What Panthers coach Ron Rivera had to say about the Falcons

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera watches his team warm up before an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera watches his team warm up before an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Here’s what Carolina coach Ron Rivera had to say about the Falcons to the Atlanta media on Wednesday:

On getting Thomas Davis and Charles Johnson back: "We missed both of them terribly. We missed T.D.'s presence as far as his leadership. It's great to have him back on the football field this week as well as it is to have Charles. I'm pretty excited for both of those guys. Playing the Falcons is a pretty big deal for them. I know their teammates feel their energy."

On Cam Newton's running ability. "I think what it does is it keeps that triple treat there. He can run it. He can give it or he can throw it. I think that's important. I think it freezes some people and gets people to think. Again, the biggest thing as coaches is to use it judiciously and make sure we are not over doing it, make sure we're not exposing him and at the same time we are putting him in position to make good decisions and have success."

On Christian McCaffrey's production as he has nearly 200 touches. "Just from knowing the type of football player he was at Stanford and how versatile he was for them, we thought we could take him and use him. I think we are still trying to figure out the best ways to use him. The young man has tremendous ability to make people miss in space. We have to make sure that we continue to put him in space."

On defensive tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei matching up against the Falcons: "I'll tell you what, I like the Falcons' offensive line. I really do. I think Alex Mack is a solid football player. Both Andy (Levitre) and Wes (Schweitzer) are two solid guys. It will be a good matchup. I think our guys like competing against (the Falcons). I think the Falcons are a terrific football team. I think the things that Dan (Quinn) is doing there are great. This is a good rivalry game."

On the play of tight end Greg Olsen (back from a broken foot): "It's been good having him back out there. I think he's done a nice job. I think again we have to continue to work him into what we are doing. I think two weeks ago we used him a lot against Green Bay. That really worked out. This past week, they spent a little bit more time trying to cover him up. We have to make sure that we get the ball in other people's hands when that happens."

On the Falcons' offense being offline:  "I think the biggest thing that everybody has to remember is that they are getting everybody's best shot. They are the defending NFC champs. They are a tremendous football team with tremendous weapons. Anytime you play the team that was last year's champs, you are going to give them your best. I think that's what is happening. It's a completely different approach to them. We went through it last year. They are getting everybody's best, as they should. Again, they were the NFC champs last year."

On the Panthers' playoff situation: "The bottom line is that we have to go out and play the best that we can. This is a very important game and we know there is a lot riding on it. So, we don't pay attention to ….if we don't take care of our business here, we're going to be No. 5. We're going to do the best we can and see what happens."

On the injury to returner Damiere Byrd: " We feel good about the guys that we have. We feel good about Kaelin Clay. He's done a nice job for us. As has Christain and Fozzy Whittaker. Cameron Artis-Payne is another guy who has that kind of ability. We'll miss Demiere, but we have guys who can step up. Kaelin did a nice job of returning a punt for a touchdown against the Jets. He's got some kickoff return ability as well."

On the play of wide receiver Devin Funchess: "Devin has done a tremendous job. He's stepped up as a leader in that group. You'll also see him on the field competing. He's coming off that shoulder (injury) that has been bothering him a little bit. That's the hard part. Hopefully, until he gets stronger, heals up and get better and better… the thing that he also has to adjust to is being the quote, unquote "No. 1." He's also has to adjust the fact that people pay a little bit more attention to him. I think he's done a great job. I'm real excited for him and his growth as we go forward as a football team."

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