WATCH: What Matt Rhule Said Following the Win Against Pittsburgh

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule speaks with the media following the win over Pittsburgh.
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RE: Sam Darnold’s performance tonight

I thought some of the plays he made on third down were great. It was good to see him making some plays with his feet. I wasn’t happy with the ball that they called an incomplete. That’s not what we need. You know, we are in field goal range. I think he needed to get out there and play. I think he moved the ball, moved the ball, moved the ball again. It’s just some of those second and one, third and one, fourth and ones, we didn’t execute. Some of those we called. We wanted to see, hey, can we put the ball in his hands on fourth and one. We wanted to give him that situation. We wanted to give him the third and 16. I think in a regular season game we would probably check the ball down there and kick field goals. But we wanted to put him in some situations. I think he came out of it. But at the end of the day he took us down at the two minutes at the end of the half and it was a heck of a ball to Robby [Anderson]. Like everyone else, there will be some good, some bad. We will go back and watch the tape. He will grow from it. I thought overall good effort.

RE: Kickers

Obviously, Ryan [Santoso] literally just flew in yesterday, bought a pair of cleats, came here today and walked around and looked at the field. First time on our turf. First time with a new snapper/holder. So, to go out there and make a 52-yarder to start, that was obviously encouraging. So that’s one of the reasons why we made the move to bring him in. See what he can do. We got a good starting picture from him. Obviously, Joey [Slye] unfortunately missed the kick wide right. But did kick the ball off well. So, like all of our players, we are rooting for them all. We will go back and watch the tape. See what happened. Try to keep it consistent with the snappers and the holders with the guys so that we can have a good picture to compare.

RE: The kind of team member Joey Slye is

He is a wonderful person. He has worked really hard. He has made a lot of kicks. He has done a lot of good things. He is just in one of those places right now where he is struggling. When you struggle at a lot of other positions, people don’t know it. When you struggle at that position, unfortunately, it is magnified. He has been a brother to these guys. He has worked with these guys so they want to see him succeed. It’s the power of the locker room. It’s the brotherhood you are hoping to try and create. Joey is an unbelievable person. He hasn’t shied away from any of this. He is trying to work his way through it. He is out there kicking extra, doing extra. Trying to mechanically get himself to where he wants to be.

RE: Importance of getting the win today

Obviously, we wanted to win. But I think more importantly, how we win. Take the ball away three times. To not turn the ball over. We started the first game off three weeks ago with 10 penalties or 13 penalties, whatever it was. I think we had three tonight. Still, nothing is perfect. We have a lot of work to do. But I thought it was relatively clean. Especially with not having Christian [McCaffrey] out there. It's encouraging in terms of some of the things we did. Defensively, it really encouraged. That’s a good football team. They played a lot of their offensive linemen, some of their tight ends, some of their receivers so they faced some good players out there. I think our defense is playing fast and hard. Encouraged by a lot of things but also, knowing a lot of things, you can’t mask the bad things just because you won the game.

RE: Timetable of kicker decision

I’m not sure of the timetable. That’s honest. We brought Ryan [Santoso] knowing we have a couple days until the cuts to make a decision about him. I’ll get with Scott probably tomorrow morning and we will see where we are at every position and take the next couple days to try to be thorough.

RE: Decision to play Santoso more than Slye tonight

We went into it with a hey, we are going to let Ryan kickoff and kick the first one. Let Joey, depending on where it was, kick the second one and then let Ryan kick most of the rest of the night. Obviously, we had some field goal attempts and some touchdowns so we had the chance to let the guys kick a lot. I wasn’t sure how many we would have. So, we wanted to make sure we at least saw each of the guys kick at least once. Just kind of the way the night played out.

RE: Two-minute scoring drive for Darnold

I think the situational football, the third downs, the red zone, the two-minute, we got all of those things today with the ones. Some things we did well. Some things we didn’t do well. I think we executed on that drive. I think it was fourth-and-three we hit DJ [Moore] so we executed the fourth down. We just wanted to put him in all those situations. He has played a lot of football. Just trying to get him, when I say him I mean Sam and everyone else, just trying to get them to play within our system and trust the play calls that Joe [Brady] makes. Trust the process we have and just stay within themselves. Guys are going to make mistakes. We are going to try to correct them and try to be a better football team each week.

RE: Darnold’s leadership

I want to make sure I say it because some of the coaches asked me. What I want him to do is I don’t want him to focus on being a leader. I think his leadership will emerge with his work ethic. I think you are starting to see a guy that has some leadership that emerges. He is not like the guy who is going to get the guys and give a speech. You know, the RA-RA speech guy. He is a guy that is starting to demand accountability from guys. Guys play for him because he doesn’t make excuses. I believe in true, true, true leadership. I don’t believe in convenient leadership. There are a lot of convenient leaders out there that say the right things at the big moments but they don’t live that way and do that. I think that if you live a life of doing the right things then people want to hear what you have to say. I think Sam is emerging and developing in that way. But the most important thing is he will be the first guy in the building and the last one to leave. Work hard. We are lucky because we have three quarterbacks who are like that. So that’s the culture in that room which is awesome.

RE: Do you like what you saw from PJ Walker and Will Grier and do you think PJ will stay at the number two position?

Not ready to say that yet, I thought PJ (Walker) was really good when he was in there, made the big throw to Tommy (Tremble), made the big throw on the sideline to David (Moore), made the over route to Shi (Smith). I think he put a lot of balls in guys' hands, they didn’t necessarily make the play that we would like. But I thought he was good, took us down to score. Then I thought Will was excellent as well. Will made some plays with his feet. I’m really happy to see that from Will. He went out there had a lot of the guys that are twos and threes with him and still found a way to move the team. And at the end of the day, that is what it’s about, it’s about moving the team. So, as I’ve said all along I feel really good about these two guys. We have tough decisions obviously to make over the next couple of days. We will start really early tomorrow morning as a staff and as a personnel staff. But just happy for these guys that they went out and played well.

RE: Update on Shi Smith

You know what, I don’t. I just saw his father as I was walking in here. I don’t know exactly where that is at. It didn’t sound like it was here but it sounded like it was significant but we will see what the extent is. I would hate to say something and have it not be right when they go look at it. 

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