Post-Practice Media Availability
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Any need to stress the importance of this game?
“Nah, I think we all know what’s at stake here. We have four games left. Here we are, tied with Carolina (for first place). We play them two of the next three. We know what’s at stake. This is all for the division title and potentially the two seed. They’re a great football team. They’ve been playing extremely well right now. I think, what, eight in a row they’ve won. We know we’re going to get their best. We’re going to need to bring our best.”
What is it going to take to turn the offense around from the struggles of last game?
“We’ve done things well for a very long time in a lot of different ways. One game does not set that back. One game does not change our mindset, our confidence level, our attitude in any way. Last week is in the rearview mirror. We had a great day of practice today and are looking forward to putting together a great game plan for this weekend.”
The last time a lot of us saw a loss like that was in 2007 at Indianapolis when you were still kind of finding out who you were. Is it different because you know who you are and know about the guys in the locker room, more than back then, coming off of a loss like that?
“Yeah I think we still know we’re a great football team and we still know that everything we want to achieve is still right out in front of us. All the things that happened in that game are things we can fix – things that we can identify and we can fix. We don’t lack talent in any area. We don’t lack, certainly, the effort or the intelligence or the want-to in order to get things done. So those things certainly give you a lot of upside moving forward.”
You guys have played a lot of stout defenses this year. Do you kind of lean on that playing against a defense like Carolina’s?
“They’re excellent. There’s not a defense that’s playing better than these guys. In every statistical category, they’re tops. (They are) obviously number one in total defense. They’re playing with a lot of confidence; they don’t have a weak link. I think as you kind of watch each and every game, you see a defined game plan, you see execution, and you see a lot of discipline and great leadership. They’ve got some great leaders at the linebacker position and just a lot of guys that play with a lot of high effort (and) high intensity.”
Any one or two players that have stood out to you as improved from a year ago?
“I’m thinking back to the last time we played them last year at the end of the season, and they were playing really well at the time. I remember they were banged up in their secondary so there were a lot of young guys in their secondary but they played very well. Up front, they have a great ability to get pressure on the quarterback, and they’ve always had that with a lot of these young guys and I think they’ve even added to that. I know with their first round draft pick, Star (Lotulelei) and some others. The linebacker position, Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly are two of the best in the game, especially as a tandem. So (they have) a lot of the same personnel from when we played them at the end of the year last year, defensively.”
Is there a certain level of comfort knowing that your team plays so well at home in prime time games?
“We know the type of atmosphere that Sunday Night Football creates in the dome with our fans, a night game and everything that’s at stake and all of that, so we know it’s going to be an electric atmosphere. We still have to come with our A-game. We’ve still got to play well. Yeah it’s encouraging to know that we’ve been in the situation many times. We know how to handle it, know how to focus in on the process and the week of preparation and the ability to eliminate distractions and everything else. You can’t make this game any bigger than it already is, so we just need to be ready and go out and play.”
Why have you personally excelled statistically at home in prime time?
“Had a lot of confidence in our plan and our guys. They’re always big games. They’re always very meaningful. My level of preparation is the same each and every week regardless of where we’re playing or who we’re playing or what’s at stake, so I can’t point to anything specific other than I have a routine and I always stick with it.”
How did being on the west coast for an extra night this week impact your routine?
“It’s always a challenge when you’re on the road, especially two days ahead, you have to alter your routine a little bit. But I kind of have a routine for those types of trips now. I mean we two-day tripped it to Chicago because of the storm we were getting out of town for, and then New England, and then for Seattle. Three of our six road trips this year were two-day trips, so you kind of have a plan for that.”
What about if the plane is delayed coming back?
“Well I guess if there was a positive with that – obviously you wanted to get back and get started here with everything – (was that) it got us a good night’s rest that night, which I think served guys well as we approach this week on a short week with guys just getting their bodies ready and their minds back into it to get ready for this weekend.”
With the exception of your Super Bowl year, the playoff number one seed has not had too much luck in the NFC. Is that much of a concern to you guys?
“No team had ever won the Super Bowl after losing their last three games of the season back in ’09, and we rolled through the playoffs and won every game. We don’t care what the statistics say in regards to what happened to other teams.”
When a defense like Carolina can speed up the clock in a quarterback’s head, what does that do to your comfort level and how can you best adjust to that?
“Common sense would tell you that if you’re able to pressure any quarterback and the timing is thrown off – you have to get the ball off before you want to or before the receiver is out of his route or before you get a good look or whatever it might be – that that is when mistakes happen. All of the time we talk about, we preach, protecting the quarterback and getting pressure on their quarterback. I think every defensive line coach in the league is preaching that to their guys and talking about the importance of that in a game.”
I think over their eight-game win streak the Panthers have 17 takeaways. Is that the key stat that stands out about them?
“Absolutely. That’s a lot of takeaways in that stretch…part of the reason they have won eight in a row.”
Have you had a chance to get to talk to Cam Newton or get to know him from Pro Bowl experience or any other interaction?
“Yeah I was with him at the Pro Bowl and other than just practice and stuff, didn’t spend a whole lot of time together. I can’t say I’ve spent a lot of time with him, no.”
How much of what you’re doing this week to fix certain things from Seattle or were some of those mistakes just one-time occurrences?
“Number one, I didn’t feel like we got a whole lot of opportunities. Partly that was our fault because we had a lot of three-and-outs. We weren’t able to sustain drives, create and rhythm, or anything like that. Number two is like, man, everything that could’ve gone their way went their way and everything that could’ve gone against us went against us. It’s not like we caught any breaks in that game. But no excuses, we got up there and we got whooped. You’ve got to be able to move past that and certainly not let it linger and focus on the here and now because this game is the most important game of the season. Why? Because it’s the next one, but also because it’s a division opponent at home and one that is vying for the same thing we are which is a championship.”
Have you watched much of Cam Newton’s growth this year? Obviously he’s maturing a decent amount.
“Yeah I watched some of the Monday night game against New England and obviously kind of followed him because they’re in our division and kind of chomping our heels here. He has played extremely well. I think you’ve seen the growth kind of before your eyes and the whole team is playing well, but certainly he’s playing with a lot of confidence and they seem to have a lot of confidence in him.”
Is it fair to call this a rivalry game even though the Falcons are supposed to be the main rival?
“Every divisional game I guess you could say is a ‘rivalry game’, just because there’s so much familiarity between the two sides. So I would say that those games tend to be a bit more chippy maybe. But listen: they’re a great team, we’re trying to be a great team, and there’s a lot at stake so I’d say any time you get a game like that you’re going to have the element of intensity.”