, but expected, when we went out there. So when we hit the big touchdown, it got us going a little bit.
RE: His view of the final third-down play and Joey Slye's field goal attempt the following play
The third-down play, it happens. I think he stepped up, he got sacked on that third down, if I'm correct.
The play call, it was there. It was unfortunate that we couldn't get it. Then on Joey, I know the next time we have that situation, he's going to make the field goal. He's going to work at it this upcoming week. So I'm really not going to be too hard on it.
RE: Difficulty getting into a rhythm when the other team is having long drives
Not really because we've still got to play our game at the end of the day when we get on the field. Time of possession is just something that we look at, but we know we have to go out there and execute and get a touchdown, match a score with a score.
RE: If he thinks the offense could have converted the final 4*th* & 19 play
That goes through our play callers. At the end of the day, we all think we can make the play but at the end of the day the coaches have to call at end of the day. So we just go out there to execute. We went out there for the field goal and that's what the conversation was.
RE: What options were open on the 3*rd* down play when QB Teddy Bridgewater got sacked
I'm not sure. I know he was probably looking down the field. So I'm really just working on my side to get open for the play, so I really couldn't tell you.
RE: What it meant having WR Curtis Samuel back today
What did it mean? We just added another speedster on the field, another playmaker, that the team had to account for.
LB Shaq Thompson
RE: The Saints' third-down success
They just executed better than we did. It was no reason, we just have to do better. They can't go 100 percent, we have to get off the field and get our offense the ball back.
RE: The difficulty preparing for this game with injuries among some defensive starters
It wasn't hard at all. We always talk about next guy up or what's next. I feel like Sam [Franklin] came out here and played well for us. We just have to be able to help our offense out. The offense played great today. Defense, we played good at times, but their third down killed us. If you don't win on third down, it's going to be a long game and that's what happened.
RE: Struggles on third downs
We just have to execute, execute the calls. We have to win first and second down early in the ball game. Most of the third downs came to third-and-short, third-and-two. Then on the ones on the third-and-long, we have to convert those. Give credit to them, they came out there and won every third down, we just have to do better. We have to get ready for Thursday, let this soak in for a little bit and then we have to get ready for the Atlanta Falcons.
RE: Difficulty stopping Saints RB Alvin Kamara
We just have to tackle. It's not him, it's just us. We have to tackle, run our feet, wrap up and get him down. He has great contact balance. He is one of those backs that slows down right before contact, and it's just hard to get him down. But we will see him again at the end of the year. It's on us and we just have to wrap up.
RE: Halftime adjustments
We just started diving in and playing our defense. That is what we need to do in the first half. We have to play our brand and not play any other way. That is what we started doing in the second half, but we have to make it a whole game thing, not just a half thing. It just falls back really on myself. I am taking a lot of credit in some of those zones that I messed up and they hit big plays right there. I already told my team, that's on me.
RE: If missing SS Juston Burris was a big reason for today's result
No, we just have to go out there and execute regardless of who is back there. Everybody knows the defense, everybody knows their job, we just have to execute.
CB Eli Apple
RE: Playing a full game coming back from injury
It actually felt great. Being out there with the guys and being able to contribute, run around. I felt great out there.
RE: Saints third down success today
Just trying to keep them out of the third-and-mediums and manageable. That was our issue today. I would just say making tackles. Making tackles in space and leveraging the ball. That's something we have to fix.
RE: Camaraderie between offense and defense; talking to Saints player after hitting WR Robby Anderson late
It's having your brothers' back. All I was telling him was, 'that's not a smart play.' On the sideline we just try to create that energy. That's just the main emphasis to bring that energy and just trying to keep that momentum going obviously.
RE: Cornerback rotation and getting into a rhythm
You can still get in a little rhythm and all that. We just try to support each other and help each other the best we can. Whoever is in there, we just want to make sure we are playing the brand of football that we are capable of.
RE: If he feels fully healthy
I don't want to say I'm 100 percent, but I do feel a lot better than I've been feeling this whole year. Just about taking care of my body moving forward and doing what I can to stay on the field.
RE: Saints ability to spread the ball out today without their top two receivers
I feel like they were just finding out open spots in the zones and Drew [Brees] did a great job of hitting them on time. That's about it. Drew Brees is a great quarterback. You have to tip your hat off to him. He is very smart and knows how to get his guys open and find guys who are open too.
RE: Dealing with injuries on defense
I mean it's frustrating of course. It's a long journey to get here and of course you don't want to go out being hurt and stuff. It's frustrating.
RE: If this was a game that got away from them
Yeah, it hurts and stings right now. But we have to regroup and recharge up. We got another one coming up. Can't dwell on this loss too much. Watch the film, put it behind us and move forward.
K Joey Slye
Re: His thoughts when he was told he would be kicking 65-yard field goal attempt
Same as every other kick, going down, just trying to settle myself, get my chest straight and just swing through the ball. Obviously, the kick was further than most people get to even attempt but for me, it was the same mentality going out there. Just try to make good contact and rely on my technique and everything and go from there.
Re: If he noticed that they played his missed kick from last year's game against the Saints
To be honest with you, on the sideline and when I'm on the field trying to get warmed up, I'm just looking at the ground, making sure that I'm not getting anything out of my attention, just trying to really stay locked in and ready to go.
Re: What this past week was like for him
I was self-isolated in my apartment, taking care of some other stuff that I had because I had more time this week, but I was able to go out with my swing coach that I work with every week. We were self distancing and stuff like that while we were getting the work in, but we were still just trying to make sure that I maintained a schedule throughout the week. I hit my normal charts for the week and I was able to go to the local gym that I got a membership at late night when everyone was gone – I was going at like one o'clock in the morning – just to make sure that I wasn't putting anyone else at risk. So I was still able to get my workouts and stuff like that in. I was just trying to stay as prepped as I could for this week.
Re: The longest kick he made in pregame
I think one way I hit 58 (yards) just warming up and then the other way I hit 60 and cleared it by 5, 10 yards. I don't usually go and try to stretch myself as far as I can during pregame because a lot of times, you end up trying to hit random balls all over the place. If you have a good swing and a good stroke going into the game, you're not really worried about your distance as much. So I think I hit from 60 during pregame and smoked it, so really wasn't worried about missing short from 65. But hit a pure ball and left it an inch short so if I'm going to miss anywhere, might as well miss dead middle and a little bit short from that far. But it's still a little frustrating in the fact that I have the leg strength to hit further than that and just came up a little bit short.
Re: How knowing he has the leg strength for long kicks keeps him calm mentally
I think a lot of guys would try to swing a little harder, change up their technique, change up their mentality going into the kick. They might try to run into it, plant deep, cut it or they'll really try to overcompensate with their upper body – get around the right side of the ball and pull it. For me, I was just trying to stay in the same zone that I was. I felt really good going into the game, I was smashing my PATs, hit a pretty decent ball on that 43 (yard attempt), so I wasn't too worried about all that going into the kick. I just wanted to make solid contact and focus on my extension down field and I felt like I did that, and the results were pretty dang close.
Re: Whether he wishes he had done anything different on the 65-yard attempt
The stance was good, chest was good, swung through the ball, had great extension. Nit-picking, I probably could've hit a little more middle seam which would've drove the ball a little bit better. There are a bunch of little nuances but the fact that the ball was dead center on the post usually means the timing was pretty good. There are little, tiny, intricate nuances that we could've really went into but from that deep and the ball that I hit, this is probably the one miss in my entire career if I ever have any – hopefully, don't have any more – but this is one of the ones I'm okay living with. But for me, I wanted to go out and obviously perform for the team, put us in an opportunity to win the game. This is a big divisional opponent that obviously we need to get wins against so we can stay alive for playoff hopes, so I was really hoping to put us up even and give us an opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation or at least go into overtime. So, frustrated about that. I feel like obviously I let the team down. They put trust in me to go out there and every single time I'm on the field, I'm expected to do my job at the highest level, so frustrated in that and just want to get back to work this week and continue to get better.
Re: Whether he thought the kick was good initially
Yeah, I laced that ball and it was climbing from probably close to the 20, into the 15, it was still climbing, so I was like, 'oh, this is going to be good by at least two or three.' But just came up short. I wasn't expecting it. I thought it was good.
Re: His longest made field goals in a game and practice
Last year, during the preseason, I hit that 59 against the Steelers, so in a game situation that was preseason. If we're talking about a regular season game, I hit the 55 against Houston last year. In practice, off sticks, I've hit from 70 before. Just depending on the day, I think the longest I've hit is 73 with a little bit of wind at my back. Obviously, we're in a dome so I'm not worried about wind and directional, but obviously, as you can see from live operation in a dome where it's relatively a vacuum, I'm good from like 64.8.
Re: Going from a 54-yard attempt to a 65-yard attempt following the sack on the prior play
Usually on the sideline, I don't like to look where we're going to hit from because obviously, that's usually subject to change – you're either going to lose a couple or maybe gain a couple. So, I don't usually look at where we are on third down going into the kick and then I also don't really like to pick out markers and stuff where I'm like 'okay, I'm hitting a 42 or a 50-whatever.' I'm not usually trying to calculate that stuff, I'm really just calming myself down, getting my breathing right, going through my progression of everything I need to make sure that I have going in before this kick – just my body positioning, what I want to accomplish, all that stuff. That's kind of all going through my head. Obviously, I know we would've hit a shorter field goal than a 65, but I really wasn't focused on – to be honest with you, looking back I think we still would've probably hit from 58 or something like that, so it still would've been a longer field goal, still would've had to have the same mentality going out there of just hitting a clean, pure ball and going in after that.
View in-game photos of Week 7 of Panthers at Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.