NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Christian McCaffrey, Saints


Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette said he spoke to the team at halftime to get them going.

“I was like, ‘You have to have a will and a want,'” Fournette said, via ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “‘You have to be willing to risk everything. Play by play, you have to want to win, you have to want to fight, each and every play.’ I think they understood that message and played their lights out.”

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski said that halftime speech made a difference in the second half.

“It was excellent. It got everyone fired up. He went out there and he backed it up too, and it just shows just how much we respect Lenny,” Gronkowski said. “I felt like we were flat in the first half. The energy wasn’t there. The second half, we just went out there and played as a team — offensively, defensively — the defense was creating turnovers, we were scoring, Lenny was just running the ball amazing, and we just stuck together too. And to have a win on the road like that — that was a playoff-caliber win.”


Falcons QB Matt Ryan said he is excited to play for a playoff spot in December.

“It’s all you can ask for,” Ryan said, via “If you tell me in the beginning of the year that we’re right in the mix in December, that’s where you want to be. I think our best football is still in front of us. We’re going to get there. But, with six games to go and we’re right in the mix, with December starting next week, sign me up. I’m ready for that. It’s going to be a fun couple of weeks.”

  • Jeff Howe of The Athletic says the Falcons were holding out hope QB Trey Lance would fall to them at No. 4 overall in this year’s draft. 
  • However, once the 49ers took him at No. 3, the Falcons shifted gears and selected TE Kyle Pitts.
  • Falcons HC Arthur Smith said he doesn’t know when WR Calvin Ridley will return and didn’t want to speculate. Ridley is on the non-football injury list as he takes a leave of absence for his mental health. (Micheal Rothstein)


Panthers QB Cam Newton said he’s going to utilize the bye-week to get a better feel for the team’s playbook and offense as a whole. 

I would take this time to really dive into the whole offense,” Newton said, via the team’s official website. “I think today it really got exposed because of the situation, and not having a full grasp. But it’s not nobody to blame more so than just the situation that I came into. So having this week to kind of self-scout, so to speak, and really dive into the root of what this offense is about and that’s what I plan on doing.

Newton was 5-21 for 92 yards and two interceptions. Early turnovers put the team in a hole that they were unable to escape.

That was a bad throw. It was a bad throw,” he said of his first pick. “So before I can tell blame, it all starts with me. And that’s just me holding myself accountable. Coach did say about one of the keys of the game is protecting the football and I put the ball in jeopardy too many times today. So from an offensive perspective, what I can speak on, we weren’t good enough to sustain enough drives, too many three and outs and protecting the football. And anytime you can’t do that, it’s going to be tough.

Panthers HC Matt Rhule said that the Dolphins were simply better than them in every facet of the game.

We knew we came out and they were going to blitz us,” Rhule said. “I said it to you guys. We burned them on the first one for the long play to DJ. I thought early in the game, the first two passes he threw hit us in the hands. We had a chance to catch those. As it evolved or devolved, I should say, I’d have to watch the tape. Just wasn’t a good day, but it wasn’t one of those days I could sit there and say it was just him. I purely believe that Miami outplayed us today, outcoached us today. They were better than us today. It’s pretty simple to me.

  • According to the Athletic’s Joe Person, although Rhule struck a hopeful note in his comments about RB Christian McCaffrey‘s ankle, it swelled up so much overnight that it became clear it was a longer-term injury. 
  • The one bit of good news is that the injury isn’t expected to require surgery if it heals properly and McCaffrey should be healthy for the 2022 season. (Person)
  • On Monday, Rhule said he isn’t changing quarterbacks: “I would absolutely anticipate starting Cam Newton.” (David Newton)
  • Rhule didn’t put all the offensive issues on Newton: “Quarterback is only as good as the people around him, but he does have to make those people better.” (Person)
  • Rhule was pleased with how DT Derrick Brown responded after getting benched for his performance the week before. (Person)
  • Rhule mentioned QB Sam Darnold has started to throw again: “We’ll get him back next week, see where he’s at in his process and go from there.” (Person)
  • Panthers pro scout E.J. Barthel is taking the RB coach job at UConn. (Person)


  •’s Jeff Duncan reports Saints QB Taysom Hill has been battling a plantar fascia injury in his foot, which is why he was available for emergency only last Thursday. The injury has also been limiting him in practice. 
  • Saints signed LB Sharif Finch to their practice squad.

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