The New England Patriots take on the Carolina Panthers in a preseason game at Gillette Stadium on Friday, August 22, 2014.
PANTHERS HEAD COACH RON RIVERA**
Q: Ron, your reaction? RR: Disappointment. I was asked the last couple days, what am I looking for, what I expect and I expected consistency. I expected a better performance. We were not consistent, so we had opportunities to make plays and we didn't make the plays. We could have made a block, we missed a block. We need to complete a pass, we missed a pass. Got an opportunity to stop a team on third down and we don't do that. So there was no consistency to the way we played. Credit to them, they made some plays when they had opportunities. We didn't get after the quarterback today. We didn't rush them the way we needed to and it was evident. So there was no consistency to the way we played. It is something that has to be corrected and fixed now.
Q: How concerned are you if this was your dress rehearsal? RR: This was not a dress rehearsal. Just understand that, I talked about that last week. I expect us to come out and play a specific way, I expect to play consistent and we didn't. That's disappointing and that's on me, I'm the coach. We've got to get that corrected. We will practice and we will get better at it. We'll look at this tape and we will learn from this tape and get those things corrected.
Q: How much do you think a short week kind of affected that first team offense and the struggles? RR: That's an excuse and I don't want to use excuses. We practiced, we had a good game plan, a good couple days of practice. You'd like to think we would come out and be a little more consistent and that's the word here – consistent. We were not consistent. We missed some plays, we missed some blocks, we had some runs that we should have had better yardage on, we had some passes that we should have completed and we didn't. We missed some blocks and all of that is disappointing. We were not consistent and we expect to be a playoff team and we need to be consistent.
Q: How do you think Byron [Bell] played? RR: I think Bryon played pretty well with the exception of one rush where Chandler [Jones] did a nice move and came up and underneath. Bryon had a running back to his outside and he should have tried to take away the inside. For the most part I thought he handled him pretty good. I thought there were some things that you could put on somebody else, but I thought he fought and competed and did the things that he was supposed to. Again, it is going to be what the perception is.
Q: Was Cam [Newton] hurt on that play that he came out? RR: You know, he got the wind knocked out of him, and he is sore, but there is nothing there. There really isn't. They took x-rays and those were negative. But again, we brought him back in, he got checked and once he was in, they kept him in and worked his ankle. But there was absolutely nothing.
Q: X-rays were on what? RR: The contusion to the back.
Q: Low or mid back or do you know? RR: I couldn't tell you that.
Q: [Luke] Kuechly wasn't in with the first team defense? RR: No, because he was slated to come out and we were going to work a different combination of guys, is what we did right there. You know, he got his 15 plays and I'll be honest with you, I didn't realize it was 15. Because the first question was, 'Where is Luke?' and they said, 'Coach, he hit his number.' I said, 'OK, then he is out.'
Q: But his number was a lot different than the rest of the first team defense? RR: Yes, it was a lot different.
Q: Why was that? RR: Just because we felt like we needed to see some other guys out there. There are a couple guys that are competing to make this football team and you know, again, this is a great opportunity. You know, with Chase [Blackburn] not out there, we had an opportunity to look at D.J. Smith and see what he is capable of and how he fits into the way we do things. So, we thought we would take advantage of that. Plus, we had some young guys that we wanted to see. Again, last week was our dress rehearsal and he got a good number last week, so we are really not concerned about that.
Q: Last week you told us that when you played, and you were seen chasing a guy, some people would blame you. For the 40-yard touchdown, was [A.J.] Klein caught looking in the backfield, do you know? RR: Well, when you look at that, that was really on A.J. more than anything else. A.J. should have expanded with the back and he was looking, like you said, where he shouldn't have been. He had dirty eyes. So he got beat to the flat and he was able to turn it up and get the edge on him and score.
Q: What happened with [Greg] Hardy and his shoulder? Was it the same kind of shoulder hot spot that he had in training camp? RR: Pretty much the same thing, right on the spot too. They are going to treat it and take care of it, but for the most part it, it is not that big of a deal. Just so happened that they wanted to go in and take a really good look at it because it was the same thing that he had during training camp.
Q: What went into the decision to start Bene [Benwikere] and how did you like his play in the first quarter? RR: For the most part, I thought he did a really good job. I thought Charles Godfrey did a nice job. This is one of those things where we've got two guys that have some good ability, athletic ability, and we are going to have to go back and take a really good look at them.
Q: Ron, do you think you will play the starters at all in the last game? RR: Yes, we will play them. You know, to me it is very evident that we've got to get them out there. We've got to get our quarterback out there on the field and he's got to get some timing with those guys. He missed a couple throws, we had some guys that were open that he overthrew and we've just got to continue to work with him. The more snaps he gets, the better.
Q: Any idea how much he will play? RR: No, no idea yet. We will take a look and see where everybody is. The nice thing is we have six days before we play.
Q: Was your decision made before tonight or because of tonight, you are thinking he needs to play? RR: I think it is a combination of both. I knew they had to play, but how much is really dependent on how well we played tonight. And obviously we didn't play well enough.
Q: Coach, you have seen Cam Newton now for three games. Are you satisfied with where he is at? RR: For the most part I am; just a little disappointed that our timing and rhythm isn't there yet. Hopefully we can get that down. We will work on it most certainly because again, when he gets his rhythm you can see that he does some really good things. He missed a couple throws today; last week he missed a couple and then all of a sudden he got on fire and did some really good things at the end. You've got to get them credit – they did some really nice things. They are a very physical football team, a very veteran team. They made it tough on us today.
Q: Is he playing catch up because he missed so much of the preseason? RR: Oh yes, he is, but with him it is about work and he is going to continue to work hard at it.
Q: Did you like what you saw out of Kelvin [Benjamin] and [Brenton] Bersin? RR: Yes, I thought Kelvin did exactly what we needed. I thought that first group of receivers did a nice job, I really do. I think they ran the routes we needed, they blocked, tried to put themselves in position. Kelvin stood out, Bersin stood out. Some guys made some plays for us. And I thought the tight ends did a nice job. You know, there were some things that if we could make some things happen, who knows how this game would have turned out.
Q: Outside of Kelvin Benjamin there wasn't a lot going on with your other wideouts. Is that the timing you're referring to? RR: Well that's a combination of both, but again, a lot of the throws went to Kelvin tonight, so it looked like well, others guys didn't get any opportunities more so than anything else.
Q: The pass rush – I know Sean McDermott tried a couple blitzes but it didn't seem like anything really. RR: I'm disappointed in the pass rush, I really am. We didn't have it going and again, give them credit – they protected their quarterback and their quarterback got the ball out when he needed to. We did blitz, but the timing of the blitz was not very good. Tom Brady and the other quarterbacks all made good decisions and good, quick reads. We had a couple shots that we just didn't get the quarterback down easily though, too.
Q: Are you and the rest of the coaching staff realizing just how important Kelvin Benjamin is going to be for your offense this season? RR: Yes, and not just him, but I think the combination of the other receivers that we've brought in – I think that the whole group can be good for us. With our tight ends and their ability to stretch the field and make plays I think that's going to open some things up. What I would like to see us do is run the ball better too.
Q: Robert Lester [injury], is that serious? RR: No. He sprained his ankle. They took an x-ray and that was negative, so we'll see how he is tomorrow and just how sore he is.
Q: But to be clear, your plan is to get Cam in that Steelers game some? RR: Yes. That is the initial plan, but we'll see how he is tomorrow because he's pretty sore. Again, there's nothing other than he took a pretty good shot.
Q: Was it a helmet? RR: No, I think it was a shoe into the side.
Q: On that [Shane] Vereen touchdown play they had two running backs in the game. I'm just curious how does that at all put stress on the defense or is that something you're seeing a lot more of recently? RR: Well I don't know if it puts a lot of stress on the defense as much as you've just got to make a better read. I mean, you've got two backs in there and basically it's a wheel route. The back was cheated out and I'd like to see – he's a young linebacker and he's got to learn and understand that when a guy cheats like that he's going to get a wheel and he got a wheel, that's what he got. He sat and reacted to it and got beat to the flat. It was well designed and caught us in the right defense and the quarterback made a great decision; and that last touchdown they scored was the same thing. Again, you'd like to tell a young guy, 'He's wide and he's going to run to the flat, recognize those things.'
Q: When a team goes two backs is there anything with a matchup – I know this isn't a huge game planning situation in the preseason – but are there any matchup struggles there? RR: It depends on who the backs are. If it's with people who may call speed and you've got two quality backs back there yeah, that could create some tough situations. If you're game planning then you might go to a different personnel set to match them.
Derek Anderson, Quarterback
(On his performance)
"It was alright. We did some good things but just didn't execute in the red zone. I made good decisions but missed a couple throws."
(On the interception)
"The guy came off late and I had already thrown the ball, I'm trying to get things moving and get some momentum and I had to know better and to wait for the next guy."
Byron Bell, Tackle
(On the Chandler Jones sacks)
"There are no excuses, I just got to block him. In those two third-down situations, it wasn't anything he was doing, it was all me. As the game went on, I found my rhythm. I felt like I learned a lesson today. I can't come out slow, I've got to come out fast, come out on fire. This is a learning experience and I just grew from this. I've not lost the hope and I'm pretty sure my teammates haven't either. We've got to come out fast and come out swinging early. I feel like if we do that we'll be fine."
Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver
(On expecting so much action tonight)
"No actually, you could go either way. We have great receivers all across the board. You just have to get open and when the ball comes to you, you just catch it."
(On the loss)
"It's just a learning curve for us, but you have to go back and watch the films, see the mistakes we had and get better. We'll get back as a team and get better."
Colin Cole, Defensive Tackle
(On the game and the lose)
"In the heat of the battle we still have to make sure we execute. It doesn't matter who is on the field, whether it is back-ups, reserve linebackers, reserve defensive backs, it doesn't make a difference, because at some point you are going to call on them to play. Ultimately, we didn't do what we needed to do and there are no excuses that can be given for that. We need to come back on Sunday and get to work again….It is better to happen now and get it corrected and get guys in a better position to play fast, and to play downhill and make plays. Unfortunately we were not able to get that done tonight and it is an opportunity as a building tool for everybody across the board."
Thomas Davis, Linebacker
(On the game)
"When we go back and look at the film, we will see a lot of mistakes that we made. The one good thing is that mistakes are correctible. I don't think you have an issue of guys not putting forth the effort. It was just us making mistakes so you have to go back, watch the film, and correct the mistakes. It is hard to explain but we will know when we go back and watch the film. We know what kind of team we are and what type of defense we are capable of playing but we didn't do that tonight."
(Asked if the defense is where it should be at this time of year)
"I thought we were but not based on by what happened tonight. Like I said, we will watch the film and we will correct it."
Ed Dickson, Tight End
(On what needs to be done to get better)
"We've got another game, and we've got practices leading up to that. Our main focus is to the opener and the next game. Give the Patriots credit, they came out to play. We won't take anything away from what they did today, but it's all about us. We're still building this mountain that we're building."
Greg Hardy, Defensive End
(Asked for a positive on tonight's game)
"That it is a preseason game."
(Asked about the team's performance)
"It should have been better. I can't answer (why it wasn't) but I know we have work to do. It is preseason and the Patriots. You can't play it conservative. We played hard but we got outplayed by a better team today. Whatever it was, we don't need to do that anymore. It was embarrassing and that is not what we are about."
Ryan Kalil, Center
(On the game)
"We need to be more consistent. I think we need to do a better job on getting out to a faster start. The last couple of games we have come out to slow. You can't always rely on getting more opportunities. You only get so many possessions that you need to take advantage of them all."
(On the effect of the short week)
"You can make those excuses, but you are going to have those weeks during the season. It is a great opportunity for us to learn how to work during a short week and game plan and come out and execute. That is going to happen during the season, we are going to have a Thursday night game and Monday night game. You have to be able to handle the different weeks and be consistent with how you prepare and how you play."
Luke Kuechly, Linebacker
(On the game)
"I think we did some things pretty well, but it is the communication we need to improve on. A lot of the breakdowns we had today were because of lack of communication. It wasn't scheme, it wasn't effort, it wasn't any of that, it was just communication. I think lot of football is based on communication and making sure everyone is on the same page, especially on defense with the coverages and looks and runs. We just have to do a better job of communicating"
(On trying to get to [Tom] Brady)
"They did a good job of protecting him. They did a good obviously, but like I said we just have to get better and that is what it comes down to. They are good players, but we just have to do a better job on our end, like beating a block or making a play and having a good down as a defense."
Greg Olsen, Tight End
(On the loss)
"It wasn't one of our better performances. You got to take it for what it is and learn from it, and we have to improve. We have a lot of improving to be done before now and Tampa. It was a combination of things. I think it was a bad night, but I don't think it's indicative of the offense we're going to be for the entire season at all."
Tiquan Underwood, Wide Receiver
(On returning to New England)
"It is definitely different. I feel comfortable here, as far as the stadium and everything. The fans are supportive. I was looking forward to (returning a kick) but the wind was playing into that and they were kicking the ball very well."
(Asked if he has the best haircut in the NFL)
"I think guys like (Troy) Polamalu or Clay Mathews or (Brenton) Bersin on my team would have something to say about that but I would vote for myself. Hands down, this is a classic."
Joe Webb, Quarterback
(On the game and scoring at the end)
"You have to be ready. You never know when your number is going to be called. You always have to make sure you are mentally in the game, mentally focused so when your number is called you are ready to go. It could be momentum to build on for the future and you always want to end a good note after a not-so-great performance"