After the pressure and the sacks in the first half, it seems like you guys were able to make a little bit of an adjustment in the second half. How much did it affect you and what did you guys do in the second half to keep them a little bit
"Some of those were on me, just getting the ball out. One of them in the first quarter, especially, when we were in field goal range or at least give us a chance at a field goal. Listen, they are a good pass rush team, so they did a good job of applying the pressure at times. Did a good job of covering some things downfield when we were trying to push the ball down field and so that was maybe a result of that ending up having to hold the ball a little bit longer and they were able to get sacks. I felt like our guys up front played really, really well all game long, both in the pass game and in the run game. We ran a lot of plays today. I think we had 88 plays today or something like that… 81 plays. And moved the ball pretty effectively for most of the game I thought. Obviously a lot of possessions. There was a lot of back and forth. You know, the 97-yard drive in the fourth quarter to take the lead – that was big. Unfortunately, at the end of the game they were able to make some plays and beat us but I'm proud of the way that we battled, and unfortunately we are sitting here having taken a loss, obviously in a big game, an important game. But we're trying to draw from the positive here."
How does getting into a rhythm help you?
"The big play to Jimmy (Graham), obviously. That was obviously a huge play, just to get us out from our own end zone. You know we had played for most of that third quarter on our end of the field. You have to flip-flop the field somehow so you know anytime you are in a coming out situation where you are inside your 10, you are always thinking, 'Hey let's get a couple first downs and change field possession,' but then you get a big play like that to Jimmy that gets you out to midfield and then you get a couple more big plays to get you down inside the five and then a big third-down conversion for the touchdown. That's what good teams do."
The sentiment of the team is more positive, certainly more than last week. Is that because of the response in the fourth quarter or did you notice that all game long?
"I think all game long. If you just looked at it statistically, we outgained them by almost two times in total yards and rushing. They were 0-for-9 on third downs. The defense did a phenomenal job getting off the field. I'd say the differences in the game … where we get a personal foul penalty that knocks us out of field goal range in the third quarter, I take a sack where I should have just gotten rid of the ball to give us a chance at a field goal in the first quarter and then the two turnovers – especially the one at the end of the second quarter that resulted in a touchdown for them the very next play. They were able to go and get a touchdown. So those are kind of the defining plays in the game, and obviously, the drive they had that they were able to put together at the end. I mean, credit to them. That was a heck of a drive with no timeouts. So you have to give credit to them, and also you look at the things we talked about and made an emphasis of coming into this game. I felt like for the most part we did a lot of those things."
How different of a team was Carolina this week?
"I think same team. Same team. Obviously you kind of put together some wrinkles and that kind of thing anytime you are playing a divisional opponent the second time, especially with only a two-week lapse. But I don't think there were any big surprises out there today. Just two really good football teams going at it for 60 minutes and it took all 60 minutes."
How painful of a loss, since you took an hour and 15 minutes to get to the podium?
"Of course it is painful, but like I said we are trying to draw from the positives. We put together a game plan that I really felt like we executed for the most part really well, both offensively and defensively. And you know it didn't result in a lot of points, it didn't result in a lot of flair but the fact of the matter is it gave us a chance to win in the end and just a couple little things here and there that I think we recognize that we can still improve upon. But it's all out there in front of us. Obviously, we need some help in order to win the division and be the two seed but the fact of the matter is all we can worry about is what is ahead of us."
What were they doing all game today to make things difficult for the offense?
"Playing good defense. They are a good team, a really good defense, one of the best in the league and they have been all season. They were really good in the redzone today. We got in there a couple of times but had to kick field goals and we kind of hurt ourselves with some penalties; and taking sacks, you know you can't do that when you get in the endzone."
What is the mood of the team right now?
"Well right now just trying to take this, because it's obviously tough with so much on the line for us personally. You know we're just going to take it one day at a time. We're going to come and watch the film tomorrow, get a work out in and you know just take it like any other week. Obviously we have to play better, more less better, we just have to finish. When you are up like that you want to win those tight ones. When you get into the playoffs you can't lose those."
Describe your emotions during the Panthers last touchdown.
"I was hoping he didn't catch it. You know I don't play defense. You know I'm not going to fault anybody for anything. They made a couple of good plays there, they were able to drive the ball down the field with not very much time on the clock. You know hats off to them."
Carolina's coverage down the field, was that the best thing they were doing today? !(http://www.neworleanssaints.com/media-center/photo-gallery/Jimmy-Graham-at-Carolina-Panthers/fa7fca91-00de-45b9-be82-1e9593ae721d "new orleans saints")
"Well you know sometimes it's really hard to march the ball down the field when it's raining like that in the third quarter. So that limits you, especially when you want to come out and take some shots. They would cover very well and more than anything they had a good pass rush. When a pass rush is like that you have to chip and nudge and really focus on that and sometimes try to get the ball out quick."
Did they do anything different against you in the redzone?
"No, same thing. Obviously just trying to be physical with us, and grab and hold and pull and you know that's just what they do. That's what their linebackers do and they're real, real good at it. And tonight just wasn't our night."
Do you feel like you guys gave everything you had, with the personnel changes and the trick plays?
"Yes, yes we did. I always try to give everything I have, every game. We were able to do some things and that worked out for us and also some of the things didn't work, like the field goal. There's good and bad there but when it comes down to it, you know you have to win the fourth quarter."
Did you feel like you had the game won after the 97-yard drive?
"You never know in this league. Obviously up there in New England, you never have the game in hand. You know you never really do in this league. I was excited, that's for sure. There was just too much time left on the clock, and you know that there's probably going to be a couple of possessions maybe, one for them and one for you and it just comes down to that."
On play of the defense
"To play the way we did the entire game and shut them down and really feel like we dominated them most of the game and when the team needed us most, not to come off the field and come away with the victory that's the most disappointing and frustrating. It leaves you sick to your stomach"
On mood in the locker room after the game
"You just lost. It's a terrible mood."
If this game feels like the others the team has lost – a play here or there
"I feel like every game comes down to a play here or there. They made the play and we didn't. Hat goes off to them and it was disappointing for us, but we'll be back."
On last Panthers drive
"They just made plays. We had great defenses called, we just didn't execute."
What was the difference for the Saints defense on the Panthers last drive?
"He (Panthers QB Cam Newton) threw a lot of gutsy balls and gutsy plays and he came out with that win. I honestly I think there was still a lot of pressure coming from the middle and from the outsides. He just stepped up and was able to make a couple plays. I think … did a great job did a great job putting his hands up, batting down a ball, really giving us another chance. We didn't capitalize."
On struggles on the road
"You know, it's what I've been saying the whole time. Every week you're going to face elite talent. There's always going to be opportunities that you're going to have to seize and we just didn't capitalize on enough of them."
Point where the Saints had control of the game
"Honestly, I felt like we never lost control. I felt like we were in control the whole time. A couple of minor blips, but honestly, the offense was definitely controlled by our defense for I'd like to say 29 minutes of the game. They came out with that win so there's not much you can really try to fight on that one, other than get better and do better next week."
On game plan against Cam Newton
"Put pressure on him, make him feel the heat coming. As well as, of course, keep him contained. We ended up with three sacks, four sacks on the game. I think we did a great job defensively, putting pressure on him as well as batting down balls, eliminating their big runs except for one play and really peeling down their threats on pass."
If he thought he would sack Newton on his completion to Ted Ginn on the final Panthers drive.
"I did actually. Not going to lie to you. I definitely thought I was going to get there. He released the ball and made a great play. I'm going to have to get better. I'm going to have to look at the film and get better."