EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In the second half of the NFL season, players whose teams win their games on Sunday are often rewarded with an off day on Monday.
Some coaches believe the time is better spent beginning preparations for the next opponent than reviewing the game just played.
Pat Shurmur is not one of those coaches, which is why the Giants worked today, less than 24 hours after their 38-35 defeat of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"This should be the best day of corrections of the season, is what I told them," Shurmur said today. "That's why I don't like Victory Mondays. I just don't believe in them, because you have to settle all debts, you have to clear the slate from the day before. Other than weightlifting and such, this is as important of a day as Wednesday, because some of the things we have to clean up could show up against Philadelphia (on Sunday). And if you don't make these corrections in a real structured way, then I think you set yourself back."
Despite two straight victories, the Giants have plenty of work to do. At 3-7, they continue to occupy the NFC East basement. But with a victory Sunday against the Eagles, they will tie the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles and continue to tighten what is becoming a close division race.
It seems counterintuitive for a team that is four games under .500 with six to play to harbor thoughts of a division title. But as Odell Beckham, Jr. – who said when the Giants were 1-7 that his goal was to win each of the last eight games – said yesterday, "Six games left, it's really only crazy if you do it." And Shurmur isn't about to discourage his players from thinking big thoughts.
"I embrace it, because we're playing this thing just the way you have to play it," Shurmur said. "We own a poor record in the first half, but you keep playing. I keep answering the same questions about it, you keep playing and you keep improving. You never know what happens. You can never tell what's going to happen, and that's why you keep playing and that's why it's important for our locker room not to get ill. If you lose a game and you battle, you've got to find a way to come back and make the corrections, and move on to the next one. You can't let that game create an illness on your team, and I think our guys have listened to that message. I think the leadership in our locker room is good, and we're just going to try to battle this thing all the way to the end because that's what we do. That's what we do as coaches and players, that's why we're in this for the competitive spirit of this with the goal of winning each game, and then we'll let everyone that does the math add it up at the end."
With victories against the San Francisco 49ers and the Bucs in a seven-day span, the Giants are certainly in a better frame of mind than they were prior to their bye.
"It's so crazy how much of a difference (there is), because we've played in so many close games where the win and loss were so close," tackle Nate Solder said. "But when you actually get that win, it's the confidence, it's the encouragement that you can do it again, and that you're going to work hard that week to prepare. The more we can keep doing that, it kind of keeps us on the right track."
But the Giants must first make those corrections Shurmur spoke of. And after the game yesterday, many of those must be on defense. Tampa Bay posted some big numbers - 35 points (28 in the second half, including 21 in the fourth quarter), 510 yards, 359 passing yards and 31 first downs.
"Giving them points? That won't continue," cornerback Janoris Jenkins vowed. "We're going to continue to bite down, just create as many turnovers as we can. We understand what's going on, and like coach said, just stay focused on what's at task."
The Buccaneers continued their season-long habit of hurting themselves with self-inflicted wounds. Quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston threw a combined four interceptions, including turnovers on three consecutive possessions.
"A mixed bag," Shurmur said of the defense's day. "The turnovers certainly are important, we really had five when you talk about the stopped quarterback sneak (on a fourth down on the Bucs' first possession). I think in our three wins, we're plus-eight in turnovers, and in our seven losses we're like minus-eight. I pointed that out to the team and it's very important. Those turnovers are key, especially when (Alec Ogletree) turned one into a touchdown. That's excellent. Throughout the game, there was some good play. This team just put up 500 yards the week before, so this team finds a way to move the ball. They fell victim to the turnover again and that affected the outcome, but there are some things within the game that we need to clean up whether it be coverage, pressure, run fits. It's no different than on the offensive side, which there's certain things we need to clean up there, as well."
Seemingly not as much, at least this week. The unit had its best game of the season, producing four touchdowns (three by Saquon Barkley). Eli Manning threw just one incompletion in 18 attempts, and Barkley ran for 142 yards on 27 carries. To Shurmur, it all started with the play of the offensive line, of which he said, "I think the last two games were our best two games for that crew."
"We've been able to establish the run game early and often and that's what we weren't able to do early in the season," Barkley said, "whether it's getting behind the sticks, penalties, getting down on the points, that's when you know we have to throw the ball a little bit more. I would say that's the biggest difference and just the attitude that they just came out with the last two weeks of let's go work and coach challenged them. The game of football is won up front and they have been exceptional. I got to give a lot of credit to those guys."
Solder, the most experienced of the linemen, is pleased with the improvement, but said there's room for plenty more.
"With an offensive line, there's so many details involved," he said. "We continued to grind at that and improve at that. It always helps when we have a lead, and we kind of work from ahead, and we get the run game established. It's always hard when you're in drop back pass protection the entire time. That's always the goal. Hopefully, we can continue to do that, but we got to keep improving. We got a great opponent coming up with the Eagles. We know how hard they are and how tough it was last time we played them. We can't think that we've achieved anything yet. We got to keep working hard and keep improving."
Which is why Shurmur had his players report to work today.
*Defensive end Kerry Wynn is in the NFL concussion protocol. Shurmur reported no other injuries from the game.
A unique perspective of the Giants Week 11 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.