EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coach's Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur.
Q: How was the Shurmur family Christmas?
Shurmur: "It was good. Relaxing. Got a chance to share a couple meals and be around the girls (his wife Jennifer and daughters Allyson, Erica and Claire). It was good."
Q: Is it difficult when you still have a game to play to completely get away from it for a day?
Shurmur: "I think we're all used to it. Certainly, we play games through the Thanksgiving holiday and the Christmas holiday and the New Year holiday. To get away for a couple hours changes the schedule a little bit, but there's still plenty of time during the week here to get ready to play."
Q: What would it mean for this team to finish the season with a three-game winning streak?
Shurmur: "Well, what it would mean is that we won our last game. I think that's important. Unfortunately, we're one of the 20 teams that won't be competing in the playoffs. But for our fans and for our team, to go out and put a winning performance on the field will be very important."
Q: You just played an exciting, emotional game involving two teams that aren't going to be in the playoffs. Does it add any juice for your players, for your team, to play in a game at the end of the season with playoff implications (Philadelphia will clinch the NFC East title with a victory)?
Shurmur: "For us, the one thing we do know is that this is our last game this season. We need to do everything in our power to let it all go and do everything we can to win the game. I think that's the important piece for us. How it plays out for our opponent, that's for them to consider. I think the important thing for us is to do what we can to put a winning a performance on the field."
Q: You have had your highest point totals of the season the last two weeks with two different quarterbacks. Each time, Saquon had a big game. Is that an indication that he is the catalyst of the offense right now?
Shurmur: "I don't know. You might be reading into that. It's very important that you run the ball and throw the ball and be able to do it in every game. I think Saquon has displayed that he's probably feeling as good as he has felt all season in the last couple of weeks, and it has showed up for him on the field."
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Q: In a game like you had last Sunday, when you had 522 yards, (Daniel) Jones is throwing the ball for a lot of yards and Saquon is having a big game, as a play-caller, are you more inclined to try different things or do you prefer to stick with what's working because you're producing so much?
Shurmur: "Throughout the game, you're doing different things to keep the defense off balance. Unlike a couple of games previous, we were converting on third down and we were scoring in the red zone, so you have an opportunity to get to some of the things that you wouldn't get to if you're not converting on third down. That's really more of the message. There's a set group of plays that we go into the game with, and then we adjust as we go."
Q: A lot has been made of Daniel's turnovers, but he's had four 300-yard games, and in those games, he has 15 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Is that an indication he can be a high-volume producer and avoid those mistakes?
Shurmur: "I think that's fair. The turnovers, he's thrown 11 interceptions and in a couple of games, he had multiple interceptions. Certainly, he has to take care of the football. But every time there's a turnover, there are reasons for it, some of which were not his fault. Ultimately, he's responsible because he's the one with the ball in his hands. But I think Daniel can be a very productive quarterback. Certainly, part of producing and helping your team win is to eliminate the mistakes that affect that."
Q: When did Deone Bucannon learn he would start in Washington, and how did he do filling in for (Alec) Ogletree?
Shurmur: "He's really been an off-and-on starter all year. He's the starter in some of our packages. But when Tree couldn't make it, we found that out during warmups, unfortunately. So then, Bucannon had a bigger role."
Q: DeAndre Baker was the subject of a lot of criticism early (in the season). The last couple of games, he's knocked away a couple of passes against Miami, he had 10 tackles the other day. Is he, for lack of a better term, starting to get it? Is he coming on a little bit at the end of the year?
Shurmur: "I think he's playing better. That comes with experience. Obviously, when you're starting rookies in the secondary, there are some growing pains there, for the player and the team. I think as he's becoming more consistent in his play, it's showing up and people are recognizing that. I still feel like he has a long way to go, but he's had many more good plays and fewer bad plays."
Q: One guy who doesn't get a lot of attention is Cody Core. He leads the team in special teams tackles for a team that's top 10 in both punt and kickoff coverage. He also seems to have a knack for downing the ball on punts. Has he been kind of an unsung producer for you guys?
Shurmur: "He's not unsung in our view. Part of why we brought him here was because he's had an impact his whole career on special teams, and I think this year is no different."
Q: Is that ability to down the punt on the one or two-yard line, is that a special skill for a player?
Shurmur: "Everything that happens on the field, the players have to have a knack for, certainly. Part of it is his effort to get down there, and then his judgement and spatial awareness of knowing where he's at and doing the right thing with the ball."
Q: Are there unique challenges to playing a team twice in four games?
Shurmur: "No, I think everybody is faced with this. Obviously, the game plan… The teams are probably as similar as they're going to be, as opposed to playing a team early in the year and late in the year. Teams tend to change. But even in the last couple of weeks, you have injuries, you get players back. In this game, we're going to have Dan Jones playing quarterback instead of Eli (Manning). So, there are changes, even within a month."
Q: The Eagles are third in the league in run defense. As you watch them on tape again this week, why are they so effective?
Shurmur: "Well, they have excellent players. They're outstanding in really all three levels of their defense. They have a defensive line that you need to account for. They're very disruptive. Their linebackers do a good job with their run fits, along with their safeties that play low at linebacker-level quite a bit. So, that's why. They're talented."
Q: They've had a lot of injuries at wide receiver and (running back Jordan) Howard was out for a while. Their top three receivers are tight ends and backs. Does that change the defensive mindset at all because their wide receivers aren't as involved as they've been?
Shurmur: "No. That's what we faced when we played them the first time. I think they have a very balanced offense. They obviously run the passing game through the inside receivers and the running backs. It's kind of a controlled passing game. They're trying to utilize the players that they have. They still throw it to their wideouts quite a bit. It's not like you don't cover them. They can be very effective when they do. I think like most offenses, it starts… they call a lot of run plays, like we do. They count on the quarterback (Carson Wentz) to make good decisions and be efficient with the ball. Then when big plays show up, try to take advantage of it."
Q: Greg Ward, a former college quarterback, he has 22 catches over the last five games. Does he look now like a good wide receiver?
Shurmur: "He does. There are a lot of former quarterbacks playing in the league, whether they played quarterback in high school or college. Having that skillset is good. But he's a wideout, he's had an effect and he's been productive for them."
Q: They're second in the league in third down conversions and time of possession. They like to keep the offense on the field and wear you down. It's important in every game, but does getting them off the field on third down become particularly vital this week?
Shurmur: "It's important every week. I think that's fair to say. We have to execute better than them and we have to get off the field."
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