Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
*What looks different about the Saints from the last time you played them?
*"Not much. Good football team, doing mighty good things."
*Why do you think your starting cornerbacks have been so effective this season?
*"Well they have their moments. They've done some good things and that's probably the biggest thing. You see improvement. You see the growth."
*The Saints have some young cornerbacks that have been playing well also. Is there a reason why you think young cornerbacks have been so effective for both teams?
*"I think because they're fearless. First of all, I think they're good athletes because they are fearless. I think they go out there and they don't know any better which is great. I think guys that go out and play fast because they don't think and they don't worry, they just do their job."
What stands out about Alvin Kamara *on tape? *"Just his versatility. The guy does a lot of good things and does them very well. I think Coach (Sean) Payton knows how he wants to use him and uses him very effectively."
*You guys are the league leader in time of possession. What goes into that and is that something you guys stress, maintaining possession of the ball?
*No, I just think it happens. We've been fortunate. We want to win games. When you're winning, you're fortunate enough to win games. It pretty much holds true for New Orleans as well. When they're doing things well and they're running the ball effectively and throwing the ball effectively and completing passes, the clock runs."
*You and Sean Payton have now coached against each other so many times. What do you kind of expect in a matchup against the Saints over time?
*"I think (I expect) Sean Payton to be Sean Payton. What you see's what you get. That is one thing I've always appreciated about coaching against Coach Payton from the time I was with Chicago, Philadelphia, then back to Chicago and San Diego, is you know exactly what you're going to get from Coach Payton and that you're going to get a heck of a football game."
*The continuity that you guys have had at quarterback since Cam (Newton) has been there and the Falcons have had with Matt Ryan and the Saints have had with Drew (Brees), do you think that plays into just how competitive this division has been over the past few years?
*"Without a doubt. If you're fortunate enough to have your franchise quarterback, I think you're fortunate enough to be consistent. I think that's the truth for all of us. I admire what they've done for New Orleans all those years. Drew Brees is (in the Pro Football on) the first ballot. We know that. Coach Payton has done a tremendous job with it and what he's done is establish continuity. I think that's important in this league. When you have some continuity and some familiarity. You can bring players in and plug them in and that's what they've been able to do. Look at what they've done on the offensive side, it's exactly what's happened. They've been able to bring players in, plug them in. I'm jealous that they have Teddy Ginn in there, they've plugged him in. With Alvin Kamara, they've plugged him in. These guys fit very nicely into their system."
*Why do you think Teddy Ginn was so successful with you guys. It seems like maybe other than this year, he's been more successful with you guys than anybody else?
*"I think the biggest thing we've did with Teddy and I kind of believe that's what Sean Payton's done we have explained to Teddy what we need, what we expected of him. We weren't unfair with him. We didn't tell him something that wasn't true. I think he went out and did those things for us. From the looks of it, I think Coach Payton has probably done the same thing."
*Does it surprise you at all that the division is this tight this late in the season? *"No. Just because of what you told me. The quarterback (situation). We have three good teams with established quarterbacks. We have a tough, physical, young team down in Tampa Bay. That's why I think our division is good."
*Is it a little weird that the schedule is so backloaded with division games this year?
*"No. I think the league is getting what they want. They want the division races to come down to the last couple of weeks. They want us to play each other. They want us to be able to settle it and I think that's good."
*You mentioned the last couple of weeks, the last five seasons you guys have been really good in the final month of the regular season. What goes into that?
*"I think I'm very fortunate. I have a group of young men that work hard continually. We play a lot of young guys early. So when we get to this time of the year, those guys got the experience. I see the same thing right now when I look at New Orleans. I see a lot of young guys that have played a lot of football for them so because of that they've had an opportunity to develop."
*Obviously your defense has been playing well, how important will it be to keep the ball out of the Saints' hands offensively? I know last week they weren't that good on third down and Coach Payton mentioned that's going to be a big factor. How important will that be for you guys?
*"A lot of things play into it. Again it is about creating takeaways. It is about getting pressure to the quarterback. It is about being able to run the ball. It is about winning the field position battle on special teams. I do not think you can sit here and leave it at one thing. Just because you have done that one thing well doesn't mean you've done the other things well."
On Alvin Kamara, your defense had the misfortune of playing against his breakout game if you will, I don't know how aware you were of him back then. What point do you think the league became aware of him and do you think they're really scheming for him or is he getting the benefit of not being able to scheme for him because of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas and Mark Ingram *etc.? *"The biggest thing you learn is you can't try and take away one weapon. Coach Payton has done such a nice job, they've done such a nice job of bringing in personnel that are explosive, that are dynamic. I mean you go right down the list, look at what they have with Michael Thomas. They've got Mark Ingram. They've got Alvin Kamara. They've got Teddy Ginn. They've got Brandon Coleman. I mean you look at all those pieces that he's got. He's got Willie Snead, a guy I think is a very underrated player in this league. You have that type of group of guys and you throw the tight ends into the mix that always seem to make plays. I was reading where certain things with Coby Fleener near the red zone (the Saints have success). You can't just expect to take away one weapon and say that's the guy you stop because Coach (Payton) uses his personnel very well and Drew Brees happily distributes the ball to the players."
*So that's probably having a bit of a role in Kamara's early success, you think?
*"I most certainly do because if you sit there and think he's going to give the ball to Kamara 30 times, he's not. He's going to spread the ball around and just when you think you've got it figured out he does something different. That's a very good play-caller. He's done a lot of good things in his time in New Orleans."
Carolina Panthers Thomas Davis *Conference Call with New Orleans Media* Wednesday, November 29, 2017
*How do the Saints look different from the last time you played them?
*"I think they're doing a much better job of really focusing in on their dynamic running game that they have and they're sticking to it. That's one of the things that really stands out to me, really how well the defense is playing after the second game of the season, those guys have really been playing some dynamic football."
*What is it that makes Alvin Kamara hard to tackle?
*"I think the guy plays the game with a passion that's really been unmatched. I have been a real fan of Alvin since he was at Tennessee watching a lot of SEC football and really seeing how dynamic the guy was in college and it has definitely translated over into the NFL."
*Do you think defenses are preparing a lot more for him now than maybe the first time you played him?
*"From the way that it seems, the production that he's had, it doesn't look like they've been preparing for him. The guy has been going out and making plays all over the field. They've done a great job of utilizing his talent. He's a special player."
*Why do you think you guys as a defense has been so stout this year? *"I think our coaches have done a really good job of putting us into position to make plays. But we have a certain style of defense that we try to go out and play. We've kind of been real good at executing, not only this season but in years past. The Saints have always given us a hard time, definitely have to be on our P's and Q's this weekend."
I'm not sure if you've watched much film or have gotten a chance to see him, but what stood out to you about Cameron Jordan and the way he's played?"Cameron has been a dynamic player for a long time. He just seems like he's really comfortable with their defensive package that they have now. He's really disruptive and just really been who we know him to be."
*What do you think of when you think of the rivalry with the Saints? *"I think it is always going to be a tough, hard fought football game. You have two teams that basically want to win football games. I think there are a lot of competitive players. And when you look at the head coaches, both of those guys want to win this game as well. Definitely a hard fought battle and it should be a good game on Sunday."
*Does it surprise you at all that the division is this tight as it is right now? *"I think it's really crazy. You look at the NFC South, and there's a chance that three teams actually make the playoffs which is absolutely crazy to me. I think it's just the NFC South and the way we've been playing this year."
*What role does the defense do in helping to dominate the time of possession? *"It is important for us to create as many opportunities for our offense as we can. Whether that's creating turnovers or whether it's making teams go three and out. Whatever we can do to get extra possessions for our offense. That's our goal on defense, to make sure that we are doing that."
*Do you think that will be more important against the Saints this week? *"Man it's important every week, but especially this week when you have a high-powered offense like the Saints have. You are facing a hall of fame guy like Drew Brees and when you Alvin (Kamara) playing the way that he's playing and then you have Mark (Ingram) playing the way that he's playing and those receivers on the outside doing what they are doing it definitely makes for a long day for a defense if you allow a team to go and have the balance that the Saints have been able to have. We know that it's going to be a tough task for us, but we're up for the challenge."
*What did you see from the first game against the Panthers where the Saints were really good on third down? *"The first game we played them this year they were pretty good in all phases. They went out and did a good job of executing their gameplan. For us defensively we didn't show much anything. I feel like we are in a different place right now. The defense is playing better football and a lot can be said for that, but at the end of the day we still have to show up and play our game on Sunday. We have to do a better job on third down executing, but it really starts on first and second down. We have to do a much better job of creating third and long situations and we can't allow them to have the balance they had in that first game."
*What goes into playing well in the final weeks of the season? *"I think it really boils down to playing your best ball in November and December. That is when the playoff teams really show up and the really good teams in this league show up in November and December. That's kind of been the message that Coach (Ron) Rivera has driven home to us since he's been here. Under his leadership we've been really good in those months."
What was it like having Ted Ginn Jr. as a teammate?"We loved having Teddy (Ginn Jr.) on our team. I hate seeing him play in New Orleans."
*What was it about him that you guys loved? *"His attitude man. He showed up every day and did what was asked of him. He was never a guy that complained and he loved being around his teammates."
*What is it that you hate now about seeing him here? *"I hate watching that speed over there with Drew Brees. Man it's crazy. Ted Ginn and what he's able to do not only from a stretching the field standpoint, but he's able to do with different looks, reverses. There is a lot that Ted Ginn Jr. offers to a football team and now he's giving that to the Saints."
*What did you notice about Alvin Kamara at Tennessee? *"He definitely played well against Georgia. He played well against a lot of teams. He was a guy that even at Tennessee they used him in different areas. They used him in the return game, out of the backfield and they lined him up in the slot. I definitely took note to where he was and I was pretty mad that we actually let him get out of Georgia and go to Tennessee. That was pretty disappointing."
*Are you surprised that Alvin Kamara fell to the third round? *"That was definitely a surprise just from watching him in college I thought he would have been a much higher draft pick and again I was disappointed seeing him end up in New Orleans with Drew Brees because I knew that he was going to have this kind of season based on the way they used those quick, fast guys in the backfield."