Thursday night, the Carolina Panthers dropped their third straight game and their 2nd straight to a divisional opponent by falling 25-17 to the Atlanta Falcons. Shortly after the game, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule met with the media to discuss the loss:
"Obviously, disappointed with the result tonight. I think you have to Atlanta and Coach (Raheem) Morris for getting those guys ready to play on a short week and I thought they played really well. As I told our guys, I appreciate our guys’ effort. I thought we played hard. I thought there were a lot guys who were thrust into action that stepped up. There were guys that were playing on the punt team that were out there all of a sudden covering. I give them a lot of credit. They went out there, they competed, and I appreciate that effort. But with all that being said, it wasn’t good enough to win. All we can do as we move forward now is come back and try to improve. I think we have a good team. We had for the third straight week, the ball with an opportunity at the end to go win the game. But some things have to improve. We will take a couple days this weekend. We will regroup. We will get some guys back. Be a healthier team next week and make a run here in the second half."
RE: Play from the secondary, Missing Eli Apple
"I’m only going to talk about the guys on the team and the guys who are out there playing. Not having Rasul [Douglas] obviously is a big thing for us. Donte [Jackson] made that great pick and unfortunately was down after that. I thought after that Stantley [Thomas-Oliver] went out there and competed, did a nice job. Corn [Elder] went from playing nickel to playing safety. Myles [Hartsfield] then had to step in and play some nickel at different times. Troy [Pride Jr.], I have to see the film. We just had too many defensive holding penalties tonight. Too many opportunities where maybe we could have gotten off the field. I think we had one penalty in the first half and ended up with six. Five penalties in the second half. We have to get off the field better. Extended too many drives. We held them to 3 of 9 on third down, at least that is what my sheet says, but extended too many drives with defensive penalties."
RE: Differences between tonight and last game against Atlanta
"Offensively, we just had a hard time blocking their front. I felt like Teddy [Bridgewater] was under duress. (We) weren’t really able to get our receivers going. We have a great receiving core. Last game, we were able to get them involved earlier. We had some big plays. We were able to get third downs converted. As I look here, we were 2 of 10 on third down. We just can’t live like that. Obviously, we scored, we had the big play. But that was the main difference to me. Then defensively last time, I can’t really remember what happened. I think offensively Julio [Jones] obviously makes a bit of a difference. We stopped the run better today. They averaged 3.6 yards rushing. It was a drop-back passing game for them and really, at the end of the day, I thought Matt Ryan was the difference. Scrambling around. There were times where I think we had three sacks, all in the first half, and we had a chance to sack him several more times. He ran the one touchdown in from 20 yards out and you know he doesn’t do that very often. He converted another on third down so I thought his play was really a difference for them."
RE: Teddy Bridgewater injury and returning to the game
"He went inside (the medical tent). He cleared. They came back. I don’t know what they did inside. They followed protocol. They said he cleared protocol. He was up. He was trying to get his neck to loosen up and finally, when it did, he went back in the game."
RE: Bridgewater being under pressure
"I don’t think any of us played really well tonight. I think he had some great moments. You know the flea flicker, the pass he threw was fantastic. But as you said, (he) was kind of under duress. There was a lot of pressure. (He) took a lot of hits but, at the same time, I can’t say that any of us played well enough on offense to deserve to win a game."
RE: Atlanta stacking the box on defense and whether injuries on defense have had an impact
"We don’t ever want to make excuses. That being said, we look forward to getting Yetur [Gross-Matos] back. Donte [Jackson] healthy and Rasul [Douglas] back. There are a lot of guys that are a big part of what we do defensively and offensively that are banged up. It’s just the reality of where we are at and what’s happened. All those guys played this game last time and we would love to have them. But, the guys that went out there, they are the ones I’m concerned about. We have to play better. They (Atlanta) were bringing pressure. They were playing some cover two on second down. Even on the four-man rush, there were too many times where he had to flush. Even the last play of the game, I know we had a holding and him having to flush then. You just can’t really win when you can’t control the line of scrimmage. I don’t feel like we controlled the line of scrimmage today."
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