FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Ahead of the Falcons' first division matchup, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera joined a conference call with the Atlanta media.
He discussed the upcoming game, what he's seen from the Falcons this year and a few other interesting topics. Here are some of the notable things Rivera had to say during the call:
On the Falcons' first-half performance coming off the Super Bowl:"They are a good football team. What they are getting is everybody's best. Everybody is gearing up for them and that's just the way it is, it's one of those things. They are a good football team. If they keep playing they are going to be OK. But, what they are getting is the best from everybody."
On the Panthers' recent trade of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin:"Kelvin is a good man. He did everything that we asked him to do. It was a tough decision, but we felt it was one that was right for us as a football team. This gives us an opportunity to mix and match some of our personnel, some of our young guys that we've been looking for opportunities to get on the field. It's a good situation for Kelvin. Anytime that you can let a tough guy go like that, he's a good football player, but it gives him a chance and us a chance to do different things."
On Julio and the Falcons' offense:"All I know is that you have to account for not just Julio, but you've got to account for the rest of the weapons on the offensive side (of the ball). (Mohamed) Sanu, I think is a terrific football player. I like their tight ends. I really do. I think they've got a good group of those guys. Their third receiver, whichever combination they put out, can make plays. Then you have to attend to their running game. I don't think this offense is all about Julio. I think this offense is about the playmakers that they have and again, everything starts with their quarterback."
On the first half of the Panthers' season:"We've had some moments. We had a couple of disappointing moments where he had some chances to win some football games. The thing that I like is that we are starting to hit a little bit of a stride. It was kind of tough for our quarterback (Cam Newton) coming back from shoulder surgery and trying to work himself back into shape. It wasn't like he had a true offseason or a true training camp. I thought the first part of the season was tough, getting him back into the flow, back into the mix of things. I think we are starting to feel a little bit better. Defensively, we've done some good things. I think we can still be better as a football team."
On the Falcons' run defense:"I know that there are lot of good players on that defense. With those guys, they just keep plugging away and doing things that they do. Like I said, they are getting everybody's best. They just have to keep doing their job. Do their thing."
On rookie running back Christian McCaffrey:"Christian has got a very versatile skill set. We move can move him around in different situations, put him in different spots and do some different things with him. I think that's helped us. I think it's also one of those things where we are still learning how to use him and the best way to implement what we can do with him." On Panthers' rookie receiver Curtis Samuel:"I think Curtis has made some really good strides. I like some of things that he did last week. He looked good out there on the football field. I think he's just continuing to grow as a football player for us. He's one of these young guys that we've got to get rolling. The move that we made recently will give him an opportunity to get on the field a little bit more."