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Everything Matt Rhule Said Following the Loss to New York

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

Opening Statement

"Alright guys, obviously a very, very disappointing game. My heart hurts for the guys in that locker room I know how much they wanted to win the football game. Made some mistakes early in the game. The defense bailed us out through that, took the lead in the second half only to see it slip away. Obviously, for our guys, that’s two games in a row where we’ve come down to the very end with a chance to win the game and come up short both times. I take full responsibility for that. That’s my job, that falls on me. I have to help these guys find a way to make just one more play and win the game. They’re trying, they’re grinding, they’re working. They left it all on the field today and we are coming up just a play or two short and I know how frustrated they are. I know you guys have a lot of questions about the game, I just want to make sure I say that we’re close. I believe that in with all my heart. I think we’re so close, we’re coming down the stretch but we haven’t found a way to get it done. That’s my job, to help us get over that last hump. It’s the hardest part and we haven’t done it yet. Didn’t do it today. So, with that, I’ll answer the questions that you have."

Q: What was the thought behind the third and six play call?

"I can’t say about it yet, I’d have to see the tape. We’re third and six we’re just trying to hit (Christian (McCaffrey) on a quick play. We were going to go for it on fourth down, but it was fourth and seven and we weren’t ready to go for that once there was the sack. So, I just saw the edge guy come off the edge and we would like to be able to stay on one side and block together but what call he made. I didn’t have a chance to talk to them again about what happened. But that was really the tale of the second half. Our inability on third down to handle the pressure packages and once we took that lead, we were not able to stay on the field."

Q: You accomplished a lot what you wanted today - you shut down (Running Back Saquon) Barkley for most of the game, Christian had over 100 yards, what exactly do you feel like went wrong?

"I think it was the third downs in the second half. I think we finished at six of 18 but they weren’t very good at halftime. A couple scramble plays, find someone open for them enabled them to extend drives and kick field goals. Thought we played the run well for most the day. They no yards rushing at halftime but did finish the second half with some runs. Then our inability to run the ball and stay on the field as I said. Even that last drive, two weeks in a row now both third down not really being our friend not finding a way to stay on the field, continue to get more ‘at bats’ for guys, more touches for guys. So, credit them, they’ve got a lot of pressures. The pressures change throughout the game. They did a lot of different things. Wink’s (Martindale) a fantastic defensive coordinator and we picked a lot of them up but end the end, not enough."

Q: On being intentional getting Christian McCaffrey the ball.

"I think we felt like as we got into the game, you can tell the downhill running game is what was clicking. We felt like we had some good runs, with the downhill running game. So, coming out of last week of there not being a lot of plays in the first half. We felt like we needed to get him some more touches in the first half. I think in the second half it kind of settled into like ‘Hey this is how they’re playing the downhill run game’. Those were things that we tried to focus on."

Q: What did you see from (Quarterback) Baker (Mayfield) today?

"I think the pressure, he made some good plays, I thought the pressure of having the ball in his hand at the end of the game, like the seam route, the hot that he threw to (Tight End) Ian (Thomas). I thought earlier on he burned the blitz with a couple of really nice throws that extended the drive. But in the end, we weren’t able to, going back to the earlier question, I can’t say on all of the blitzes I don’t know the call until I talk to him afterward. So I have to go back and see as we watch the tape. But we knew it was going to be a challenge coming in with their blitz packages and all the things they would throw at us. Just weren’t able to get enough of them done. I thought he competed, Baker’s always going to compete. I feel like, again, as he continues to be in the offense, some of the things he did today were really high level some of the those height adjustments and hots, as he continues in the offense I think it’s all going to click for him and he’s going to see it and play really fast."

Q: Why do you say you guys are close to winning?

"Because I know how much those guys wanted to win. I’m honored to coach those guys and I told them ‘At the end we’re 0-2, we haven’t played an NFC South game yet,’ I just want them to stay locked in. I really believe that they’re close. At the end of the day we’re just, we haven’t taken the ball away in two games, so as good of a defense as we play, to think that at halftime we’d be minus two and we would be tied 6-6 I wouldn’t have believed that. All the things I know we’re capable of doing just haven’t quite happened yet but it doesn’t mean we’re not capable of doing them. So, I hurt for them, at the same time we have a lot of football left and I think we have to get better. We have to get better in terms of a lot of things. But, we’re not punch drunk. We’re not sitting there like’ Oh gosh poor us’. We’re just hurt because we took the lead in the second half, following all the way back and it felt like we got things going. Again, they made one more play than we made."

Q: Feeling in locker room

"I think our guys just want to win the games. I thought today, they did such a good job of being in the moment and not letting negative plays bother them. Just win the next rep, play the next rep. I’m sure they wanted to win but I don’t think we’d want to win the game more than the other. I know our guys they’ll hurt on the way home, they’ll hurt tomorrow, they’ll recover Tuesday and they’ll come in Wednesday and be thinking about the Saints and be thinking about the NFC South. I think the takeaway for us is that we are right there. But you know what, we’ve got to find a way to win. We’ve got to find a way to win. Whether that’s picking the ball off or breaking one more tackle or making a better call, whatever it is. It’s all of us in that room. It’s just my job as a leader to stand up and say, ‘Hey it all falls on me.’ I’m happy to say that for those guys and if I know those guys, those guys are going to continue to battle."

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Q: How do you improve the two and 12, the third down situations?

"It’s two games in a row. I think it comes down to, a lot of it is just perfection-wise. Again, today was not about one-on-one pass rushes. I never saw a time where a guy just got straight beat. It looked like it was just bringing extra guys. So, I just think we knew the system, (Giants Defensive Coordinator) Coach Martindale is one of the best of the best at doing this and we knew there were going to be a lot of challenges. We just have to continue to work, we have to continue to improve in those areas. I think if we can protect the quarterback, a guy can get open and make plays, but we’ve got to go under the rest, kind of running around all the time and (inaudible)."

Q: You talk about finding a way to get over the hump. Did you consider on the fly making any changes? (Running Back) Chuba (Hubbard) had a couple of fumbles, (Wide Receiver) Shi (Smith) had a couple of drops…

"I think Shi’s one of our better players and obviously we’d love for him to catch that ball across the middle. I believe in Chuba, but you can’t put the second one on the ground. I know you’re down and all that. He’s practiced all week at it. We’re at that point right now, we don’t need the change we just need to battle through and push through. That to me is how you get over the hump, is you just freaking push over the hump. You don’t want to start the game like that and you can’t do it again. So, we’ll just continue to work at it. But I think as we head into the off week, we had two guys go down injured, we have to look at everything in terms of, ‘Hey are we playing this guy and not that guy enough?’ But, I didn’t see anyone guy that I said, ‘Hey, this guy is not (battling)’. Guys were battling. There were just a couple things wrong."

Q: You say you guys are close, what evidence do you have that comes from that lockerroom?

"Pretty much every game is going to come down to the final five minutes of the game. This is yet another one that comes down to the final five minutes of the game and that’s twice now that we’ve had a chance to go win it. Even at the end, that last naked, we were in position to tackle (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) and get the ball back. Third and seven, as I said we were going to go for it on fourth down. They got the six yards. Matt kind of gave him the first down so that we would be able to kind of get the possession back and we had them on a third down. To me it’s not like, ‘hey guys we’re close hang in there,’ it’s more like you know they’re going to come down to the last five minutes of the game. Last week did, this week did. We’ve got to win those games though and we know that. That’s why I start by saying hey that’s on me. I don’t think I have to prove it to them. They’re the ones out there playing, they want to win so badly. If we don’t kick the ball away, we’re probably not going to win. If we’re minus two we’re probably not going to win, yet we’re still having a chance. We’ve got to get off to a better start on offense. We have to just find a way to stay on the field on third down on offense. There’s a lot of things we have to do better and yet we’re still third down and a stretch with a chance to win. That’s kind of how I think we all look at it."

Q: Is it as clear what needs to be fixed in Week 2 going into Week 3?

"Yeah, I think the things we just talked about. I thought our defense was dominant for a long stretches, we’re going to have to take the ball away. We’re going to have to help the offense out. I thought our offense showed some explosiveness. We had an explosive run, we had some explosive passes, but we’re going to have to score touchdowns in the red zone not field goals. And the third down that I talked about. (Kicker) Eddy’s (Piñeiro) coming out and hanging in there for us doing a nice job kicking. If we don’t win third down on offense it’s going to be hard for us to get the amount of touches and plays that we need and on defense we have to steal possessions. Those things are all still there, we just have to battle our way through it."

Q: I know it was tough decision on 4th and 16, but did you think about that?

"I think because we went fast field goal and if it were to be closer to the two-minute warning I wouldn’t have done it. We were able to get it to 2:06, use that as the play. Again, they got six yards on first down, didn’t want that so we kind of..."

Q: So that was done on purpose?

"Pretty much. It’s one of those deals like, ‘hey try to time the snap count out and make a tackle for a loss. If you’re offsides it’s okay. Give them a first down because we have three timeouts.’ So, not, ‘hey jump offsides but like try to jump and maybe they’re going speed break.’ If we get a tackle for loss great. If not, it would’ve been second and four and they would’ve run it the game would’ve been over. So got him to the third down. Got to see the tape because we kind of knew it was going to be a naked. We played the naked, we just over played it. Great play by Daniel, a credit to him. That was sort of the thought process, again fourth and eight was kind of the cut off mark for us to go for it. If not, we can beat the two-minute warning and make them run a play and the two-minute warning we’ll kick it. That was kind of the plan."

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