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What Matt Rhule Said Following the Win Over New Orleans

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule met with the media following Sunday's game.

RE: Opening Statement

I feel, obviously, very proud of the guys today. I thought it was a good team win. I thought our guys played hard. A lot of things we have to get corrected. A lot of guys went down today. A lot of new guys stepped up. Too many coaching errors in the first half. You know, having to call time out because we have the wrong call in or one of our players gets confused. We have to clean a lot of things up as a coaching staff first and then in the second half, offensively, we just continue to kind of have that lull, especially when we have a lead. We just have to learn how to be aggressive but still be smart. I thought at the end though, despite the woes of the kicking game, just not enough good plays in the kicking game. I thought our guys on offense made the plays they had to make. Zane [Gonzalez] stepped up and defensively, obviously, we got a lot of pressure all day and stopped the run. Obviously, the Saints have been through a lot over the last month. Respect for them. A tremendous amount of respect for Sean Payton, down coaches this week, and we know we will see them again at the end of the season for a great game.

RE: Consistent pressure from the defense

It changes things and I think there are two parts to that. I think it's stopping the run because then on 2nd and 7 you are not sitting here playing a run defense now and you know what, we trusted the players. We played a lot of bear five up guys and played man to man defense today. Keith Taylor was out there Rashaan Melvin was out there. Those guys stepped up. You know, Juston Burris went down and played the nickel. It was a tale of a lot of guys. I just think we played really well up front and I think Phil [Snow] called an amazing game. He was bringing pressures and showing pressure and coming the other side. I think it was a great job by the defensive staff but also our players. At the end of the day, they owned it. They delivered on it. I think Shaq [Thompson] continues to be a tremendous field general out there. I was proud of that part of the game.

RE: Christian McCaffrey health

Tired, cramps. I just think he was having some cramps. They had to go put a bag of fluid in him. Just cramps.

RE: Depth of defensive front

We play a lot of guys. As long as everyone does their job so guys are being diligent about doing their jobs because a lot of the things are pretty complex. They are not just four-man rush. We have gotten some pressure with the four-man rush but trying to bring different pressures. Guys have to really prepare because we have some different things up each week. I think Al Holcomb, Mike Siravo, Frank Okam and Don Johnson have done a good job of getting different guys ready at different positions. So, they are kind of teaching conceptually and the guys come out ready to execute.

RE: Sam Darnold's progression from Week 1 to Week 2

I didn't see him, I have to watch the tape, but I didn't see him miss the same throws. A couple, 2 or 3 throws, I thought he was really poised. Obviously, the one turnover can't happen. It was kind of a jumbled look and we'd just rather get rid of the ball and continue the play. But I'm not asking him to be perfect the entire season. So, I thought he made big throws in crucial downs, on third down. I thought the real story of the game was our offensive line protected him. They got some sacks late in the game when they were kind of sending a ton of people and we weren't being quite as aggressive. For the most part I thought our offensive line played really well today. You know Pat Elflein went down and Dennis Daley stepped up. He goes down. Brady Christensen goes in the game. A lot of guys were ready to go.

RE: Was Pat Elflein injury a reaggravation of injury earlier in the week?

No. Just had a strain of hamstring. We will see how long because obviously a short week so we have to see who is ready. I'll come in tomorrow and probably by tomorrow afternoon after them come in for treatment, I'll know who is ready for this week.

RE: What does this win do for your team?

I just think it means we are 1-0 this week and we have to get ready for next week. It shows a lot of the things we are doing well. It's like when you win or lose, you see what you do well and you see what you are not doing well. You can't have a field goal blocked and run back. That just can't happen in the National Football League. You can't turn the ball over on the 10-yard line. We can't have them have the ball first and goal and we make an unbelievable play, get them to 3rd-9 and then we let the quarterback run in which we all know, you guys heard me say it this week, keep Jameis [Winston] in the pocket. When those things happen, that is the mark of, hey there are a lot of things to still improve upon. There are also a lot of great things that happened out there. We just have to be really honest about what are we doing well, what are we not doing well. It's boring. It's the same thing I said last year when we would win or lose. It's just about trying to improve this week and it's a short week. The Texans are a good team. It's going to be hard. We have got to put this win behind us and understand that today is really like a Wednesday of a game week. I'm going to go home and hang out with my wife and kids and then start working tonight. It's going to be a heck of a turnaround.

RE: Starting 2-0

I'm sure the guys are happy we won. I think they have to feel like, ok, hey, I want them to feel like my hard work and preparation is working. I think that's the message. It's not about am I good enough. It's am I doing the right things to win and then they have to be honest about, hey, this is what I need to do to improve. When you win a game, it brings a whole new set of problems. We have got to improve. But I want them to be happy. They work really hard. We have guys who lay it on the line and sacrifice a lot. There is a lot of sacrifice and humility from a lot of guys in that locker room. You can't have that many sacks from that many people and not have it be everyone else doing their jobs. So that guy gets up and the camera goes on him but a lot of guys covering, doing a nice job. And it's the offense. Trust me, there are so many times 4th and 1, 4th and 2, I want to go for it but I keep saying you've got a good defense today. Trust the defense. Pump the ball down. It's just a little bit of everyone to me.

RE: Defense's success against Alvin Kamara today

I have to see the tape. Obviously, I thought we did a nice job of stopping the run and it looked like to me we had Shaq [Thompson] on Kamara and [Jeremy] Chinn on Kamara. It looked like to me that they did a good job. Alvin Kamara is one of the best players in football. I have so much respect for who he is as a player. It's just one of those days where we got some pressure. I can't say much more than that other than watching the tape.

RE: Tone set by scoring on first possession

It's one of those things that hasn't really happened. We haven't had a ton of success early. I think it was just tremendous. We executed. Everyone kind of did their jobs. [Brandon] Zylstra goes out there and I thought Zylstra was really one of the players that stepped up today. I don't know how many catches he had – three catches, a touchdown, caught a slant when they overloaded the box and brought pressure. They were kind of key crucial plays. I think that probably gave us a little bit of momentum and energy. I think the message we had to ourselves is this game is going to be all about the 4th quarter so let's play loose and free in the first half and third quarter let's play loose and free and let's get to the 4th quarter and execute. We were pretty good in the 4th quarter. Obviously, they scored that one play and after that I thought guys hung in there.

RE: How do you eliminate that second half lull?

I think we have to, again, its kind of hard. The defense is playing so well so you are not being overly aggressive. We just have to continue to go back and look at who is not quite doing their job. There are a bunch of plays we feel like we should have executed better. It's just like anything else – young teams teaching them, hey don't look at the scoreboard, just keep playing, keep playing. I thought the defense though, last week in the third quarter and again this week in the third quarter, I thought they hung in there. They got tired and they continued to play. We are just going to have to work our way through that.

RE: Blocked field goal

I thought all day our field goal protection wasn't very good. They were swimming us. Literally on the last one, I think we called time out before the last one, is that correct? I called timeout to bring them over to say 'hey, listen, they are swimming you. Everyone get your heads up.' It looked like the kick might have been low just from the field level but I have to go watch the tape. But I do know this, there was too much even on the one we missed on the extra point, there is too much in the kicker's face pressure wise. We have to get that corrected. It was just apparent to me on the field.

RE: Importance of getting off the field today

That's really all last year to have the issue of getting off the field. I think our 3rd down defense… So it's hard for me to keep referencing last year. These guys have done a good job at that. It's just all, again, its complimentary football. It's stopping the run. It's getting pressure on 2nd down. It's guys covering. Not having a ton of defensive penalties. I think the guys are working really hard on third down. They are coming in knowing, hey, we have to be better on third down. We have to be better in the two-minute which we were today. We wanted to be really good in the red zone so that touchdown will bother a lot of us because we covered everyone. On 3rdand 8 at the eight, if you cover everyone there shouldn't be a touchdown. So, we have to improve that.

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