What Matt Rhule Had to Say Following the Team’s Win Over Washington

See what the head coach said about defeating the Football Team.
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Opening Statement

“Obviously we’re excited to win that football game. I’m exhausted by the end of that. Credit to our guys to score on special teams, to score on offense, to play great defense for most of the game. Got some turnovers, some guys stepped up. I thought Curtis Samuel was a difference-maker today. Donte Jackson, they took five shots at Donte, and he made the play every time. Tre Boston getting a pick, Tahir Whitehead getting a pick. Michael Schofield had to step in, had to move over to left tackle because all the guys are down, Russell’s [Okung] down, Greg’s [Little] down, Trent Scott got hurt and he stepped up. So, you know, it wasn't always pretty at the end, but it was one we're proud of, for us. That was a playoff game for them. I think the Giants lost, at least they were losing when I went out to the field. They were fighting to go make the playoffs, so for us to step up in that type of environment and win a game and win a game all the way through the end, I think is a good step for us.”

Perseverance of the team

“I've been proud of this team. I've been proud of this team even in some of the losses, you know, I mean, I think that they’ve battled, they fight. We had a lot of the same mistakes today but we were able to play our way through them and guys made plays. We were very confident coming into the game and I think that's a testament to who these guys are that they bounce back from yet again that loss from last week. Went through Christmas and all that, I think, without distractions and got here. So, I think we're building. I think we're building a program that's got, you know, real character and the character comes from the guys in that room.”

Why the win was more important than draft positioning 

I think teams that have historically tried to lose to improve their draft pick hasn't really worked out for many teams. Winning franchises win. They win at everything. It's hard for me to even think that way because it's just something my mind doesn't work that way. We're here to win. We have a locker room full of guys who want to win, they’ve won their whole life. Sometimes you guys will ask me like, do you have to learn how to win? Well, if you believe that if you never actually win, then you won't learn how to win. We're the Carolina Panthers, we're a professional football team and we're someone that you know we expect people, when they line up and play us, to respect us, and know that they're going to be in for a dogfight and then we expect the win. To do anything else but that does not respect the Panther and to me, I'm always going to put the Panther first and we have to find ways to win games. To me, to go on the road in cold weather, coming off a tough loss last week, you know, this was big for us. This is really big for this team. We have all these young rookies; we have an undrafted punter. How about the job that [Joe] Charlton did today putting balls down inside the ten? I mean, if I tell him hey, we don't win this game, kick it through the end zone, is he a good punter next year? I think to me, for all these guys, we're trying to teach them what it takes to win. And that's, you go out in the field, you don't beat yourself and you find ways to get things done and I think we did that tonight.”

Young guys catching on to Phil Snow’s system

“I really believe [Defensive Coordinator] Phil [Snow] has done an amazing job. He's adapted personnel. Like even this week, we had [Brian] Burns like in some pass-rush situations, but we didn't have him in the three‐down stuff, so we put three linebackers on the field. I think Phil just does a great job and his group does a great job of adapting and so we've changed some of the things that we're doing. At the same time, I think our guys, they're learning the game, they're learning what we do. They didn't have OTAs, they didn't have the fifteen‐hundred reps, they didn't have the chance to get those corrections, and really for the vets too. The vets, they were coming into training camp based on what they had done in Cleveland, or what they had done here last year. So, they had to learn a whole new scheme from scratch and that's not easy. But I think we want to be a team that improves every year and hopefully, we'll come out of this season and we'll have an offseason to really go back and drill down and teach things. You don't really get good in my mind until the veterans start teaching the young guys, right? And so when you have to teach the veterans from scratch, it's really hard but as they start to say, hey this is how we do things, you get a lot better.”

Getting out to an early lead

“I was happy that we played well, at times, there are other times we didn't play well, right, but we played well at times, we found a way to win. I thought our special teams really helped us. It's what was one of those games, one of the things that happen, is when you have a lead and you're holding onto the win and by the end, it's just kind of, it's not really exhilarating, your kind of exhausted right? When you win at the last second your exhilarated. But I was happy when DJ [Moore] caught that fair catch, I was happy for all these guys. The thing I said to the guys in the locker before the game is like , I see Brian Burns, they say, he's not going to play this week and he will himself on the field. I see Zach Kerr come back from COVID and I see Tre Boston come in every week. I see Shaq [Thompson] answer the call week after week. I see Johnny Miller hurt knee, hurt ankle come back every week. I see the sacrifices these guys make to come out and play and try to win and so I'm glad they got a win, this win. And to me again, I think you have to be in certain scenarios to understand what they are. Like, this was a playoff game, not for us, but for the Washington Football Team and for us to go out and play as well as we did, and then Washington was going to just go away, they fought back. And then our guys, for our guys to make enough plays at the end to win it, our defense made a bunch of fourth down stops for those last two drives or third and fourth down stops, I think two or three of them. So that's a lot to build on.”

If this role is what he envisioned for Curtis Samuel and what he has meant for the team this season

“He's been a guy that does whatever we ask him to do. Plays tailback, plays wideout, blocks, made a bunch of big catches today. I thought that run was really a special run that he made helping us in the run game. We knew we had to run the ball 35 times to win the game and we ran it 35 times. He's just an all‐purpose guy and he's a tough guy, and I think when your best players are tough-minded, you know hard‐working guys, you have a chance to win. I think every time Curtis makes a play everyone's excited.”

Running the ball 35 times and winning with defense

“Well, it's to me, it's how most teams win in December. Lots of things happen early in the year, but the good teams in December, they run the football, they play defense, they take the ball away. We're not perfect in those areas but I think that we’re a team, I hope has a plan, and everyone tries to complement each other. And if you were on the sidelines today, you would have felt it was a team that was playing for each other, that was playing together, that was not any one person trying to do it. We've come a long way in that regard, those guys are out there. When we made that first touchdown, that punt, our whole defense and offense ran out to celebrate with those guys, to my chagrin when we didn't have enough guys out there for the extra point. But my point being that they're enjoying playing for each other and in my mind, that's as big as anything, when the moment doesn't feel too big when you expect to win, and if you have the ability to run the ball, play defense, protect the ball, play good special teams, I think you always have a chance, at least in December.”

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