Head Coach Brian Daboll
Q: I wanted to ask you about special teams. It seems like the last several weeks there's been a breakdown here and there, a problem with guys keeping their lanes. What are you seeing from them, and are you concerned that these types of breakdowns are happening this late in the season?
A: I think that there's always a reason for each play to breakdown. Yesterday was a variety of issues, whether that was missing a tackle, whether it was getting a hat for hat on a kickoff return. We made a play on that blocked punt, but we gave up far too many yards in the kickoff return and really didn't give ourselves a chance to get going on our kickoffs. So, certainly an area we need to improve, and we'll continue to try to do that.
Q: Is any of that related to the fact that you have guys going in and out, maybe you're reducing one guy's workload and there's no chemistry or comradery being built on those units?
A: I don't think you make an excuse like that; every team goes through that during the season. So, whoever's in there, we have confidence in. And we've got to do a better job there.
Q: I was just wondering if you could update (us on) any of the guys who left yesterday's game. I'll start with (wide receiver) Richie (James) – is he in the concussion protocol?
A: He is.
Q: And then (tight end Daniel) Bellinger? (Inside linebacker Micah) McFadden? Anybody else?
A: I'd say Daniel's sore today. I'd say he's pretty sore today, so we'll see how he goes during the week. McFadden's sore. They're all sore. (McFadden's) ankle. They're all sore.
Q: How about some of the guys who didn't play yesterday. I know it's early in the week, but what's your level of optimism on Leo (defensive lineman Leonard Williams), (cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson), (safety Xavier) McKinney, and (guard Ben) Bredeson for this week?
A: Too early to tell.
Q: A bigger picture question then: The run game obviously has not performed or produced the way it did earlier in the season. What do you think has been, I'm sure they're a lot of factors, what are some of the biggest issues with getting that back on track?
A: I think some of the things earlier in the year, too, is we had some good numbers but some of those were from big runs, too. So, you look at the type of game you're playing in, whether you're behind, whether you're getting as many touches as you want to get. You look at the play design; you look at all 11 on the same page. I think it's probably a variety of things. Certainly missing a few big plays out there is one of them and just being on the same page and making sure we get a hat for a hat, getting downhill and making some positive yards. I'd say some of the games we didn't run it probably as much as we would've run it based on where we were at. So, all that being said, we're just not doing a good enough job. All those other things to me, I'm giving you some examples, but we're really not making any excuses – just got to do a better job.
Q: Did you say that (quarterback) Daniel (Jones) is pretty sore today? Is that what I heard?
Q: Oh, Bellinger. Okay. Not the quarterback?
Q: Daniel (Jones) obviously doesn't miss snaps and runs the ball a lot. How is he holding up you think?
A: He's doing well. He takes care of himself. He's very proactive and all those types of things, but I think he's done a nice job up to this point – both on the field and taking care of his body.
Q: Was the touchdown throw he had, rolling right and hitting (wide receiver Isaiah) Hodgins, was that designed to go there? Or did he just have to kind of break the pocket and do that?
A: Yeah, that was a loose play. That was a scramble play. They took away the first read, he moved. I think Isaiah did a good job of moving with him. He found him, so it was a loose-type scramble play.
Q: Is that what you guys often call playing above the X's and O's? Is that something that your quarterback has to do as far as 'look, it's not there'? Do you call it improvisation or just the next progression of the play?
A: There's certain plays where it's one, two, three, four, five. There's certain plays where it's a hard action – maybe one, two. Then you talk a lot about down in the red zone where if you watch all these games, you see a lot of scramble-type plays that happen. There's a short amount of space. If you have a mobile quarterback that can either break contain or keep the play moving, that certainly helps. On that particular play he did a nice job, so did Isaiah.
Q: One more on him: There are times where he gets pressure almost immediately in his face. How is he dealing with that athletically and mentally?
A: He's good. I think he's (done) a nice job really since we got here. In the pocket, taking care of the football, making the right decisions. So again, when you get pressure right away in the pocket and there's not much you can do, then the most important thing is to take care of the ball and live to see another day. There are other times he's created lanes and made some loose plays, whether it be with his feet or throwing the ball. There are other times he's been able to throw on time and make the right decisions. So, that's part of playing quarterback. All those things happen, and I'd say regularly, you try to eliminate the ones that they're right on him right now.
Q: You've harped on your consistency all season long and really pointed at it in staying consistent and ready and steady. How are you feeling this week just knowing the implications that are on the line for this game?
A: I feel the same. You're upset; you're not happy that you lost. But you have to get ready to play another game and quickly. Make the corrections that you need to make, whether that be coaching staff with the players. It's a long season; there's quite a bit of adversity throughout it. Maybe for some teams, it's in the beginning. For some teams, it's in the middle, and other teams, it's at the end. We're going through a little bit of it right now, and I think it's important to stay consistent, do the things that you need to do to try to win games with your preparation and practice. You explain that to your players, which I think they all understand. Again, whether it's the coaching staff or the players, they've tried to remain as consistent as you can be. And that takes some mental toughness throughout the year.
Q: You look yesterday at a Philadelphia team where the roster's been built methodically. They clearly have an awful lot of weapons; they obviously have a quarterback playing incredibly confident football. Does any part of you allow yourself, for a moment, to say, 'Man, a year from now, we're going to be so much closer to being really competitive against that kind of team because we're going to have much closer to that kind of team'?
A: I don't. I live in the moment. Again, our moment is we didn't play or coach well enough yesterday. You don't make excuses; you own it. You take a look at the things you can get better at, and that's the approach. Those thoughts that you're talking about, that's for another time and another place. I'm focused on the here and the now.
Q: Understood. I do wonder after yesterday, do a couple of your players need a little boost in confidence as you guys approach, obviously, a really important game Sunday night?
A: No, again, you're just real. We got beat, and I said this last night: We got beat soundly. And you don't want that to happen, but it happened. So, we've tried to, much to (a previous) question, preach consistency in our meeting rooms, in our practices. And it's easy to do when you get the results you want. The challenge is when you don't get the results you want. I think that's where leadership, that's where consistency, that's where teamwork – all that stuff – comes in because again, this is the world we live in. We are judged on results, which I completely understand. But I've done this long enough. I've been on both ends of it. So, the really good head coaches, leaders and players that I've ever been around had that quality of consistency.
Q: We all know the consistency aspect, and if I could go back a couple weeks ago, we were all focused on your emotions on the sideline and how you wished you handled certain things a little differently. On the emotional aspect of it, when you're the head coach and you're in this position, do you strike more of a balance? Is it a conscious thing for you, at all, to think about when you're going to lean into emotion with the team, which players you lean into emotion with, just the moments that you've learned from guys you've been around of when it's the right time, when you want to keep emotion out of it? I'm just curious, going into a big game like this, does that play into it at all. And do you pick your spots with your team?
A: I think it depends on the team, and it depends on the players. We have a fairly young team. We have some guys that have been here for a few years that have had 10-plus (game) losing seasons however many years in a row. We have some other veterans that have been some places that have won – same with the coaching staff. But the most important thing is you develop the team – you developed it through OTAs and training camp to withstand certain things that come your way. And again, it's really about the week you're playing. I don't think you can make more or less out of each and every week. Obviously, we know this is a big week. Last week was a big week. So, our focus has to be on the things that we can control – which is the here and the now – and do the things that we need to do to give ourselves the best chance and then ultimately go out there and play well and coach well on Sunday.
Q: Obviously, the big discrepancy yesterday was their ability to make explosive plays, and it's something that if you look at through the course of the season, they've also had a much better capacity of doing. Is that something that you guys really need to figure out going forward, and how hard is it to become a team like that?
A: Well, explosive plays help; that's probably one of the top five things. When you win the explosive play battle, you put yourself in position. That wasn't the only area that we got beat in: third down, rushing. I mean, it was pretty much all the way around yesterday. But explosive plays help. They help when you're on offense. And when you can stop them and prevent them, they help you on defense. To go consecutively 12, 13, 14-play drives, usually you have to have a lot of things that go right. And inevitably if you have one thing go wrong, it puts you behind the sticks, and now you're into some passing situations that it's harder to convert on. So, big plays definitely help.
Q: Is that something though that you can't really address in the middle of a season? It gets addressed after the season. You have what you have right now, and you worry about that (later).
A: Not that we've created a bunch of them, but you always look for ways to do it. And there's a variety of reasons. Yesterday, you go back and take a look at the tape. We had some opportunities where we were behind the defense – I would say four or five times – for big plays, and for one reason or another, we just couldn't capitalize on it.
Q: Is it easier to take a game like yesterday and say, 'Hey, let's focus just on Washington,' and say, 'Let's flush this one because it was so lopsided,'? Did you want them to, maybe even quicker than usual, to say, 'Hey let's put our focus on Washington,'?
A: We definitely looked at some particular plays that we have to get fixed because they'll usually show up again, and we looked at some things that were good. And then, they're meeting right now going through some of those things. And then we'll turn it pretty quickly to Washington. We just played them last week; they had a bye week. You got to turn it fairly quickly this time of year anyways.
Q: I know you've talked about this 'next man up' philosophy, but in the past month or so, you've had guys who were out. You've asked guys who were your depth players to step up and be the starter. Is that asking too much? You can't expect your 'C' guy to play like your 'A' guy, and can that be part of the problem?
A: I think that's what happens to every team if you take a look around the league. So, we make no excuses. I think those guys that are in there for us are competing. And they're in there for a reason. We have confidence in them. It's our job to make sure we're putting them in good positions. It's their job to go out there and execute. That's what it is.
Q: What have you learned about the NFC East so far and about Washington in particular?
A: That we played a tough, competitive game. They have a very good defensive line. They have a strong running game, an explosive receiver (Terry McLaurin), a quarterback (Taylor Heinicke) that is – like I said the last time we played him – playing with a lot of confidence. They've won a considerable amount of games here these past seven games. Tough opponent.
Q: What about the NFC East? You've been part of a lot of different rivalries, a lot of different divisions, a lot of conferences. What have you learned about the NFC East?
A: Haven't won any games – us. So, our focus is all on Washington. I think we'll reflect that on a little bit later, but Washington is where our focus is on.
Q: You talk to ownership regularly. Do you sense that these games do mean more to them?
A: NFC East – I've been in other divisions in football. I think anytime you're playing teams that are in your division, they always mean more.
Q: I'll end with this, but was (running back) Saquon (Barkley) addressed? Did you talk about him?
A: No, I did not.
Q: How does he feel? Obviously, he went into that game with an injury. Is it anything that you need to worry about moving forward or address (it) with him? How is that going to work?
A: Hopefully, he's a little bit better this week than he was last week. So, I'm hopeful.
Q: Some would argue that your team is now being measured against a standard of overachievement that you might've set in the first half of the season. Do you welcome that standard of people now expecting the Giants to be a playoff team? And in some ways, is that a compliment of where you are in your program – maybe ahead of schedule?
A: I don't think of it like that. We've got to find a way to get a win here. We've had some tough games here these last few weeks. Make no excuses about them. Every game we go into, we prepare, we plan, we practice with the right mindset. All the other things, (there's) not much we can control about that. What we can control is the things we do today and this week and get ready to play a good Washington team.
Q: You want people to hold you to a certain standard, right?
A: We have our standard. And that's coming in here ready to work, doing the right things every day and making the most of every opportunity. That's our standard. That's the standard that we focus on. And again, the results of some of these games, obviously, are disappointing. The way we prepare, the way these guys play hard, the way they work, I think we've made strides since we've gotten here. So again, we've had some wins. We've had some losses. But the standard really doesn't change with the guys in our building – I would say our building – being a pro and trying to do the right stuff. We certainly appreciate our fans – the people that support us. And you want people to expect you to win. And we're working towards that.
Offensive Tackle Andrew Thomas
Q: Since you just played them so recently, what are your takeaways? And now that you're getting into film this week from the last Commanders game and lessons you might have learned – (what are your) takeaways?
A: In the first game on the offensive side of the ball, especially the offensive line, we left a lot of plays on the field, errors, missed assignments, things like that. Obviously, they're a very talented front seven, but we've got to eliminate the errors to give ourselves a chance to win.
Q: It wasn't too long ago that you were a rookie and going through your ups and downs. You obviously overcame them. What do you see from rookie (tackle) Evan Neal, who you are obviously close with, plays on the other side of the line, (he) did not have his best game yesterday. Do you see him and kind of see a little bit of yourself in him?
A: I think Evan's doing a good job with handling (and) dealing with some of the difficulties. I would just say it's not just him; the offensive line, we feel like we can play better. We can be able to run the ball better, protect better. So, we're all trying to lift each other up. Obviously, it's his rookie year, but we're trying to lean on each other to be better to make a push for the playoffs.
Q: Do you see any similarities in some of the things maybe he's struggling with and some of the things you struggled with like, 'this is what rookies have to go through,' kind of thing?
A: Definitely. You're a rookie; you're going against the best pass rushers that want to do their best to exploit you. If you do something on film, they're going to do the same thing the next week. That doesn't just go for him; that goes for all of us across the board.
Q: In the first five snaps, you guys gave up two sacks. I think you gave up one. Evan gave up one. Obviously, it got better. Is that a difficult way to start, and is that something that kind of maybe you're worried about setting a tone for the game?
A: There's definitely adversity. As an offensive line, you don't ever want something like that to happen, but we have to do a better job of responding when adversity happens. We're going to play against good fronts. They're talented, they get paid, too. If they make a play, we have to do a good job of flushing it and being better the next play.
Q: (Washington Commanders defensive end) Chase Young, it sounds like after he didn't play in the first go-around against the Giants, it sounds like they're targeting him for this game. How do you approach the addition of him to that front?
A: Like I said, it's already a talented front. Adding him just makes it better. He's an explosive rusher. He plays hard. So, really do a good job. I don't really know how they're going to use him as far as snap counts and stuff like that. Just watch film from last year and his rookie year to prepare for that.
Q: You're obviously so young in your career, but it's been a long time since the Giants organization played in games with these kinds of stakes and these kinds of opportunities, but also consequences. Is that something that permeates the locker room at all? Or do you guys ever mention that kind of stuff to each other?
A: We do. Coach (Brian) Daboll always says, 'What we do in December is what people remember.' These games mean the most, and we're blessed to have our opportunity to compete, have an opportunity to play in the playoffs. We're looking forward to the challenge – we've just got to do a good job of executing.
Q: You've obviously played in a lot of big games in your college career, and then now you're getting this one. I would say that this is the biggest you've played in your pro career until this point. You're a pretty cerebral guy, even-keeled, kind of just attack the week. Is there any time this week, do you think, that you'll kind of embrace the emotions of everything? Or am I just misreading that, and you are a guy that likes to lean into the emotions of the moment and really fire yourself up in terms of playing that?
A: Sometimes I feel like you can get so caught up in the moment and just trying to prepare and prepare and be the best player you can. But like you said, not experiencing something like this for the first two years of my career and having an opportunity, I'm definitely grateful and looking forward to it. But at the same time, I'm focused and I'm motivated on doing everything I can to help the team win.
Q: Is there an appreciation within the team aspect of it that there are guys who are going to be emotional this week? There are other guys who are going to play the role that have to make sure nobody gets too hot. Is that an important component of this week for this team, especially for the captains to kind of know what buttons to push as far as what guys need to get ready?
A: Yeah, I think so. You don't want to go out and do something drastic that you haven't been doing all season. But you also want to be focused on every minute detail, making sure that we're doing our best to put ourselves in a great situation. Just focusing on that and having high energy is, I think, the way to do that.
Q: How much do you guys in the locker room basically see this as a playoff game given what the environment is going to be, what the stakes are and the fact that the entire football world is kind of going to be watching?
A: We know what's on the line. You already know the mentality that comes with that. Washington is a great team. Our division is great this year. We know what this game means, and we're doing our best to prepare for that.
Q: You've been in a lot of big games before at Georgia, obviously, but you haven't been in a lot of playoff game, playoff-type atmosphere – especially on the road – at the professional level. What do you expect from that?
A: I know the environment is going to be crazy. I know Washington is going to bring it. They want to be in the playoffs just as bad as we do. It's going to come down to who wants it more and who executes better. That's what we're focused on and trying to do that on Sunday.
Q: Do you feel like you guys can make the playoffs if you don't win the game, or do you almost feel like this is the game you have to have if you really want to be in the playoffs?
A: I'm not really looking past Washington right now. That's really my main focus. Any game we play, we want to win. Obviously, this one means a lot more. We're focused on getting this one and we'll worry about the rest of the season after this game.
Q: And even though it was a tie, that last game, did you feel like you guys gave one away, that it was right there within your grasp, up seven, it seemed like there were so many plays where it could've been over. At the end of the day, did it almost feel like a loss?
A: It's frustrating when you put yourself in a position to be up on a team and pull out a win against a divisional opponent. You want to be able to do that and we didn't do enough to get that done. We're just going back through film, watching that just to see what we can clean up, what we can do better to get the win on Sunday.
Defensive Lineman Dexter Lawrence
Q: You just got out of the meetings, I'm sure you looked at tape. The Eagles ran for almost 200 yards in the second half. As a guy who takes pride in stopping the run, what is the main reason you looked at and said this can't happen again?
A: It can't happen because you'll lose. We all have to execute our job. We all have to be aware of – play good technique, what plays are coming and how to defend those plays.
Q: Did going up against (Philadelphia center Jason) Kelce, who you've seen before – he's pretty much thought of as the best guy in the league, leader player and everything – what is that like going against him?
A: It's good. He challenges you in different ways. He's a smart guy, knows how to use his leverage. Like you said, he's one of the best, and it's always fun to go against one of the best.
Q: How do you think you made out yesterday against him?
A: I could have played better, we lost.
Q: For all practical purposes, it'll still be determined whether you make the playoffs – is this a playoff game?
A: Yeah. Around this time in December all games get critical. It's another division game that's a must-win because it's the next one, and you want to go 1-0. This game is a playoff game, and the next game will be one. It's just all talking it step by step.
Q: I was looking at it like – the guys who are surrounding you in that race for the Wild Card, Detroit and Seattle, they have tiebreaker edges over you and really the only one you can get a tiebreaker edge over is Washington.
A: I pay attention to who we play, and not really if his happens, then this happens. I just pay attention to who we play.
Q: Given the importance of this game, are the leaders – you have 10 captains - doing anything different this week? Is there any meeting that you think needs to happen? What do the leaders, what are they responsible for going to a game this important?
A: Just continue to challenge the guys around us and ourselves. Challenge each other. Challenge guys to watch a little bit more, study their matchups a little bit more. It's just doing what we already do, just a little bit more type of thing. That's how you see it change in your play, your confidence and your belief.
Q: Do you feel like the Commanders have any kind of advantage by having a bye and they get a whole week to think about nothing but you while you guys are?
A: Other than that, and getting their bodies back ready, that might be the slight advantage. At the end of the day, we played them two weeks ago – we know that they are going to do, they know what we're going to do so it's about winning your matchup and playing dominant football.
Q: What's he excitement about playing on a Sunday night? That is now considered the premier game of the week, everybody is watching, and no other games are going on.
A: It'll be fun. Like you said, we're going to be the only team playing. Let's play well, and let's keep trying to prove ourselves who we are.
Q: Given that it was less than two weeks ago, what do you take form that game? I'm guessing you still have to watch tape again and everything else. Does it feel like the game just happened against Washington and now you see them again?
A: Not really. In the schedule it does, but playing last game, it doesn't. Honestly, we just have to see the plays that they had success with and learn how to defend them better. Like I said, they know what we're going to do, and we know what they are going to do. It's about the players going out and making plays and playing great football.
Q: Does this feel like the biggest game of your season?
A: Yeah, because it's the next game. That's honestly how I take every game. I don't try to apply a lot of pressure to anybody. It's about doing what you do in other weeks just a little bit more. Knowing that this is a playoff-potential game. Just feeling that, taking it and understanding what you have to do to play better.
Q: In past years by this point, you guys were certainly still playing games but not games of consequence. Is it kind of cool to know what's on the line Sunday night?
A: I think it is. It'll tell you something about yourself as person and as a team, how you accept the challenge. I think we'll all be ready; we all prepare well and regardless; we'll go out there on Sunday night and play some football.
Q: You said you don't try to put too much on the game that's in front of you because you don't want to put too much pressure. Is there a time and a place where that pressure can be a good thing? That leaning into that emotional component, the idea of how much this game could actually mean to this team could kind of galvanize a lot?
A: When I say too much pressure, it's more of saying don't get too hyped, don't get too overly emotional about it. Thinking it's going to kill you. That you have to be perfect, you don't have to be perfect. You just have to play with better technique. You're going to lose some reps, they're going to win some reps, but it's all about not letting that linger and just keep playing. That's what I mean by too much pressure. Obviously, you're going to feel a little pressure here and there, it's just about playing the game but don't let it linger. Just keep moving forward and keep playing.
Q: Are there ways as a locker room, and like you said there are 53 guys who all approach things a lot differently, you all have different approaches to what you get going. Collectively, can the emotion of the game, have you seen that can actually get guys up and rise to the occasion?
A: If it's channeled the right way. I think that's what I have to say about that. If you challenge your emotions the right way, it'll lead to good things.