EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: You can clinch a playoff berth Saturday with a win and losses by two of these three teams: Washington, Detroit or Seattle. Are you discussing that with the team?
Daboll: "No. Just getting ready to play Minnesota."
Q: That's all? You don't want to mention the playoffs?
Daboll: "Same approach (as every other week)."
Q: Is there at least some satisfaction in knowing you control your own destiny as you enter the final three weeks?
Daboll: "Again, I think you know us. We just take it one week at a time."
Q: You're playing an opponent that just had the biggest comeback in NFL history (a 33-point halftime deficit). As you're watching the tape, is there any part of you that becomes a football fan and says, "This is an amazing game?"
Daboll: "That was more when I was sitting in the hotel room the night before the Washington game, and I was just relaxing a bit, watching the game. But when you're watching it on tape, you're just trying to come up with solutions – why things happen or why they didn't happen and what you need to do for your team."
Q: The last team to win after trailing by at least 24 points was Washington in 2015 against Tampa Bay. Washington's quarterback was (current Vikings quarterback) Kirk Cousins.
Daboll: "There you go."
Q: You play Indianapolis after Minnesota. When your next two opponents are on the same tape, do you take notes on both teams? Or do you only focus on the Vikings?
Q: This is a short week with a fairly long trip. Will this be a week of walkthroughs instead of full-scale practices?
Daboll: "We'll mix in some walkthroughs with some tempo things. That was a meeting that we had at 1:30 in the morning on the train ride home after we won the Washington game - sitting down with the training staff, the sports science people and coming up with what we think is best for the players to make sure that they get physically recovered to play this game."
View photos of head coach Brian Daboll's time with the New York Giants.
Q: Saquon Barkley and Dexter Lawrence were selected to the Pro Bowl. Your thoughts?
Daboll: "Two of our captains. (They) have done a lot to help us win. I think that's really the most important thing. You're always happy for the individual for getting awards, but I think they'd be the first to admit, too, that those are team awards."
Q: You allowed no sacks the other night in Washington for the first time this season. Two weeks previously, the same opponent had four sacks and put much more pressure on (quarterback) Daniel (Jones). Did you do something different strategically?
Daboll: "I think we're conscious of that. (Offensive coordinator Mike) Kafka called a really good game. I think one, the players executed. So, that's the most important thing. But I think Mike did a really good job of designing the game plan and coming up with a strategy of how we need to play the game that week."
Q: You've had six games this year in which you didn't commit a turnover – seven with no offensive turnovers. Your 13 giveaways are tied with Philly for lowest in the league. I know all coaches focus on turnovers, but your players seem to get the message regarding the importance of taking care of the ball.
Daboll: "It's one of the most important things on offense. It helps you maintain possession. Taking care of the ball is a team thing. I know they're doing it on offense or the kicking game, but it's really a team stat, if you will. It helps the entire team when you can take care of the ball."
Q: Someone mentioned the other day that you have the fewest pass completions of 20 yards. When you don't get those chunk plays, does it reduce your margin of error? I would assume it makes taking care of the ball even more important.
Daboll: "No question. Chunk plays really help because you're skipping some of those third downs, which are tough situations for an offense – for any offense – to execute against a defense. So, it's something that we work on. I think Daniel, again, he's throwing the ball where he needs to throw it. But when you don't have them (chunk plays), that's why we had an 18-play drive against Washington. Usually, you have some longer drives. And that all comes down to execution."
Q: You've scored at least 13 points in every game, which the Giants haven't done since 2005. You scored 20 points four times. You're usually in that area from the teens to the low 20s. Do you feel think if the defense keeps doing what it's doing – holding the opponent to about 20 points – you're going to be in every game?
Daboll: "I think we've been in most games this year. Your goal is to always score more points and to always stop them from scoring points. So, that's what we try to do each game. But again, every game takes on a life of its own of how you need to call it. You structure, put a plan together and make adjustments throughout the game. Just do whatever you need to do to win a game. That's what you're charged with as a coach."
Q: I've asked you several times this year about Darius Slayton and how he stayed focused when he didn't play early in the year. Richie James had a similar experience. He lost two fumbles on punt returns in Seattle, during a period when he caught one pass for two yards in three games. Since then, he has 22 catches and scored three touchdowns, and he leads the wideouts with 42 catches. Do you see similarities in how they responded from an adverse stretch there?
Daboll: "Yeah, I think that's one of the reasons why we signed Richie and having the guys on our team that we have on our team: they have good mental toughness and resiliency. It's not always going to be perfect for the team, for an individual. And you have to be able to stay consistent and push through the tough times. And we have a bunch of guys that I think do that, and Richie's one of them."
Q: (Outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux) got (Defensive) Player of the Week, and you've mentioned how he's growing every day. The other day, Dexter said, "When I saw him score, I said, 'This is going to be a long train ride home.'" Kayvon seems to have an outsized personality. Do you see that part of him growing, too?
Daboll: "I think that's the reason why we drafted him. One, he was a talented individual that could rush the passer. But he played with good effort. He loves the game. He's a very good teammate. I think when you come in as a rookie, you kind of just lay low. And you have to earn, I'd say, the team's and the veterans' respect. But he's got a contagious personality, and I encourage those guys to show it – be themselves. And I think each week, whether it's his technique, his fundamentals, he keeps working and improving. But he's always been an upbeat, high-energy type of guy. And that's one of the things we really like about him."
Q: He's another guy – he was getting asked every week: "How come you don't have more sacks?" It never seemed to bother him.
Daboll: "It's mental toughness. Everything is not going to be perfect, so you just trust the process, trust your preparation, keep getting better, have a positive attitude. And when you have a bunch of guys that believe in those things, and each week they do it – whether it's through tough times or whether you win a game – I think the consistent approach is the most important approach."
Q: The Vikings seem similar to the Giants in some respects. They have a first-year coach, who was an offensive coordinator (Kevin O'Connell). He changed the culture in the building. He improved the performance of a quarterback he inherited (Kirk Cousins). They've exceeded outside expectations by already clinching the NFC North. Do you admire the job that Kevin has done over there in his first year?
Daboll: "I think they've done a great job with establishing how they want to play. Obviously, I'm not in the building, so I can't speak on the culture. They play hard. They play smart football. They execute when it matters most, and that's why they've won as many games as they've won (11). And a lot of them are close games. That's a testament to, really, the whole organization from top to bottom."
Q: I read somewhere that he said he was more focused on what went wrong when they fell behind in the first half of the Colts game than what went right when they came back and won. My first thought was, "I know a head coach who would've done the same thing."
Daboll: "I think a lot of coaches would have. Just going back, I've been very fortunate to be coaching and part of some big games and fortunate to win them. But the ones that stick in my mind are the ones that didn't go the way that you wanted them to go. (And you think), 'Man, if we could only have done this and this, maybe we would've had more of a chance.' I think that's just the nature of a lot of coaches."
Q: Cousins is in the top six in the league in completions, yards and touchdown passes. (Running back) Dalvin Cook is sixth in rushing. Their best receiver (Justin Jefferson) leads the league in yards and catches.
Daboll: "They've got unbelievable skill players and a quarterback who can get it to them."
Q: What has (tight end T.J.) Hockenson done for them since he arrived (in a trade)?
Daboll: "Another really good skill player. Really, they can put him in many different spots, too. He's a very good tight end in this league. They have a very talented skill group."
Q: They are 32nd in the league in defense, but they have many accomplished players: (linebackers Eric) Kendricks and (Jordan) Hicks, the two Smiths (safety Harrison Smith and outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith), (outside linebacker Danielle) Hunter, (cornerback Patrick) Peterson. Harrison Smith made an interception and scored a touchdown against the Giants seven years ago, and he's still there.
Daboll: "Yeah, a lot of veterans that play well together. This is a good football team. That's why they have as many wins as they have."
Q: And lastly, you've had issues the last two games covering kickoffs. Now, you're facing the leading kickoff returner (Kene Nwangwu) in the league. I think he has the only kickoff return touchdown in the league this season. Is that something to be very mindful about this week?
Daboll: "Absolutely – every week. Certainly, an area that we're working hard to improve. And we're going to need to be at our best this week."
View rare photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings