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What Matt Rhule Said Following the Panthers' Loss to Minnesota

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule met with the media following the team's loss to the Vikings.

Opening Statement

Obviously disappointed in the outcome of that game. We made a little run at the end to push it to overtime and I was proud to show that type of grit and all that, but for most of the game they certainly outplayed us. As I told our team, we’re going to have to execute and make some plays that are there offensively. As I’m sure you all know and will ask me, it was not very good until we went to the rally mode at the end, the two minute at the end, and were able to make some plays defensively. I think they were in the field way too long, we allowed them to run the football. There were bright spots to me: obviously blocking a punt was good, I thought Ryan Winslow came out for his first time and did a good job. Guys like Ian Thomas and those guys that don’t say much made a lot of plays; we don’t talk about them a lot but huge plays that mattered and got us back in the game. Credit to Minnesota, they went down and made a great drive at the end to win it and we’ll have to improve and try to win next week.

RE: The message to the team after a game like this

As I told our guys, we’re not the type of team that’s going to show up and not execute and still win the game. We can’t have however many drops we had, we can’t have mistakes, you can’t turn the ball over three times yet again. We’re going to have to execute at a higher level. What does execute mean? It means everyone does their job when they have a chance to make a play. They have good players, we knew that they would make good plays – [Justin] Jefferson and all that – but we had chances to sack the quarterback, we had balls on the ground that we didn’t get on, and offensively, we were significantly out of rhythm. We knew they had good players and it was going to be a tough matchup some places for us, but we’ll have to get better. We have to just keep improving at it. Some guys will come back at some point here soon, that’ll help us. But overall, just program-wise, team-wise we all have to be better.

RE: The back-to-back timeouts and delay of game

We lost two receivers, we lost [Brandon] Zylstra and then we lost [Terrace] Marshall so [Alex] Erickson had to go in and just got confused. There was some confusion in terms of who was who in terms of lining up. Alex is a really smart kid, he plays a lot of different positions for us. Either he or the tight end, somehow, they got confused as to who was where so we lined up poorly. Obviously, you can’t call two timeouts in a row, Sam [Darnold] isn’t supposed to call timeouts but he was in a bad position where they were all lined up wrong so that falls on us as coaches to get that done right. We were able to get in at halftime, Zylstra was able to come back in for us but for a while there, thankfully we had Shi [Smith] out there so we had four wideouts and then Zylstra came back and then we lost Erickson at the end of the game. So just getting guys in the right spot on the fly as guys were getting hurt.

RE: Whether the back-to-back timeout calls were on the fly

It was on the fly in terms of the substitution. It’s really no excuse for it, I’m just telling you what happened. Just poor by us. The way our language works, they should know it but I don’t want to put that on the guys. At the end of the day, if a guy gets hurt we have to have the next guy ready and we were lined up wrong so we had to adjust.

RE: What teams have done to neutralize the pass rush

We haven’t pressured quite as much. We’ve played a little more four-man rush. A lot of our sacks really came on pressures, when we brought more pressure today they really got the ball out. I don’t know how many sacks we did miss, I think one or two, I know we missed one on that two-minute drive that obviously would be a crucial kind of a play in terms of maybe we can block the punt or something like that. But these guys went tempo – which they haven’t really done much of – early in the second quarter they went tempo and got the ball of their hands. A lot of our sacks we had early on were kind of schemed up pressures, blitzes where guys came free. Quarterbacks are seeing that and they’re getting the ball out of their hand fast, which should result in us breaking up passes hopefully but it wasn’t quite as much today.

RE: What this game showed about the team

That we have a long way to go. That we’re not where we want to be. You can’t line up and call two timeouts two plays in a row, you can’t do those things; you can’t take the sacks we took today, you can’t turn the ball over. I like our competitive nature and our work ethic and all those things are improving, I like those things about us but the execution has to come along with it. And I don’t see that, I don’t see that execution right now. All I know how to do is keep working, I’m kind of out of words for it. Just keep working and guys go out and find a way to make plays.

RE: Sam Darnold’s play throughout the game

That first play, we tried to line up and take a deep shot to DJ [Moore]. We wanted to back people off. I haven’t seen the tape, I don’t know if he got pressured or what but they doubled DJ for most of the game today. We scrambled around, Robby [Anderson] was open, he was trying to make a play and the kid made a nice play on defense. We’re going to have to do a better job of getting our guys to understand that we can’t have turnovers. To even be in that game with those turnovers that we did have – most times they resulted in points, the first one resulted in three, I think DJ’s fumble resulted in three, and I can’t remember the last one – we’re just not going to be able to win doing it like that. We ran the ball fairly well at times today, it’s just not enough right now. We’re not running the ball enough. What Sam needed today was a little help from his friends at times. He needed some plays to be made. We dropped a lot of balls and then all of a sudden at the end, he makes that rope of a throw to Ian [Thomas] running down the middle of the field, Ian makes an unbelievable catch and all of a sudden now it looks good. So, I think when you’re a quarterback who is a little out of sorts, you’re out of whack, you need some guys to go out and make some plays for you. I didn’t see many spectacular plays until Ian’s catch. Maybe there were a couple others, I think DJ’s fade there at the end, those were all plays that allowed us to score.

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RE: Whether the defense got tired

Yeah, we’re playing eight-man front where those balls shouldn’t be run and they weren’t run most of the games and today they were still able to run the football. That last drive, had we gone three-and-out after we scored the touchdown and the two-point conversion, we had a chance to get them down but letting them have a five- or six-play drive and then them winning the toss, obviously we were tired. The defense needed a couple longer drives by the offense to give them a break. WE have a lot of guys like Sean Chandler and Sam [Franklin Jr.] who are starting at safety and starting in the nickel and playing on two or three special teams, that’s just kind of where we are right now. But all that being said, the job of the defense is to stop them, nothing else, so the defense needed to stop them. We needed to stop them on that last drive. Anything by a touchdown, that was the coaching point and obviously they scored the touchdown there at the end.

RE: How to get the late-game intensity earlier in the game

I think what happens is, you get to the end and people start playing – they don’t rush. A lot of our issues throwing the football today were them lining up and bringing pressure and Sam [Darnold] being under duress. That might be who we are moving forward, we might need to get in no huddle and move the ball down the field the way we did there. I think right now we have to figure out, especially with Christian [McCaffrey] out and some other guys out, what our identity is. People are playing a two-man thing on DJ [Moore] and making sure DJ doesn’t catch the ball. We tried to go to Robby [Anderson], we tried to go to some other guys today – Zylstra today a little bit; Terrace [Marshall Jr.] got knocked out but we had a plan for him; Shi [Smith], we had a plan for him. So, those guys have to make some plays, we have to find ways to help them make the plays. But the no huddle has helped us the last couple of weeks, so we’re trying to figure out exactly what we can do to win as best we can. The defense kept us in that game for a long, long, long time. We win and lose as a team. The defense had a chance to get the stop at the end to win it but they needed a little help in that first half.

RE: What the difference was for Sam Darnold in the last drive

I think he wasn’t running around back there. If you think about it, the first three plays it was incomplete, incomplete, incomplete. So, it kind of looked a lot like what we had looked like and then finally ripped a play there at the end. I think once we get a little bit of momentum, he gets going. To me, it goes back to Ian makes an unbelievable play. Ian’s running down the middle of the field, guys are running with him, he catches that ball. If he doesn’t catch that ball, the game’s over. They take a knee and we lose by eight. But he makes a play and that gets us going on offense, so I’ve got to figure out exactly what we need to be on offense. At the end of the day, you’re trying to formulate an identity. We want to run it, we’re running it a little bit here, a little bit there, I think [Chuba Hubbard] is playing really well. We have to figure out who our core is a little bit better than what we are right now and I think we had a plan, I think we felt good about it but just today we didn’t look very good at times. So, we’re just going to continue to evolve and try to get better.

RE: Robby Anderson’s performance today

I was happy to see him make a couple of plays on the last drive to get us back in it but, just like many of us, there were too many missed opportunities out there. We can’t have that in a type of game like this. When you’re playing a team like the Minnesota Vikings, you know that they’re fourth in the NFL in third down. You need a bunch of guys to make plays and my point is when you see Chuba [Hubbard] take the speed sweep, Tommy [Tremble] catch the shovel pass, Ian [Thomas] make a play down the middle of the field, we’re going to talk a lot about Sam [Darnold] but I think he just needs a bunch of guys making plays. That helps him obviously and we needed more.

RE: Why they got away from the run

Our inability to convert on third downs makes it hard to find some rhythm. We’d get four or five yards and think we’re going to stay in good manageable position then have a bad play on second down and that leads to third-and-long where we’re not able to convert third downs. If it’s me, other than some of things that weren’t executed right in terms of lining up, the right formation, all those things, we didn’t convert enough third downs to stay on the field and keep the defense off the field. We were either explosive or nothing. We’ll have to go back and look at everything. We’ll have to go back and look at do we need to call more runs? I think we probably do, to be quite honest. It’s something I’ve felt but you get in the flow of games and you’re just trying to hang in there because it felt like it was getting away from us there. But that’s probably what we need to do moving forward.

RE: The decision to not have Christian McCaffrey play and place him on IR

The doctors came to us on Saturday and, beyond me, just kind of came to us and felt like it was the right thing to do, just as they talked about it, to get him truly healthy.

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