Carolina Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
News today that Christian McCaffrey won't play this week, three games during the season. How heartbreaking is that just knowing how talented he is, and he didn't get to see the field nearly as much as he wanted to this year?
"Well, I know obviously it bothers him, he's a competitor. We were building a lot of things around him. But that's just this game, you handle those things as they come. And our hope here is that he has a great offseason, he comes back healthy and takes advantage of his time off of his body and goes back and makes sure he plays great."
It seems like lately the Saints have been using Emmanuel Sanders to kind of stretch the field a little bit more. I'm just curious when you're watching him play, is there anything that stands out just about him as like a downfield guy?
"Yeah, him down the seam against the Saints, I think 38 yards in the air. I mean, he's obviously an extremely talented player who can stretch the field, (and they can) push the ball down the field (with him). I think for all of us, we know when we when have to defend the deep ball, it opens up everything else. He's certainly a great one at that."
Their defense is ranked number three in the NFL right now. What just stands out about those guys?
"Yeah, I think they have a great front seven. (Demario) Davis is as good as they come. They have a great defensive line. Great secondary play, they are outstanding against the run. (They have) (Marshon) Lattimore and (Malcolm) Jenkins and all those guys. They challenge you."
Just what allowed (Alvin) Kamara to be so effective last week? Were they were doing anything different on film?
"Well, I mean, he's a great player. I think he's just a great, great, great player. And we saw that when we played them live the first time and their run game's clicking right now. They're running outside zone, the line is doing a fantastic job, the tight ends. They are establishing the line of scrimmage and they have great back who can get downhill and make a cut for huge plays. I just think they're clicking right now offensively and specifically in the run game."
One of the guys who has kind of opened up a lot of those lanes, really, in obvious ways was Terron Armstead. I'm just curious what you've kind of thought of him as you're making this transition yourself in the program like kind of where you see him and how he stacks up against some of the NFL's is better left tackles?
"He's an All-Pro caliber player. Let's have a guy on an island. And to me, one of the great things about him is he also fits so well into their scheme and can run block so well. Sets the pocket on any level. I just think he's a fantastic player."
You guys played the Saints pretty early in the season. I wanted to ask you where you felt your team has grown in any way since that matchup?
"Just a lot better on defense right now than we were back then. We're a lot better on third down than we were back then. So I think we have made a lot of improvement in those areas, which obviously is important, getting off the field, getting the ball back to your offense. So I think that's been the biggest area we've grown in."
I know you've got a lot of young guys on the defense, has that been part of it that they've been able to kind of grow and settle in?
"Yeah, I mean, in a year where we had no offseason, they kind of had to learn a whole defense in three weeks before the first game. So I think getting a each week in, they can put more and more stuff in, they get more comfortable, they play less with more and more without thinking. So for this year, when you get to week 10, 11, 12 guys really get comfortable in the system and playing faster."
I know you guys would have wanted more wins at this stage of the season. Just curious how Teddy Bridgewater has handled this as the leader on the team. What's the role he plays when the team is at this stage, 4-11?
"I mean, he's like all of us, really, obviously we all want to play better. We've had a lot of close losses, a lot of times we thought we had chance to win it and it just, (ends where you're) heartbroken at the end. As we all know, life's not about feeling sorry for yourself. But Teddy's done a great job of every week, getting back out on the practice field, getting back on the game field, picking the team up. There's never been one time this year where I felt like our team isn't showing up or they have given up hope. I credit that not to the coaches, but to the players. Teddy, obviously, the quarterback being at the front of that."
Emmanuel Sanders doesn't put up huge numbers statistically, but obviously, there's more that defines a player than that. And I was wondering what you how you would characterize the type of receiver he is and the role he's played, that you've seen on the Saints offense?
"Yeah, it's a great question. I mean, I think he's a fantastic player. And to me, the Saints have such a great passing game, precision passing game, timing passing game, to have someone who can excel in that area, and also be a deep threat who can stretch the field. To me, that opens everything else up for everyone else. He brings a dimension to them that, obviously, on defense, we have to be prepared for every single moment. He's played really well for them."
When you think about players who like contribute just to winning in general, regardless of stats, I've noticed he's been in three Super Bowls with three different teams, obviously, he is going to try to get there with the Saints again this year. Does he strike you as the type player in that kind of vein. Or in general, do you feel like there are players like that in the league that just kind of contribute to winning?
"Yeah, I definitely believe that some players contribute to winning and cause winning. That's why I was saying like, some people cause winning. It be hard for me to talk historically about any one player that's not on my team, but I do think that certain guys are blue guys. Certain guys are guys that help you stay together, other guys are guys that help you, cause you to win, make big plays in big moments. I do believe that winners win and if you want to have a winning organization, get a bunch of those guys."