EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Joe Judge is pleased but not close to being satisfied.
Yesterday, the Giants enjoyed one of the signature victories of the NFL season, a 17-12 triumph against a Seattle Seahawks team that entered the game with an NFC West best 8-3 record and the league's third-highest point total. The Giants played without quarterback Daniel Jones, who was inactive because of the hamstring injury he suffered last week in Cincinnati.
But they punished the home team in Lumen Field with a rushing attack that generated 190 yards, including a career-high 135 by Wayne Gallman, and a defense that attacked Russell Wilson with ferocity throughout the game. The first-place Giants earned their fourth consecutive victory and improved to 5-7, an impressive achievement for a team that began the season 0-5 and 1-7.
So, is this about where Judge expected the Giants to be with four games to play?
"I think each team's expectations and progress are unique," Judge said this morning on a Zoom call from Seattle, where the Giants remained overnight to reduce the effects of the long trip on the week ahead. "I didn't really have a definite timetable in terms of where they needed to be at certain points.
"There are still things we have to have a lot of improvement on and consistency going forward. We're far from where we need to be or want to be as a team. There's a lot of work ahead of us. But I was pleased with the constant progress I saw. There were times earlier in the season that you questioned are we coaching it well enough to make sure that they can get this the right way and execute it on the grass? We go back and we find different ways of coaching things, or maybe different ways of hitting individual players and making sure that we get on the same page with it. But ultimately, I like the progress they've made right here. I wouldn't say they're ahead or behind any kind of a schedule. I just know that they come to work every day and improve, and that's carried over on a weekly basis."
*Jones wanted to play yesterday, but Judge decided it was not worth the risk to put his quarterback on the field with the hamstring injury.
"Ultimately, I just had to protect him from himself," Judge said following the game. "I just made the decision to hold him out in terms of I didn't want to put him in a position where I wasn't 100% certain."
Is he confident Jones "could" play against Arizona Sunday in MetLife Stadium?
"We're going to give him every opportunity to go on the practice field this week and show that he can defend himself on the field properly," Judge said. "If that's the case, then we obviously want him to play. But we're going to make sure we do the right thing by him. Look, I had to make the decision this week to go ahead and hold him out. He was a little disappointed because he's a competitive guy. But we have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to get on the field. We'll see how he looks in there, and we'll make the best decision for him going forward."
The ability of Jones to defend himself includes both avoiding hits and having the ability to absorb them.
"(We're) really tying more into the mobility of it," Judge said. "When there's pressure in the pocket, can he sidestep, can he step up? If he has to leave the pocket and scramble, if there's a gap open for him to go ahead and tuck that ball and run to get a first down, are these things we're okay with him doing and we're confident that he's going to go out there and do it without getting hurt worse? We talk about defending himself, I want to make sure that when his natural instincts kick in as a player, that he's not limited somehow physically or someone has an advantage over him on the field. That's just not fair for us to do.
"These are great athletes on the field, they're playing very aggressive, and he's at the toughest position in terms of holding the ball every play and everybody trying to take your head off. He has to be able to have some kind of mobility. Just sidestep the hit, step up in the pocket, escape pressure and throw the ball away. I have to make sure we do the right thing by him of making sure we don't put him out there on the field where he can't do that, he's just a sitting duck."
*Judge was asked what the defense did in "stopping Russell Wilson."
"I don't know if you completely stop Russell Wilson," he answered. It was a valid point considering Wilson completed 27 of 43 passes for 263 yards, including a fourth-quarter touchdown that put the Seahawks within striking distance.
But the Giants' defense besieged Wilson all day, sacking him five times, delivering 10 hits and collapsing his pocket on virtually every dropback. How did they do it?
"I think our guys did a good job playing with good fundamentals," Judge said. "I think all the good plays ultimately come down to good fundamentals. You talk about hands, eyes and feet. We did a good job of really stressing that this week. We do every week, but our guys did a great job of really carrying it over to the game. You talk about playing with your hands, disengaging off of blocks that helps us get some pressure on him at different times, it helped with the pass rush, it helped us scrape off and get to the runs. You talk about eyes and feet, one thing that showed up on the tape was we had really good depth in our coverage, both on the deep coverage and the underneath coverage. It really allowed us to play with good eyes and zone vision, put our feet in the ground, break on it, get to the ball. We had multiple hats to the ball on almost every play. The guys broke with good angles, we tackled well in space. To me, it all ties into fundamentals. The scheme is the scheme. We can do different things and try to create advantages for our guys. Ultimately, it comes down to fundamentals and players making plays, and they definitely did that yesterday."
*Linebacker Blake Martinez left the game late in the fourth quarter with a lower back injury. Questioned about other injuries, Judge characteristically avoided specifics.
"It doesn't look like there is necessarily anything serious," he said. "But we want to give them a day to kind of go ahead and see where they're at. A big testament will be when we come off this flight (from Seattle) going back to see if any of the inflammation really increases with these guys on the flight back. Wednesday practice-wise right now, the plan is to have a walkthrough day to let a lot of these guys calm down their bodies, get a lot of mental work. We'll see if we tie any live periods in there in terms of getting some tempo on the grass. But right now, we're focusing on a walkthrough to get a jumpstart on the Cardinals coming forward."