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What Matt Rhule Said Following the Win Over Houston

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule met with the media to discuss the win against the Texans.

What is the prognosis on RB Christian McCaffrey? 

“Christian strained his hamstring. I don't the severity level of it yet, to be quite honest with you, but the minute it happened, they said he's out for the game. I just saw him in there and he's moving around, but obviously, we're going to have to wait on an MRI to see what the severity is.”

Is it connected to last week's injury?

“No, last week was cramps. I just think he pulled it.”

How do you think you adjusted offensively in his absence?

“I thought we struggled a little bit got banged up a little bit. We got really tired. We played 78 plays last week. They had a surge of energy after that. We threw four verticals, we pushed the ball down the field and then we got rushing yards from Tommy (Tremble) and Chuba (Hubbard) and those guys. I think Lovie went into man and I think Joe did a nice job adjusting. If there is anything to take away from it I think Chuba and Royce (Freeman) stepped up and made plays. We were able to get back to throwing some of those plays that we wanted to do.”

Was there a sense of shock when they scored after RB Christian McCaffery went out?

“I don't know if they're shocked. I don't even think most of our guys knew what was going on with Christian. We're so in the moment. Everyone is kind of doing their job. I think the one thing was I thought Davis Mills did a really nice job. If we didn't play man and bring pressure he was finding guys that were open. That's why he was drafted highly. I thought Phil did a nice job getting away after they went down and kicked the field goal -- scored the touchdown before the half and after they kicked that field goal they started bringing some man pressures again. We just have to trust our guys that they're going to cover, Rashaan Melvin, Sean Chandler, Donte Jackson with a
huge stop on fourth down. Those guys all stepped up in the absence of Jaycee and Juston.”

How are DB Jaycee Horn and DB Juston Burris?

“Juston pulled a muscle. He was still moving on the sideline, but I think he knew he was going to be out. How long it is, I don't know, and sounds like Jaycee broke some bones in his foot. So, the extent of that, again, they'll have
to do a full workup, so I don't know how long that will be or what the prognosis will be.”

With the non-contact to DB Jaycee Horn, is it possible it’s a Lisfranc injury?

“I don't know that it's that. I don't believe it's that. That's not been said to me. I don't know.”

Multiple bones?

“Sounds like it could be a couple of bones.”

What would you think the timeline may be?

“I have no idea. I honest to goodness have no idea.”

Would you attribute some of these injuries to the quick turnaround? 

“I don't know. I mean, that's a good question. I think the quick turnaround, but every team does it. We've been pretty healthy so far. A lot of other teams have come into these games and they've been down guys. When it comes to a broken bone, noncontact, I don't know if that's that, but maybe some of the pulls could be. But it is what it is. We are where we are. We love those guys and we're going to help them get better. I said to Jaycee in there, You'll be back. Don't worry about it. Jaycee Horn is a special, special, special young man, special football player. So, we'll get the other guys ready.”

How unique is RB Christian McCaffrey on what you do offensively?

“Well, I mean, Christian just can kind of do everything, and so I think the biggest thing he brings is they have to account for him in every passing rep. They can't just double DJ, they can't just double Robby. They have to account for him. Sam has done a great job finding other guys, a lot of off-schedule plays that happened going to Dan
Arnold, hit Tommy Tremble down the right sideline. I thought Sam played in true progression today, but Christian is amazing at his ability to win one on ones, so people have to zone everything off, and that creates a lot of windows for other people.”

With all the questions about QB Sam Darnold, to see what he did tonight when the chips were down for the offense and defense with the injuries, what does that say about him and what he means to you guys?

“I think No. 1, if you watch the way we called the game it means we trust him. Even on the last drive we're throwing four verticals with him. I say to myself all the time, These are professional football players. They've been doing this their whole lives. Let them go play. Don't try to over-manage the game. Let them go play, let them make plays.
Sometimes you go for it fourth and half a foot and you don't get it and they make a play, and sometimes we go make a play. I think one thing about Sam, he has some moxie. He stayed in the pocket. Had that long run called back, but finding Terrace on the third and 12, I mean, there were some huge conversions by Sam. Again, it's just him playing within the system, but also I think he has a courageousness, but he's not crossing the line going over the top. He's protecting the football and still pushing the ball down there, and look at the play Alex Erickson made. That ball, is it going to be picked, is it not going to be picked. Makes a great play. So a lot of production from a lot of different places.”

From the outset, how do you think RB Royce Freeman and RB Chuba Hubbard played in RB Christian McCaffrey's stead, and what might you be looking for from them?

"Yeah, I think they just have to be starting NFL running backs, and Royce has done that before. I told Chuba at halftime, That's why we drafted you, man. I thought Chuba was outstanding. At the end of the half, we didn't give him a ton of chances, but I thought he got in there at the end and made some key runs. When we can line up in
four-minute offense and run and get the first down on two plays, especially versus that stout defense, that's a credit to the offensive line, credit to the tight ends and full backs. I thought those backs hit it, and the minute Royce got in he made that nice run, cut the ball back on a dual play, which that's a veteran-run. That's a guy that's played a bunch and saw it. Those guys stepped up for us.”

After RB Christian McCaffrey went out, QB Sam Darnold was sacked three times. How much did the protection break down without McCaffrey, and how much do you feel like Darnold took on his shoulders in the second half?

“I don't think any of that was attributed to Christian. I think one of them was a deep shot that we were going to throw, and Tommy came back, and just have to get on the guy; got knocked back into the quarterback. The other one was just a nice effort. The guy reached and knocked it out, and the last one was we were pushing the ball down the field in two minutes. They're good rushers and we knew they were going to be good rushers. Johnny Miller got banged up early in that game, hurt his shoulder, and wouldn't come out of the game. I think once they got to the second half, the offensive line just kind of regrouped a little bit. Like we said, we practiced a bunch of one thing and saw a lot of the other. That's what you expect in the National Football League. That's why we have a system and our coaches adjusted. I think the rest of guys, they love Christian, having him out there, but they also trust everyone else. I thought they played to the system. And I told our guys, This game will be won in the
last five minutes. I know Coach Culley. I know Lovie Smith. These guys are good coaches, and I know these players, they got winners over there. So, I thought they hung in there and we just made a couple plays at the end.”

You guys said you drafted DB Jaycee Horn with the hopes of being able to play more aggressive man coverage. With him out, do you have to change that approach with the backups, or do you feel like they have been prepared enough to play more of that man-to-man versus zone coverage?

“Yeah, we trust those guys to play. Rashaan Melvin played the whole game. We're going to kind of stick with what we do, play our system. At the end of the day, we play a lot of zone, play a lot of man, playing some two-man at the end of the day. I thought Phil dialed it up when he needed to get the win, so we'll continue to do those things.
Like I said, every one of these guys is a true pro. They're here for a reason. Opportunity comes, they get it, and they found a way to capitalize tonight, and hopefully, they can  do it after this little mini bye we have.”

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