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Ron Rivera, Cam Newton discuss Sunday's win over Saints

Postgame quotes from Carolina coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton

Ron Rivera

Decision to punt with two minutes left in game

"What I was hoping was we would get the punt off before and get it down with about two seconds left. They would run a play, then the two minute, and then I could use my last two timeouts. Unfortunately we didn't get the operation in time and that's disappointing. That's something we need to make sure we get worked out for the future because we would have been able to save more time. It turned out we didn't really want to save the time. So maybe I shouldn't have."

Offense struggles on third down

"We missed opportunities. That was the bottom line. We missed some opportunities. We all know that and we will go back and get those worked on. We will coach them up better and we will keep working on it. Again it's a resilient bunch. The quarterback was very resilient. He struggled today and he knows it. But when we needed him to come through he came through. He played the way we hoped he would. Probably the biggest thing too was another fourth quarter comeback for him. We want him to continue to grow off of this and we will most certainly talk about this and build confidence off of this win."

Domenik Hixon

"The thing with Steve Smith and the injury, I don't know the severity of the injury, but getting Domenik the opportunity. Domenik came through. We are very fortunate in that Domenik and Chase Blackburn are two guys who have been in championship games and they understand what it is all about. For a guy like Domenik to get the opportunity to come through was huge."

Thoughts on Atlanta next week

"We talked about that in the locker rom. There still is business that needs to be taken care of and there is a lot at stake. We have to start getting ready and getting prepared. It is going to kind of be a different week with Christmas coming up. But we will make the best of it and we will continue to prepare. We have to get ready for these guys."

Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis' play today

"That is who they are. They are two quality football players. I'm very partial because I think they are one of the best one-two tandems of linebackers in the league. They play to it. I thought Sean McDermott did a nice job today and the defensive coaches in terms of game planning and calling the defenses the way he needed to have them called. It was exciting. It really was. It was good to see those guys play well. I thought Greg Hardy had an outstanding game. I thought Quintin Mikell did the things we needed to from our strong safety position. I thought Mike Mitchell played the type of game you would expect. Again, we still have some things we need to correct. Get after it the next couple of days as we get ready for Atlanta but I tell you want though the fans were unbelievable."

Thomas Davis' interception in first half

"It was great. It was a good call by Sean. I thought the execution was outstanding and again I don't think Drew Brees saw him. Again it worked to our benefit. I think that was one of the sparks because the very next play DeAngelo Williams pops one for a touchdown. It kind of gave us a situation of a little momentum coming into the second half that defensively we can get them stopped when we needed too."

Being playoffs

"Well it is exciting. We are in the playoffs and that is one of the best things we got going but for the most part, like I said, we still have a lot of business left at hand. We are not going to be satisfied with just being in if we have an opportunity to get a good seed. We have to show up on Tuesday focused in on Atlanta and get ready to play."

Extend of Steve Smith's injury

"I don' t know yet. I have not talked to Ryan Vermillion on any of the guys and I won't talk to him until later. That way I won't have to answer the question in all honesty."

Hixon first target on touchdown play

"I believe so. Based on what they gave us, Cam just went right to it. I'm going to say he was one of the options and based on the coverage they gave us, he became the primary. I thought it was a heck of a throw and a great catch."

Ted Ginn's 37 yard reception play

"We knew there was an opportunity to throw the deep dig and the best thing was Cam just needed time to throw it. You saw him step up, he did get hit as he was throwing it, but he was waiting to give Ted the time to clear the coverage and into the window right through the middle. As soon as he made the clear, Cam gunned it in perfectly. Great catch and run by Ted which gave us the opportunity."

DeAngelo Williams touchdown run

"It was basically what we call a counter up inside and he hit the crease and went. It looked like they came up in an eight man box and really once he creased it and got passed the safety it was just a foot race from there."

Hixon's opportunities this season

"I'm very happy with him. Domenik comes to work every day and works very hard. He spends a lot of time with our young guys and spends a lot of time with the offense as a whole. It's just great that he got the opportunity. The tough part for him is he plays the same position as Steve Smith."

Rain during second half

"It didn't affect much. Neither team I think did anything in it. Both teams had to play in it but I don't think it was that effective. As I said it was really kind of neat to play in that type of rain and see the fans stay through it and see them stay behind us. It was outstanding and I really did appreciate it."

Was there discussion at halftime about Smith's injury?

"No. We talked about what we had to do. Step up and make plays. We talked about how we had to weather the storm obviously and came out on top obviously 7-6. We were pretty excited about that."

Punting playing a factor in today's game

"That was probably the biggest thing in that it's tough to go 90 yards to score touchdowns and that was probably one of the best things that happened. I thought Brad Nortman punted very, very well. I thought our coverage guys were outstanding in getting down field and doing the things we needed to have done."

Describe the feeling from starting 1-3 to being 11-4 now

"It's been three seasons. You would like to believe this is where you need to be. I like to think that we are headed in that direction. We have a lot of work to do, we really do. By no means are we going to be comfortable or satisfied. Just because we are in the playoffs doesn't mean we can't better our position. Again, one of the things I brought up right away is that we have to take care of our business. We have to come back to work on Tuesday focused and get ready for Atlanta. It's an opportunity for us to have a better playoff seed so we have to take advantage of that."

Injury to DeAngelo Williams in second half?

"No. Again, a lot of it has to do with play calling and the personnel group we used."

Special teams play today

"I thought special teams was very good with the exception of we missed out on the bunt. That really disappointed me. That was one of the things we talked about before we went out on the field. Apparently we have to make sure everybody hears it and we will get that covered up."

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Cam Newton

Opening Statement:

"Very exciting game to say the least. Stout, stingy game by the defense. You know, it's kind of frustrating as an offensive player when you don't put up the performance that you want to and when the defensive guys come to the sideline and they've got that look in their eyes after a tough trip, battling extremely hard. As an offense we have one job and one job only, that's to put up points. We had a stall, but we did score at the end. This was a big team win, it wasn't pretty, but we got the job done."

What was said in the huddle going into the last drive

"Well everything that needed to be said has been said by that point. For the first drive, second drive, third drive, we moved the ball down and came up short at the end with the interception, just kept fighting and being very resilient. That's what we showed all year and that's what got us to this point right now. But, defensively, with Luke Kuechly with 24 tackles, that's unheard of. With TD [Thomas Davis], defying all odds with his situation, and those guys, I can't be more proud of those guys or of being a part of a team, with the sacks, the pressure, it was just great to be a part of today."

What the saying 'Keep Pounding' means to him

"Man, that's about the best words that you can put for that type of game today. We just kept fighting, kept pounding, kept getting after it, and we knew that we were one drive away, one play away, a couple of guys at the end were saying 'Let's not worry about what we've been playing for up to this point, let's just play for this next play.' With Ted [Ginn] making that extremely big play over the middle and getting us in field goal range, we were thinking more, especially with the situation that we were in. That's what it was."

If he was thinking field goal

"That's what we all were [thinking]. It was kind of challenging and I think our faith was tested as a whole team, being that Coach [Rivera] did not want to go for it on fourth down. That's why we have all trust and faith in our coaches that they will put us in the best situation, and he did. With the defense going three-and-out, and giving us the ball a little over a minute left, was very big for us. That's what we go over in practice each and every day so that we can flourish in situations like this."

How much his mobility was impacted today

"I knicked my ankle, but it's nothing that hasn't happened before. It was a lot of injuries in this game, with us losing Steve Smith, and I don't know what his injury is, but I know the type of warrior he is, he'll be on the field as soon as possible. With the safety going down for them, and just the conditions of the game, I was not going to come back in the game if I was going to hurt the team, knowing the game that we were in, I stayed in. My hat goes off to the defense, I can't stress it enough. Being an offensive player and having that mentality to score, score, score, but when you're not scoring it gets frustrating. Going three-and-out, we didn't have a great percentage on third downs today which is not us at all. But, when the game is on the line, a lot of guys stepped up and they made big plays."

Not going for it on fourth down on the next to last drive

"I'm just a player. Like I said, I have all my faith and belief in coaching. Coach Ron did a great job in knowing the situation and that's just a tribute to hard work and being in this situation before."

The three passes of the final drive

"Well they were playing very soft coverage, especially with the conditions, just keeping us honest and trying to get us to check the ball down, but with great protection I had time to sit in there and let the routes come open. Ted [Ginn, Jr.] had a dig route over the middle, he made an extremely big play with the throw, it was kind of high, but he still didn't let that affect his catch. When he caught it, he didn't stop there, he kept going, and that second throw was to Greg [Olsen]. Greg really called an audible, he felt as if he could get the pump, with the tight coverage by Roman Harper. After that, the rest is history. With Domenik [Hixon] making that extremely big play at the end to give us the lead."

Domenik Hixon stepping up

"Domenik has always been that type of player that when his number is called, all he does is answer. In practice, in the games, whatever Dom is asked to do he does it; coming in to block, coming in to catch. His presence was felt today."

How much he put on himself to make the last plays

"Like I said, it was frustrating, and that's why we play this game. You're going to have games like this, the tough ones, at home, in front of your home crowd. You don't want to let a lot of people down. With our defense playing lights out, I can't stress enough that those guys were putting us in situations, ideal situations that we usually flourish in. But, with it coming down to the last final drive, it shouldn't have been. Lack of execution on offensive play, lack of execution on my play, but at the end, that's when it all counts. In order for us to successful and continue to be successful, we're going to need to be more execution conscious early on in the game."

If focusing in the moment is the key to getting it done

"I think that's why we play this game. I know that's why we play this game. We practice to flourish in these types of situations."

If Domenik Hixon was his first read on that last play

"He was my alert read, being that if Domenik has one-on-one, I have faith that my receivers are going to get the job done. Usually that's 89 [Steve Smith] out there. Being that he was not there, I didn't hesitate, not one bit, I just went through my reads and got the job done. Usually if I see that coverage, I would be hot, being that those guys kept a guy in space just trying to read my eyes, I had time to deliver the ball."

If it has sunk in that the Carolina Panthers are going to the playoffs

"It really hasn't. We still have one more game that we're focusing on, the Atlanta Falcons, to put ourselves in a better situation."

If this is his best pro win

"No, I've said it once and I'm going to say it again, I think as a team, our best win is yet to come. This was a great team win at the end, yeah we know that, but it's a lot of things that didn't go our way that we can get better at. I think our best game is still out there for us to execute on all cylinders. With three phases of football, offensively, defensively and special teams, not one and two possibles, not two possibles and one good one, everyone is going to have to put in and hold themselves accountable to get a win."

Going to his hometown with a chance to win the division

"I'm not trying to get personal by any means. I'm going to continue to do the things that have gotten us to this point right now. We're looking forward to facing Atlanta in the dome, and we're looking forward to playing those guys."

How he hurt his ankle

"I have no clue, I got tackled. It's a physical sport and things happen."

Changing his game plan after hurting his ankle

"I think I had to change my game plan, more so because of the weather than my ankle."

Losing Steve Smith in this game

"We're just going to have to make do with the conditions. We all know how much Steve Smith has meant to not only this team, but this franchise. We know he's a warrior. He's going to battle back and bounce back and help this team in any way possible. We're all praying and hoping for a speedy recovery for him."

His thoughts on being close to winning the division

"It's exciting for us. I'm just stating the obvious, that's why we play this game. Starting off this year, when we were 1-3, there were a lot of 'what ifs,' a lot of people that were jumping off the bandwagon, it was a lot pointing fingers and saying 'I told you so.' But now, we as a team stuck together and didn't veer off, and had faith in each other. This defense has been playing great. Offensively we've been running the ball and making plays. Special teams, those guys just need opportunities. We're steadfast and have faith that everything will be alright. We kept practicing hard, believing in coaching and executing when the time is right for us to do so. That's just a tribute to hard work and dedication."

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