Again, trying to recall some of the things that were said last night, I thought it was an outstanding Carolina team that came in here and they played very, very well, extremely well as a matter of fact, and scored a lot of points, played very physical, had an outstanding kicking game, so it truly was going to be a test for our team. It was fitting that, as I said, you had two 11-3 teams and how does it get any better than this at this time of the year trying to establish in late December where your team is and how things are going to fit as we go forth into the playoffs. It was really an outstanding football game last night. I thought that we went back and forth, the defense we had trouble right early on and they scored. In the first half we weren't able to check them very well, we came in at halftime, we made some adjustments, we did a better job of run fits in the second half, and got ourselves into position a little bit more. I had talked to our team about being proud of our effort and then also being proud of our execution and therefore our production. What we mentioned at the half was that we had the effort, but we weren 't quite executing the way we had intended to really on either side of the ball and we needed to get something going there to fix that if we were going to have a chance to win. As I had studied this team there were many, many fourth quarter wins, the couple games that they had lost were right at the wire, and many of the games that they had won were fourth quarter wins as well. A lot of the divisional games that we studied were real battles until something took place late in the game via a special teams momentum changing play or something of that nature. We knew the quality of their team and what it was going to take to win. An overtime situation came up, we were able to get them three-and-out and get the ball back, and I thought that was huge. The obvious factor being that having driven it down there in the fourth quarter, then taking a sack, then having to punt and the ball being on the one, and then getting the ball back with good field position and being able to take it in and score, get the two-point conversion, get the thing into overtime with a long field goal that was just off the mark, and then we go into overtime and we do have the ball, then we get the three-and-out and we get the ball back and we were able to somehow find a way to win a game, a very difficult game. Carolina is a very good team and I am really happy with the way our guys came together and played and fought and got things straightened arou nd a little bit more at halftime and came out and performed in the second half.
Last week you seemed to be extremely calm and confident coming off of two losses. Is that because of your great belief in your players?
Well it certainly has a great deal to do with that. It is also the realization that those games that we had just lost and not played very well as you look at this time of the year they didn't matter much right then. It was what was coming up that was the most important and I had every confidence that our players would rally around that fact. We had basically done the same thing a year ago when we had to win a game and I was very confident that our guys would rise up with the leadership that we have and make a great effort.
Did any of the guys that were hurt going into the game come out of it any worse?
Who are you referring to?
Brandon Jacobs, Fred Robbins, and Domenik Hixon?
I don't think anybody came out any the worse for wear. Obviously I think Hixon, I haven't seen Hixon20today, but I don't think he came out with any issues. He played the entire game and when he did that last week he was sore and I would expect that they are all sore, Robbins would be sore today, Jacobs would be sore today, but I don't believe it is anything that would keep them from playing.
How about Aaron Ross?
Aaron Ross was to be discharged from the hospital later this afternoon. He still has some blurriness so he got dinged pretty good. They are going to do all the psychological tests that the player has to pass before he can be cleared to practice so we will have to see.
Do you have a plan to play Jacobs on Sunday instead of resting him?
That plan has not been formulated as of yet. That is something that I plan on spending the next day or so trying to put together. The information will come basically from the medical people and exactly how we think we ought to go about our business here in this upcoming 16th game of the season. Our basic philosophy is that we want to win every game and that is the way our mentality should be. We will be smart about any advice we get from the medical people.
It seems like the Panthers' running backs found a lot of seams in your defense yesterday. Is there a concern about that?
Well we are also playing against outstanding runners. We did have a couple plays that got away from us, but by and large we really tightened up, I thought, in the second half. The one run by Williams was an outstanding run by an outstanding runner and whether or not he cuts it back, or in this case, was able to get outside and then turn on the speed that he has. He is an outstanding player. He has had really an outstanding year so when you play against those caliber of players you certainly don't want to give up any yardage, but when it happens you just have to get back to realizing how it happened, why it happened, how did he get outside, were there any missed tackles, were there people out of position, and then you make the corrections. So yeah I am concerned any time something like that happens, but on the other hand it is more of why did it happen?
Kevin Boss caught a couple of important passes yesterday, but he also looked like he had a number of important blocks?
He did. Yes, he did. He is definitely improving along those lines. He did get himself into position where he blocked well on a number of occasions and I think you have to. If you are talking about rushing the ball the way we were able to do it you obviously have your offensive line, but then (Michael) Matthews and Boss and (Madison) Hedgecock and the wide receivers. Hixon did a very nice job, Steve Smith does a nice job of that, Amani (Toomer) got in position to make a couple of key blocks on runs, so everybody has to chip in if you are going to have any success whether you are throwing it or running it. The important thing I thought was that we had so many different contributions from a lot of people.
Would you rest players that aren't hurt, like Eli Manning, in the upcoming game because you have nothing to gain from it?
I disagree with the idea that you have nothing to gain. There is a lot to be gained. If you believe, as we do, that you have to be playing your best football at this time of the year you certainly do have some things to build on and particularly when you are not going to play for a couple of weeks. I am taking all that into consideration and I am not going to answer any further questions about that stuff because quite frankly I haven't had a chance to sit and talk with the various m edical people or the coordinators or anyone in terms of our approach to this game. That is going to happen a little bit later today.
Will you also talk to the leadership council because some of those players yesterday sounded like they were welcoming a week off?
I don't see how there could be any week off. The week off comes after the last game and I certainly will talk to the group.
Last season your team lost a good late-season game to the Patriots, but you seemed to gain confidence from the experience. Last night the Panthers had a similar experience. Might they grow from that?
You would have to ask the Panthers that. Why are you asking me? You will have to ask John Fox that. They played very, very well, there is no doubt about it.
What did you guys learn from last season in terms of going full speed ahead and maintaining that momentum?
Did we learn from last season? Certainly. Last season was last season, this season is this season. We certainly did learn from that experience and t hat was a great thing for us going forward because of the team that we had played.
Have you ever been around a punter like Jeff Feagles, who just has that ability to find those corners near the end zone?
It has always been stressed by the teams that I have coached; the field position aspect of it. Brian Barker was real good at placing the ball down inside, but when you are talking about a guy who has rare ability you are talking about Jeff Feagles and he certainly does.
Can you talk about Madison Hedgecock's run, his pass reception, and his blocking?
Madison Hedgecock is an outstanding blocker and he is a force and we have utilized his talent and ability with regard to the lead blocker for our backs in many, many different play schemes and different capacities. He had a very nice reception which he turned into a key first down in the green zone last night and we tried to utilize a short yardage run, which give credit to the Panthers, they were able to stop. They moved the front on us and created a slant charge, which we weren't able to cover everybody up enough to get that yard.
What is your assessment of the job your kick and punt returners are doing back there?
A lot of the numbers have to do with the whole scheme. When you look at the kickoff return aspect of it, I can't tell you that I have been pleased with that, with the exception of a few games, the majority of the year. I think we were battling, we have switched some personnel around, and we are trying to improve that particular area. I thought that Ahmad Bradshaw ran hard last night and gave the people involved in the scheme, gave them an opportunity to be excited about a guy that will really lay it up in there and so I think there was something to be gained last night with regard to that. We have had different people back on the punt return aspect of it and we have for the last couple of weeks R.W. (McQuarters) has been back there with the exception of that one muff last night he has certainly always been a guy we rely on heavily because of the skill that he has and the veteran experience that he has in those type of weather games. Ball security is number one and after that anything else is a plus.
It seems like Feagles saved you a couple of times on snaps on place kicks last night?
Are you concerned about Jay Alford now that he is playing more and more on the defensive line as far as the snapping goes?
Well that is a concern because of the position that he plays and of course the hands being involved so much. He has been able to handle that. I was concerned, particularly with the first snap that was just right on the ground and Jeff was able to control that and get it down and John (Carney) to kick it through. You want your whole operation to be smooth and that was a little bit risky, especially when you look back and you are talking about an overtime game where one point either way would not have allowed us to be in position to win the game.
Are you concerned about the lack of sacks?
I think you are concerned anytime whenever the quarterback is able to stand back there and throw the ball without having to be disrupted in terms of his timing, you are naturally concerned, but the number one objective is to win the game. We would like to have all areas of our defense being productive; we did not have that last night. I thought they did a good job, they kept a tight end in a lot of times, they kept a back in, they used play-action very well, and they created time20for the quarterback and there were occasions when actually too much time was given to Delhomme in terms of delivering the ball down the field in a deep kind of a throw. Yeah, sure we are concerned and we continue to try to work on that.
How is Justin Tuck feeling today?
I think he has the after effects. He is not vomiting or anything like that today, but he certainly is still drained. I am sure that it is going to take a couple of days to get his strength back.
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