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Carolina Panthers Postgame Transcripts 10/1

Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera and select players comment on their game against the New England Patriots on Sunday, October 1, 2017.


October 1, 2017

Q: Ron, apparently in the locker room you said, 'We expected this'. A lot of people outside the building didn't. What gave you the confidence that you could do this today?

RR: Well, I think the way we prepared this week. I thought it was exceptional. I thought our guys came to work on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. I thought their attitude, their effort and the way they prepared was what you have to do to give yourself a chance to win the game. And we talked about it and we talked about it last night, that you shouldn't come here hoping, you should come here expecting. And that's what I think our guys did. They expected good things to happen today.

Q: Graham Gano misses an extra point. After what he's gone through in the last few months, how much does that mean, do you think, to him?

RR: I think it means a tremendous amount. I mean, it's one of those things that it is an opportunity and again, it's just one of those positive things. And we just have to keep working through a lot of things and continuing to work. Because this is the watermark. Everybody is going to compare themselves to these guys. I thought our guys came out and played well against them.

Q: What do you make of Cam Newton's performance today?

RR: I think, as I said, the one thing that we've been waiting for is for him to be able to practice every day. And work on his timing. And he did it. He was still rusty, missed a couple throws early on. And we saw that, but again, you saw it in practice as I said, the three days of practice were as good as we've had. You know, Wednesday and Thursday, were extremely hot days, warm days. Our guys got a lot of good work in and then Friday cooled down for us. And I thought Friday's tempo was really good.

Q: For you to see him produce like he did today, four total touchdowns, was this a big step for him, for you, and his whole team?

RR: I think it was a very good step for us, I really do. I think ours guys understand, as I said earlier, this is who everybody measures themselves against. To come out and battle these guys, here in New England, I think says a lot for our guys and I am very proud of every guy in that room.

Q: Ron, every team, not every team, but a lot of opposing teams tend to wilt in the final minutes against the Patriots in Gillette. What did it take to withstand that push and keep the toughness there.

RR: Well, I think, just guys making plays, especially our quarterback, he made a lot of plays. Devin Funchess stepped up tremendously. You know, I got to give a lot of credit to those guys, to Kelvin Benjamin. You know we were down to three wide receivers. You know, Damiere Byrd hurt his arm, so he couldn't come back in. and all three of those guys that we had left, [Russell] Shepard included. You know, they battled. I thought our running backs battled. I mean, this was a team effort. You know, we talked about that last night. Don't hope to be in this position, expect to be it. And I think our guys bought into it.

Q: Ron, readjusting in game, like you had to do with the secondary when Kurt Coleman goes down. The challenges of that and how those young guys did.

RR: Well, I thought the young guys played well. I mean, I am real interested to watch and see what we did on tape and how the guys looked. I was real pleased with some of the efforts we got from those young guys, getting opportunities. You know, it just seemed to be one guys after the other. And we got a few guys nicked up, so we are going to have to come back and have this same attitude we had all week in terms of preparation.

Q: Seemed like after that 33 yard penalty, Mike Adams really stepped up in the secondary to maybe redeem himself a little bit and made a couple good plays.

RR: I think so, again, I think some guys knew they had to step up just because of the situation. Kurt Coleman goes down and Mike Adams had to take over and I thought Mike did a nice job doing that. There were a lot of guys that played extremely well today and I'm real fired up for them.

Q: Ron, did you key in on any of the miscommunication in the secondary in the Patriots/Kansas City game? Maybe if you saw it on film.

RR: Well, there was the first touchdown to Funchess. There was something, you know, run-a-miss and Devin was completely open. You know, obviously they had a little bit if trouble with that bunch formation that we have.

Q: Ron, I am sure you talked about it already, but Gano, was that the biggest field goal that he's hit, do you think, in his career? Here?

RR: No. Here, yes. I mean, on an away game, but home he hit the money hit against Indianapolis. He actually had back to back in overtime. He hit one to tie the game and then one to win the game. You know, he's made some big kicks for us, and this will be up there for one of the big ones.

Q: Is it too early to call this a spring board game?

RR: No, you can build off this kind of momentum. And you have to take it and use it now. You can't waste it. I mean, we've a tough opponent coming up next week, we go up there, to Detroit, and play them. So, we have to be ready. But yeah, you can use this as a spring board to build off, but you know, we still got 12 left to play.

Q: Why did it seem that you had so much confidence in your passing game? Especially down the field?

RR: Again, I've been talking about it, it's just a matter of our quarterback getting the timing down. You know, I've talked about it, you can ask our local guys and they'll tell you, I've been saying it. He's been making good decisions, it's just a matter of getting his timing down and delivering a good ball. He was able to do that today. You know, there was an interesting stat I saw where his passing rating is like a 115, 120 throwing the ball down the field to Kelvin Benjamin. You know, there is a confidence that he has in his receivers, that they will go out and get the ball.

Q: So we didn't see the guy 29th in passer rating coming in today?

RR: No, you saw the guy that is competitive as all 'get out'. He knew he was playing one of the all-time great quarterbacks in the league. And he wanted to show that he could play with that guy and he really did. I mean, Tom Brady is a measuring stick for all quarterbacks. And I think that's what our guys wanted to come out and play well today.

Q: You kind of touched on it earlier, but how much did those reps in practice and the fact the fact that his arm was feeling the best. How much did that factor today?

RR: I think it factored in tremendously. I mean, again, three days of work and just his energy level. Again, he had to go through the process. And he's going through the process and he'll get better. You know, he is still not where he needs to be, but we're going to be smart with him and we are going to continue with whatever is our new normal is of his weekly exercise. But if we can continue to have these types of weeks then he's going to continue to get his timing down.

Q: Ron, it seems like Devin Funchess was battling with something on the third down catch?

RR: Yes, he was battling cramps. Just, you know, he's giving everything he's got for his teammates. You know, this is part of the reason we went out and drafted him. We just think the young man's got that kind of ability.

Q: Ron, when Mike [Shula] involves Cam in the run game, like he did today, does that also help Cam get in more of a rhythm?

RR: Yes, that does help him get more into a rhythm. That's why I talk about using him judiciously, you know, being smart about when you do put the ball in his hands as a runner. And again, it's not like we want to give him 10 to 15 carries. We are smart about it and I know Mike really thought about it and, I thought, the play calling, the rhythm he got into on several of these drives was very good.

Q: The specific play call of Fozzy Whittaker's touchdown gave you guys quite a bit of momentum and it kind of seems like you used a lot of that motion….

RR: Well, again, what we are trying to do is create the right kind of match ups for us. We have some backs that are explosive. Starting with Jonathan [Stewart] as a power runner, inside runner for us. And then Christian [McCaffrey] obviously with his versatility and Fozzy [Whittaker], with his ability out of the backfield. You know, I just think that those guys give us something and again, we have to put the ball in playmakers hands.

Q: What did you see from Kevon Seymour and Demetrius Cox?

RR: Well, you can see the athleticism of Kevon; he's physical and he did some nice things. He's still learning and working himself into the system. I thought Cox did a nice job when he got his opportunity. Unfortunately, he did something and we had to go with Colin Jones today, and Jones was the next man up and he stepped up and did some nice things for us today.

Q: How big was the last drive of the first half?

RR: It was good, but the bad part was that we gave Tom Brady too much time and they kicked a field goal right before the half.

Q: You wanted to disrupt Tom Brady and disrupt that line up front. Julius Peppers had two sacks while battling that shoulder injury, how would you describe his performance?

RR: I thought he [Peppers] was excellent. He fought through the injury and he played a heck of a football game. Part of it is that you have to be able to get Tom off his mark. He's deadly accurate when he sets his feet, and he'll deliver a real good ball.

Q: What was your target for your last drive. Obviously, you were going to elect to kick, but what was your target line?

RR: The 38-yard line.

Q: What's it like defending Brady?

RR: When there was 13:58 left, wait no, there was 12:58 left after we scored, and I looked up and thought, "Boy, that's still a lot of time." That's how it is; you just wish he didn't have any time left because that guy is just tremendous.

Q: You played your base defense pretty much, right?

RR: Yes we did. With all the injuries, we've had a couple guys in and out. We went between our base and nickel for the most part.

Q: Did your confidence ever waiver in winning this game with your young kicker?

RR: That was probably the best thing that happened to him. The one thing that we saw with Graham was a tremendous training camp. His confidence level is very high right now. It's a like a hockey goalie, you want that guy playing with confidence.

Q: What did you say to him after the missed extra point?

RR: It's one of those things where for the most part he's solid, but he just missed that one.

Q: Did you see the Patriots secondary as a weakness coming into this game?

RR: I wouldn't say it was a weakness. It's one of those things where eventually they're going to get it together. Coach [Bill] Belichick is a solid defensive mind; he's the best in the league and he'll get it figured out.


October 1, 2017

Q: Can you talk about exploiting the Patriots secondary?

CN: We just wanted to come out and execute as an offense. I feel like this was a breakthrough game for us offensively and to be honest, I'm extremely proud of just the offensive line. Those guys don't get a lot of credit for being somewhat of our backbone on the offense and for us to be able to run the ball like we did – we had some careless turnovers like the interception – but for us to come in this hostile environment and battle, face some adversity early on and still hold on at the end, it was a great team win for us and we'll need more of those moving forward.

Q: How much did having more rest in practice this week help you today?

CN: To be honest, and I'm going to be brutally honest, I feel like it didn't help me more than it helped others. Just having conversations with people, I have to do a better job like it's an ongoing rush to practice and I don't want to be practicing to treat, to just to practice, to treat, to just to practice, and I know last week I didn't have a full week of practice and one of the things moving forward of just body sourness, I wanted to make an emphasis that I practiced more than I did last week. My body was feeling great enough so I could do that, so it was good for me to get the reps, but more or less, put everybody [at ease] knowing that well, 'Cam's going to play out.' They know I'm going to play, [that's] just removing the doubt.

Q: You raised a fist after you scored on your rushing touchdown. Why did you do that?

CN: It was to signify Black Power, but more importantly, I pray every night for God to give me a pinnacle to give people hope. I did it to raise - to show Black Pride because I am an African American, but more or less, I want all people just to see when I play, I want them to see the joy that I go out there and play with. Win lose or draw, it was a great win for us today. I just hope that I put a lot, or not I, we as a team put a lot of smiles on the beautiful people of the Carolinas.

Q: Coach said you had the best week of practice these last couple of days. Is that something you plugged into as well?

CN: Well, we did have a great week of practice. It was somewhat of a respect thing that we felt like we [weren't] getting and not saying that the Patriots were doing it, it was just more or less you guys doing it. This was a statement game for us and just moving forward, this game set precedent and set the tone for the season moving forward.

Q: You guys had all these wide open receivers running down the field. Was there something that you saw on the film that made you think you could scheme up some plays like that?

CN: Me meeting with Coach [Mike] Shula and Coach [Ken] Dorsey, coming up with a plan – it's funny that I had a play that was already potentially about the go in the day before, so we were on the same page. We were just clicking this whole week and we're going to need a lot more clicking moving forward for us to keep this ball rolling.

Q: How surprised were you to see you had a guy so wide open?

CN: I'm not surprised. It's just about the execution part. They did a great job with trying to take away – and that's what this defense does – this is a great team, a great defense that [tries] to eliminate big plays from your impact players so-to-speak. With them having a big impact early on with [Kelvin Benjamin] as well as [Christian McCaffery] having a plan for him – we just wanted to make sure that when we got the good looks – a great game by [Devin Funchess] – he made some big boy catches and just kept the ball moving forward.

Q: How close was this to what everybody has been talking about for the last few months about what they want to see this offense become?

CN: Well, it's not about what a lot of people think because a lot of extracurricular activity, especially throughout the week, but it just takes time. People have to realize – I have to realize it – it's takes time. Anything great – this offense isn't cereal or quick grits or instant grits – this is a full on entre and we have to prepare it that way. Knowing moving forward, we've got impact players and play makers that when you give them the ball or give them opportunities to make plays they will do it.

Q: After your interception you dialed in and had 10 competitions in a row. What was different? What happened from that point forward?

CN: I was just happy that it was as long as it was. It was treated like a punt, but I've just got to do a better job protecting the football. Coming off one read and just going to another one, I kind of jumped the gun with that one. We saw it in film all week. It was a great play by [Malcolm Butler] to just kind of jump the route so to speak. He came off his man – it was man-to-man – he just made a play.

Q: After that, did you feel like you were doing a better job of going through your reads?

CN: Well, yeah. I mean, just luckily the defense gave us the ball back and it didn't get out of hand early. But, just moving the ball with the little check downs, it's very key for us. Like I say, as long as that defense is out there with the players that we've got, something is bound to happen good for us. That's what my mentality has to be, and it's always been that way and it has to be that way still.

Q: You became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to rush for 50 touchdowns today. How special is that, and to do so against the Patriots?

CN: Man, like I said, it's a great team win. We really wanted to go out and play for Coach [Ron] Rivera. We really wanted to go out there and play for our fans. We really wanted to go out there and play for ourselves because, let's be honest, I've seen the pick-ems, you know what I'm saying. It wasn't favorable for us. At the end of the day, as a wise man once said it, you still have to play a football game, no matter who the players are, and we've just got to know that moving forward. This can be a jump start to a great thing for the season for us, or it can just be a flash in the frying pan. We're expecting great things for us as a team. We know that, we know what we're capable of, and like I said, it's going to take time and we've got guys that are putting in the proper work to make big things happen.

Q: Prior to the start of the game, you were standing with your teammates with your hands on each other's shoulders. What message were you hoping to convey.

CN: We cannot forget the fact that sports as a whole brings people together. For the two hours, three hours, whenever a time that a sporting event is on or your team is playing, we know that a lot of people from different shapes, colors, creeds, ethnicities and cultures come together. At that moment, they're rooting for the same thing. We try to unify people with that, and that's all it is. Unity is something that's going to cure a bad mentality in this country, and I feel as if we all stick together, if we all come together and listen, hear, speak, we can better help the situation. Because, a lot of situations that are going on right now in our country are trying to cause division. We get nowhere divided. I said that earlier this week, and we know sticking together is something that we do. I wear the colors proudly. I stand for the National Anthem, and I don't look down upon a person who doesn't feel that they want to. You have to respect another man's judgement for why they're protesting. It's been some type of flack from the National Anthem, people protesting in streets, it's been flack from any type of protest, but at the end of the day, it's still cause for concern for people to listen to each other. As a football player, as an entertainer to a lot of people, I just want everybody to just come together and find ways. I think that's what sports does -- basketball, football, hockey, water polo, golf -- it doesn't matter because when you're looking in the stands, it's no racial tension outside of that, and a lot of people are just rooting for each other. I know that's going to be heavily contingent upon whatever is moving forward, but I just hope and I pray to God that this country finds the energy and the heart to come together as a whole.

Mike Adams, Safety

(On how the defensive secondary came together after the injuries) 
"Obviously, we weren't on the same page all the time, but we can fix it and we will fix by getting more reps together. They held their own today and I'm proud of them."

(On how he felt about the game-winning field goal attempt) 
"I had my fingers crossed. I had a great feeling he was going to make it. It's great for him. It's a confidence booster for him going forward and I'm glad he made it."

(On getting the win) 
"It's hard to win in the National Football League, period. Let alone in Foxborough. It's hard and for us to come here and get a win is definitely huge."

Mario Addison, Defensive End

(On whether he gave his LSU teammates a hard time after Troy's upset win last night)
"Always! Always, because if they won they would have given me a hard time. I followed it on twitter, I was so happy."

Thomas Davis, Linebacker

(On the game) 
"We believe in each other as a group. When we take the field we fully expect to win the game. If not, there isn't any point in taking the field. That was the attitude and mindset we took into this game. We gave it all we had today, and that proved to be enough."

(On if the win helps them build momentum) 
"We definitely want to build off the momentum of this win, but at the same time we understand that each week is different so we can't get too caught up or excited about this win because we are facing a very good team next week in Detroit. We know they have a high powered offense and we have to go back to the drawing board and be ready to go back to work on Monday."

(On how the play of Cam Newton elevated the defense) 
"It definitely adds juice to your game when you see your quarterback go out and perform the way that he did today. We know what he is capable of and it's been very reserved the first couple of weeks. I feel like the play calling hasn't been aggressive, but we opened up the playbook today and it showed. You could see it in his performance; he was juiced and he went out and played like Cam today."

Graham Gano, Kicker

(On the winning field goal) 
"I'm fully confident; I'm having a good year. I have a lot of confidence in the guys in front of me. I'm just thankful for those opportunities. I thank the lord for being healthy, and for having a chance to play here for such a great organization. Devin Funchess came up to me when the Patriots went down and scored the touchdown and said to me, 'We'll get you in range don't even worry.' I said, 'I'm not, you get me in range and I'll put it through.' So he was the only guy, I guess everybody leaves the kicker to do his own thing. It's exciting; this is a big win for us."

(On the mentality going into the game) 
"I feel we celebrate every game like that, especially when you have a character like Cam Newton. He's very energetic all the time. This game meant a lot to us. We had a lot of doubters out there. We have a great football team and I feel like we proved it today."

(On the team having a chip on their shoulder) 
"I think so. Last week we didn't play to our best and we heard it a little bit. We have a lot of great guys on the team, a lot of great characters. So I feel we were really locked in this week and it was good to put a good game together."

Andrew Norwell, Guard

(On the game) 
"We just work together as one. I was playing for my brothers out there, Matt [Kalil] and Tyler [Larson] next to me, we play for each other. We protected Cam [Newton] out there and got the job done. The last drive was unbelievable, the whole unit came together on the offense. Guys stepped up and when their name was called they made some big plays for us. Graham [Gano] made the game winning field goal. It was a great team win for us today. I'm just so happy right now."

(On the difference from last week) 
"Just finishing. Just every down going hard and finishing longer than our opponent. We came together and guys stepped up and made big plays. New England's defensive line was really good out there. They gave us some good looks but we came together and got this win." It's a next man up mentality."

Julius Peppers, Defensive End

(On the game) 
"It was nice. I thought we did a good job battling through a little bit of adverse situations. We showed a little bit of character. You could call this a character win."

(On the injuries) 
"That's the thing about this game. So many injuries and people had to be ready to be the next man up. We had a couple of guys step up who didn't have that much experience, but they came in and helped us out. That's why you always have to be ready. I was proud of the guys that came in for us and made plays."

(On getting two sacks) 
"It's nice. Again, we rush as a unit and we all feed off one another. I was the beneficiary today, but it was a group effort."

Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle

(On his sack) 
"We were just rushing. We were all together and it was one of those calls that was designed. I took the outside and he came back in. Those guys on the left side held him up and next thing you know he is still in there tucking with the ball. I came back in and made the sack. It was nothing spectacular that I did. It was just the fact that I never stopped working."

(On the Patriots fourth quarter comeback) 
"He [Tom Brady] adjusted. That's one of the great quarterbacks and he adjusted to what our defense was doing. He figured a couple things out. Us, as a defense, we have to keep going for that jugular vein. We've got to come back tomorrow and figure this part out. It's a win. A win is a win and in the NFL it is hard to get those."

Jonathan Stewart, Running Back

(On the offensive success against the Patriots) 
"The offensive line did a great job on giving Cam Newton pass protection, and obviously on creating lanes and creating opportunities for our playmakers to make plays."

(On the win) 
"A lot of people counted us out this game. This locker room believed in each other and went out there and displayed that. We made a lot of plays, and a lot of times we put ourselves in situations, like my fumble, trying to make it harder on ourselves. At the end of the day it's a team game and a team effort and that's what we did today."

(On the team possibly having a chip on their shoulder) 
"There are a lot of guys on this team that deserve their credibility, and when they feel that they are not getting that, naturally you have that chip on your shoulder. At the end of the day it's not about what people think, it's about what this locker room can change. We thought we were going to win today, we expected to win today. That's the way we went out there and played."

Shaq Thompson, Linebacker

(On the game) 
"It was a great win, and that was our main focus. We know the Patriots are a good football team and we know Tom Brady is a good quarterback. We had to dig down deep."

(On the last two drives to let the Patriots back in the game) 
"Brady was just being Brady. We knew his was a great quarterback and we knew he could read defenses. We came back and won the game. Our offense did a great job. They moved the football, getting points on the board almost every time. "

(On Graham Gano) 
"Graham's our guy. That's our kicker and we all believe in him. He did a great job winning the game for us.

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