EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dabs' Digest, Giants.com's weekly conversation with head coach Brian Daboll:
Q: Last week, you manufactured a bye week by resting most of your starters. How important was that as you prepare for your playoff game this week?
Daboll: "I just think we had to do what was best for the team, and that's the decision that we came up with. The most important thing is how we prepare in practice this week to get ready to play our best on Sunday."
Q: You said all year you treat all games equally, and the game on Sunday is the most important because it is the next one. But the game on Sunday is different because if you don't win, you won't play again until September. How do you treat it as a normal week while conveying it's more than a normal game?
Daboll: "I think we stick to our process. That's what's most important. I think everybody understands the stakes now, the new season that we're in. So, focusing on what's going to happen and the scoreboard and all that stuff, we've never really done that. We just try to go about our business, work hard, play as hard as we can, as smart as we can and just focus on our next play. That's all we're going to do. There will be some energy in the building. There always is this time of year, and the guys have earned the right to play in that."
Q: Everybody knows what's at stake and what time of year it is, but coaches leave no stone unturned. Do you still have to say that and emphasize it as the week goes on?
Daboll: "I say certain things in my meetings throughout the entire year that I think will help us. That'll be no different. But again, everybody knows that we're in the playoffs. Everybody knows that it's, 'Win and you move on. Lose and you go home.' I think that really can't be the focus. I think the focus has to be, 'How do we prepare for this team?' We go out there and practice well, and ultimately (it comes down to) how you execute on Sunday. That's what's going to decide it, how you execute."
Q: You've been a part of 30 postseason games in the NFL. Is there a different feel to them on the sideline? Are they played at a higher speed with greater intensity?
Daboll: "I think for every person it's probably a little different. What you have to maintain is your focus and your execution, your concentration, your teamwork. That's where you have to really channel your energy. But I'm sure certain guys will feel a certain way. I think that's perfectly normal. I want guys to be prepared going into the game. I also want them to be loose and confident. And whatever it is they do before a game, I want them to continue to do. I'm always here as a resource, but it doesn't matter how many games you've been a part of, every year's a new year. And every game's a new game. They're all different. Like I said, I've been part of some where I didn't have a lot of experience, and we won. I've been part of others where I gained a lot of experience, and we lost. And really all it came down to is how we played that day. And that's what we're going to try to do – play our best football."
View photos of head coach Brian Daboll's time with the New York Giants.
Q: You said on Monday that experience is probably overrated. You have 17 players with playoff experience, three who played in the Super Bowl. But your staff has 74 combined postseason experiences. Each of your coordinators have been on Super Bowl winning staffs. Is that helpful this time of year?
Daboll: "I'd say the same thing: We've probably all been part of games where we've had more experience, and we lost some of them – less experience and we've won. Really, what it comes down to is putting together the best plan we can put together, going out there, making good decisions, trying to put the players in the best position and ultimately them executing and playing a good game. I'd say the same. I've been involved in a lot of them. Again, the experience factor, I don't know if it helped us win or lose a game. I had a lot of experience last year (in Buffalo) and didn't win the final game. I just think it's how you play."
Q: You'll probably give a similar answer to this but having played in that stadium just three weeks ago – where they were 8-1 - you know where the locker room is, how loud it gets. Is it helpful to put the players back in an environment that they're familiar with?
Daboll: "I think that's probably a good question for the players. Obviously, familiarity (is helpful). We have a routine when we go on the road. We've just been there. Again, does it help? I don't know. What helps is playing good. That's what helps."
Q: (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) said yesterday that he expects to have some nerves. He has some nerves, like most players, before any game. He's not the type that gets too excited or emotional. How important do you think his temperament is as part of his success? He never gets ruffled about anything.
Daboll: "I would say that goes back to, 'We want players that come in this building to be themselves and to be the best version of themselves.' Daniel doesn't have to try to be someone who he's not. No one has to. Just be you. Do the things that you've done all year long to help prepare you for a game. And go out there and play. There's some guys that are hyped up and very high energy. There are some guys that are very level-headed: calm, cool and collected. And that's a great thing about a team. You let the players be themselves and combine that all together. Everybody has their own personalities, but you're all trying to do the best that you can for the team."
Q: The Giants finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game and per carry. Those are the highest figures here since 2008. You scored a rushing touchdown in 15 consecutive games. Was there a point in the season where you, maybe early, realized "Our best chance to win games is if we run the ball?"
Daboll: "No, because I just come from the school of thought that your best chance to win a game is do what you need to do for that game. Obviously, there's certain strengths that each team has. You never just go away from your strengths. But I also think there's a way to play each game. That's collectively – that's how the offense mixes with the defense, how they both mix with the special teams. And there's different ways to try to accomplish what you want to accomplish. And that's what we try to do."
Q: Graham Gano basically missed one field goal attempt this season. He had one blocked and then the 58-yarder. To have a veteran kicker who has been to a Super Bowl, does that give a coach some peace of mind going into a game like this?
Daboll: "He's done a great job all year. I think his production is obviously documented. He's been a really good player for our team, a good leader. And I'm glad we have him."
Q: This is a little off topic. What do you think of the rule that allows a teammate to push the quarterback from behind on a sneak?
Daboll: "To me, whatever the rules are, the rules are. If it's something that we can use to our advantage – great."
Q: What jumps out to you about the game you played against the Vikings three weeks ago?
Daboll: "Competitive game. Give them credit, they made more plays than we did. Executed at the end of the game, and they deserved the win."
Q: When you played Washington twice in three weeks, you had success in the second game. When you play a team almost back-to-back, do you focus more on building off what you've done well or putting new wrinkles in and cleaning up what you didn't do well?
Daboll: "I think it's really the same. Obviously, you have a familiarity with the players. The players have familiarity with the matchups – who they just blocked, who they covered or who they ran a route against. But each week is the same. You just researched a lot on them. But you use the stuff that you had in previous weeks, maybe, that you didn't run. But you kind of start over in terms of building a game plan. You look at their next few games and look at your games, situations. The only thing you have is familiarity with some of the stuff that they do because you obviously just played them, but also the matchups of each player that got to go against."
Q: They're one of nine teams in history with four players with 60 catches. (Tight end T.J.) Hockenson and (wide receiver Justin) Jefferson had big games against you and they have (running back) Dalvin Cook. Do they present, for a defense, a lot of different issues to contend with?
Daboll: "They present issues because they're all good (especially) with an unbelievable receiver in (Justin) Jefferson, another one in (Adam) Thielen. You've got Hockenson, Cook. Or (tight end Irv) Smith coming back. (Wide receiver K.J.) Osborn has been very productive. It's a very talented skill group, and I think (quarterback Kirk) Cousins does a good job of distributing the ball to him. They're really good."
Q: I've read that teams are keeping two safeties deep to take away the long pass to Jefferson, and Osborn has kind of stepped up as a deep guy. He doesn't get a lot of mention, but he's a big part of their attack.
Daboll: "He's got a good skillset. He can get open. He's productive. It's a challenging group to defend."
Q: How big a loss is (Vikings tackle) Brian O'Neill? He was a Pro Bowler last year.
Daboll "Good player. We've been through it all year with different types of injuries. The people that are out there playing are good football players. I'm sure they have a lot of confidence in the guys that they've got on their team. They're doing a great job."
Q: A guy I neglected to ask you about the first time is (Vikings defensive lineman) Harrison Phillips, who was with you all four years in Buffalo. He's started every game and he seems to be a special person. He sent food to the hospital in Cincinnati for Damar Hamlin's family.
Daboll: "I know him very well. He is an unbelievable person, as a teammate, in the community, as a leader. I have such a tremendous amount of respect for that young man. And he's a very good football player, too. He's very smart. He's instinctive. Stout. He's a great, great person and a great football player. I just have a ton of respect for the guy."
Q: You gained a season-high 445 yards against them three weeks ago. Their defense is not rated highly, but they've got a lot of good players like (linebackers Eric) Kendricks, (Jordan) Hicks, (outside linebacker Danielle) Hunter. I'm sure you're going to tell me that they're a lot better than their stats.
Daboll: "I'm not really too worried about stats. They have a lot of good players. They have a good scheme. And every game's a challenge. So, it's going to come down to execution – who executes better and who plays better in the biggest moments."