Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Remarks: I'll try to update you first on some of the injuries of note. Odell (Beckham) came in today, felt a lot better than he did Friday and Saturday. He received some treatments over the weekend, so he feels better and we'll just see where that takes us. It's too early to tell. Rhett Ellison, as you know, had an ankle sprain during the game, feels better, we'll just see how the week progresses for him. Then Curtis Riley had a wrist sprain that they're getting checked out. I don't have any details on that at this point. Beyond that we've just got a little bit of game wear and tear. Not much to add after last night, it's fun to win a game – fun to win a game in that fashion. It's very rare you ever get to 40 to nothing on a team, that's a very unique experience, it's hard to do, and I credit our players for getting us to that point. They did an outstanding job of playing hard. Things sort of bounced our way, but we made enough plays along the way to take advantage of some of the things that we had to. As I say every Monday, we're back in the moment, we're getting ready to play Tennessee, and we're finishing up the corrections from yesterday. Monday's, in my mind, are more important than Wednesday. You have to clean up things. That's why it would be extremely rare they get a 'Victory Monday' because I think this is an important day to fix the things that may show up as we finish the season. With that, I'll try to answer your questions.
*Q: What do you value about Alec Ogletree, both as a leader and as a player? *
A: You sort of answered it in your question. He's a leader because he has courage and he does the right thing at the right time for the right reasons, doesn't care about the consequence, but in order to be a leader you have to be really good at what you do. He's had a chance to get turnovers, I think he played one of his better games. Again, he's played well, he's playing better and better and better, I guess I could say. He's played well throughout the season, but he's playing better and better, and that's a credit to him.
*Q: Are you giving him an offensive package? He has five receptions. *
A: Yeah, we joked about that. Sure, I'd love for him to play offense. (Laughter)
Q: Was it just kind of a process for him to get used to this defense and the system?
A: No, I think he's played well throughout. It's easy as you look at a play, and a player has high expectations, to maybe look at a play or two that doesn't go well and say he's not playing the way he should, but Alec has played steady throughout the season and played very well. He's just made more impact plays probably in the past few games, but his presence has been felt throughout the season.
Q: Eli (Manning) said yesterday he thinks the offense is starting to run through Saquon (Barkley) more and more. Obviously the success you've had since the bye, was there a tipping point where you saw something and thought that was the direction that would yield the best results?
A: I think it's all connected. I'm an old offensive lineman, and I understand the importance of blocking. I can remember when Lorenzo White and Andre Rison and Bobby McAllister were getting praise for doing what they do, the five of us (linemen) sat in the corner, drank one more beer, and were just happy about the fact that we were winning games. It starts up front, and I think our guys are doing a better job blocking, which helps the run game. It's much easier as a play caller also to call runs when you're gaining yards, and when you hand the ball to a runner that can score touchdowns. I thought his touchdown run, I've never seen him run that fast, even in college. I think there's data to tell us that was pretty fast. And everything plays off itself – it helps the play action, it helps the quarterback, his feet are clean because they think it's a run, so it all plays off itself. If we're playing right, then we need to be able to run the ball.
Q: What did you see when you looked at your wide receivers, the way they've contributed as blockers?
A: There's some terrific blocks. I thought Sterling Shepard, he had some terrific blocks. The one long run, he kind of slid back and blocked 36, and that was the key block that sprung Saquon, and then on Saquon's next run, he flipped around and saw 24 and had a good block that helped spring him even further. That's his nature, he's gritty, he's tough, he understands the importance of being a good blocker and he found his way in the end zone as well. Two Shep's and a Bennie scored for us, but the group themselves, I thought they did a good job.
*Q: Size-wise, you don't have the biggest receivers out there. *
A: I think they're typical of what receivers look like. There's some certainly that are bigger and some are smaller, but I've never thought that we've had a small group of wide outs.
*Q: This offense, the way you're playing now, do you think it bucks a trend in the league, and if so, are you ok with that? *
A: I really don't care about trends in the league. I think we as coaches have to do what's best for our team based on the players that we have, but from the beginning of time, a team that can run the football has a better chance to play good team offense. I really believe this, and we just played two really outstanding defenses. We saw what the Bears did last night against the Rams certainly, and we were able to score against them, and I really thought the Redskins defense is a top-tier defense in the league. But defenses are too good if you just start the game dropping back and throwing them. I think you've got to be able to run the ball throughout, and it helps not just for your offense but for your whole team. I don't know if that's bucking a trend, but I think that we as coaches all know that.
*Q: You drafted Saquon where you did and have said many times why you valued that pick at that position. Do you think no matter who your quarterback would be, that if you draft a Saquon number two and he's the kind of player he is, that it makes sense to tailor a lot around this guy as opposed to whoever the quarterback is? *
A: It all goes hand in hand. You just can't put Joe Schmo in at quarterback and think you're going to win games. You've got to have a guy that can play the position. But the best friend of a quarterback is really the running back, because he can take some pressure off of him, but the running back can't do it unless you block for him, so it's all connected. That's what we're seeing. I think from an offensive standpoint we're seeing a much better connection, that's the way I would phrase it, since the bye – blocking, running, throwing, scoring points. I think in the last five weeks we've scored over 30 points a game, which in the first eight would have been tough to say, so it all goes hand in hand.
*Q: What did you think of (Evan) Engram bouncing back coming off an injury? *
A: Yeah, bouncing back from injury, I thought he did a terrific job. He had some explosive gains, he did a good job in the run game as well, got a couple knockdowns. It was good to see him have success. I'm rooting for him because I think he really works hard at being a good player. The guys that really work hard at it – right is right, you've got to go out and do it – but the guys that really work hard at it, I'm pulling for to make sure that they do well.
Q: Isn't that second part especially important for him? If he's putting some guys on the ground in the run game, that can enable the play caller to have him on the field?
A: Sure, more situations, absolutely. I think that's, really unless you're the quarterback, sometimes when you run reverse, it is what he has to do. Unless you're the quarterback, everybody has to block for the runner. Everybody does, so tight ends certainly – it's in everybody's job description, and especially tight ends.
Q: You said there was data on Saquon's fast run?
A: No, I'm just looking at it, but I know that they take data. There's people that look at that kind of stuff, but when I was watching the run and then saw it again on the tape on the train ride home, just my naked eye and it looked like he was running pretty fast.
It was the fastest running back touchdown this year. 21.91 miles per hour.
A: Somebody told me that. It all goes hand in hand. Everything's connected.
*Q: What was it that you guys did so well up front defensively when you looked at it? *
A: Yeah, I thought we did a good job in the run fits, which was important so you didn't allow Adrian (Peterson) to go that way fast. The one thing about Adrian, if he hits it, he can do what Saquon did on his run, so we were able to make him kind of have to move his feet side to side, which then negates all his skill and ability, so the run fits were very good. Then I thought we tackled better. I think we had a couple that kind of spit out, one comes to mind where the back backed up, or it spit out and Jackrabbit did a good job of a one-on-one tackle that could have been a big run if he missed it. Really in the run game, it comes down to run fits and tackling, and I think we did those two things better than we did at times in the last couple of games.
LB Alec Ogletree
Q: Are you taking credit for all these interceptions you've been racking up as of late?
A: No, it's not me. It's definitely the good Lord just blessing me, for sure – showing favoritism.
Q: Did someone tell you to hide when you hid behind the lineman on your interception?
A: The good Lord blessed me with good feet, and some blessed hands. I was able to make the catch. Just got to keep doing it.
Q: Your coverage skills seemed to have gotten better since training camp.
A: I know what I can do. Definitely haven't played the best early on in the season, but you just have to keep pushing, and keep staying focused. Just working on your craft, and getting better every day.
Q: How important is it to see your hard work pay off on the field?
A: It feels good. Just as a team, as a whole, it means we're putting in a lot of work this offseason, and during the season as well. Still doing it. Enough for us to go out there on Sunday and make those plays, and win those games, it definitely feels good, definitely well worth it.
Q: Did you have that tight end conversation yet?
A: Yeah, it's been in the conversation. Definitely has been in the works. Coach said he's thinking about doing it. So, we're going to see what we can do.
Q: How much different does it feel as a defense when you get that first turnover in a game?
A: It brings energy to the team, and just to the defense. It kind of sets the tone for the day, or what we want to do on defense. When you create turnovers, it gives the offense extra possessions and limits our time on the field, which makes us feel a lot better. When our offense is clicking on all cylinders, scoring, you want to do that as many times as you can. Also, it doesn't hurt to score on defense as well.
Q: How many plays do you want on offense?
A: I just want one play, that's all. Just one play.
Q: Does it have to be thrown to you?
A: I mean, I'm not going to block! (laughter) I don't want to carry the ball. Too much contact. Split out by myself.
Q: Are the other tight ends okay with this?
A: I don't know. I'll talk to them. We'll see, I'm sure they'll be alright. If not, I'll stay on my side of the ball.
Q: Have you ever had five interceptions in a season dating back to high school and college?
A: In a season, I've had maybe like three. In college, I had one interception. In high school, I think I may had three or four.
Q: What do you attribute it to? Just opportunities coming your way?
A: The good Lord is showing favoritism towards me. I just continue to work, and just capitalize on the opportunities that come to me. When the ball is in the air, I always think I can catch it. You just have to go make those plays.
Q: How much has the mood changed since the bye week? Is there a different feeling about this team now?
A: When you win, it definitely makes things a lot easier. For us, a lot of people just kind of forgot about us, saying we're the same team, this, that and the other. Guys in the locker room just kept working. You see we started to put it together, and learn how to win those games, and finish. We're playing some good ball right now. We just got to continue to do that the rest of the season.
Q: When's the last time you played on offense?
A: College, and I had to block (laughter).
Q: How'd you do?
A: I whiffed! (laughter) I had to do a crack block. It may have been Mississippi. I can't remember which team it was. I had to come down and crack block on a toss sweep, and I missed.
Q: Not an easy assignment on offense.
A: No, it's not. I was trying to catch it, instead of blocking.
Q: Are you as elusive as (RB Saquon) Barkley?
A: I like to say I am. I wouldn't say I'm the type to be jumping over people and stuff, but I can make a couple people miss.
Q: Who would win the race between you two? (Barkley)
A: He would (laughter), no question. I'm not a sprinter. I wouldn't be in the dust. I'd be close to him, but not like he would. He definitely would beat me.
Q: How much more fun is it to come in here on a Monday after a win?
A: It's always fun when you win. It makes things a lot easier for you. We just got to continue to work. We got a lot in front of us. It's been a long year. For us to work hard all off season and during the season, and to finally start putting the wins together, it feels good. We just got to continue to do that.
Q: Does the possibility of making the playoffs resonate with you?
A: Anything is possible, but our focus is going to be on Tennessee this week. We can't worry about the playoffs. I've been in those situations where you're coming down to the last few games of the season, and if you don't win out, you won't give yourself a shot. In order for us to have a shot, we have to win out. Like I said, our focus is going to be on Tennessee this week.
WR Sterling Shepard
Q: Talking about the Heisman Trophy.
A: Well, that's the first time Alabama's had a quarterback in there, right? Usually they got a running back.
Q: Can you talk about how this team's coming together in your mind?
A: After the break or the bye, you've just seen this team make a complete turnaround. Guys have been playing for each other and that's all you can ask for, especially the way the season went the first half. Like I said, it's turned around for us and we just got to keep it going.
Q: Eli (Manning) said last night that the offense kind of goes through Saquon (Barkley) now. As a wide receiver, you're okay with that?
A: Yeah, because it's ultimately just going to open up the pass. You've just got to be patient as a receiver and we enjoy blocking for him and get these big runs. It's going to open up the pass, like I said, in the long run. Everybody will have a turn.
Q: Speaking of blocking for him, you're getting some praise the last two days for your blocks on those big runs. What's it like – we're always talking about touchdowns and big catches and big plays for a receiver to finally get noticed for blocking?
A: I actually got a game ball for blocking. They put the stats up there and I was like, okay, two receptions for 17 yards, but some of the downfield blocking was great. It sprung some big runs for Saquon, but I mean that's what we take pride in in the wide receiving room is blocking, which a lot of receivers you see don't really like to do that. Coach Tyke (Tolbert), he's implanted that in us since he's gotten here. That's what we love doing.
Q: Does it add to your appreciation for Saquon because in your past, not to disrespect the guys you had running the ball here in the past, but you may have hit that block and that's a 15-yard run, maybe that guy gets caught. The fact that he's able to turn the jets on and go and take it to the house brings that recognition for how important that block was that you threw. Do you feel that together rather than just one guy out doing his own thing?
A: Yeah. When he gets to that second level, it's pretty much over with. There is an appreciation for that. I feel like even if you get a big gain out of that, it doesn't have to be a touchdown, I'd still be happy, everybody would be happy with the block, but when you got a guy like Saquon that can go 60, we appreciate guys like that.
Q: Can you mutter the word at all, playoffs?
A: Yeah. We still have a chance of some stuff – what?
Q: No you do have a chance.
A: Yeah, we have a chance so guys are still fighting around here like we do and we got to continue that.
Q: You start looking at the numbers, though, in that regard? Like where the other teams are, what you might need? How do you do that?
A: I don't even go deep into that. I know that we have a chance and all we can do is take care of one game at a time and so that's what everybody's mindset is, preparing for this next team and a pretty good team coming up.
Q: You saw how last year when you were in and out of the lineup and Odell (Beckham Jr.) was out of the lineup that the passing attack really struggled. Yesterday, for you, had a touchdown, the other Shep (Russell) had a touchdown. Can you see how different it is compared to last year when he was out?
A: It's a lot different in a lot of ways, though. When you have a back like Saquon, they really have to pay attention to the run, so it ultimately leaves us open and it was great to see my guys get in the end zone.
Q: Is there a different type of confidence that comes from having a player like Saquon or a running back like Saquon in what you're able to do early in the game on the ground?
A: I just know that you give him a couple of touches, he's going to make something big happen out of those couple of touches, so he's a player that's special. You got to give him the ball and he can make magic happen.
Q: You give Odell any grief about the biggest scoring game of the year and he wasn't even around?
A: No, he said he was watching, he was locked in, he was happy for us, so no I didn't give him too much mess about it.
Q: He wouldn't laugh at that.
A: No, he probably wouldn't.
Q: Has he ever gotten a game ball for blocking?
A: I don't know. That's a question you got to ask him. I haven't been around him since he's been in the league, but he might have.
Q: First one for you though?
A: First one for me, yeah. First time I've ever seen it. It was good.
Q: Does that make it standout a little bit among them? I'm sure you've gotten game balls in the past. Does that make it standout a little bit?
A: Yeah, because they write your stats on it and everything so that would be a special ball for me, I guess.
Q: Two catches –
A: Two catches 17 yards.
Q: And a touchdown.
Q: Does it say blocks?
A: Yeah, it says the block – downfield blocking, I guess.
Q: Did you get a game ball in college for blocking at all?
A: No. We were throwing the ball a lot. It wasn't even like that. We had Samaje Perine, so I had a couple of blocks with him and Joe Mixon, but that was all yards receiving. It was lighting up the board.
RB Saquon Barkley
Q: How would you say this team's coming together right now?
A: We're definitely coming together and playing really well as a team, but the reason why we're doing that is because we're playing for each other. That's the message that's been in the locker room and that's been the message from Coach Shurmur, is coming together and playing for one another, and when you're playing for your brother, it makes a lot of things easier.
*Q: Do you have time to think about that word 'playoffs' right now because there is a possibility, even if it's remote? *
A: Not even worried about it. My focus is just to not focus on the outside factors. Just come into work every single day, try to get better, and see what I can do to help my team get better and try to finish the season as strong as we can.
Q: Coach Shurmur said that on the touchdown run, he's never seen you run that fast. You disagree?
A: Technically, that's my fastest mile per hour this year, I think I've got faster than that in college before. I don't know. Probably for him in person, maybe.
Q: Do you know when you're running faster than you normally are?
A: Yeah, you feel it in your body but you only get so many opportunities to do that. Those runs (don't happen) very often in the NFL like (they do) in college, and when your (offensive line) blocks it up perfect like that and your tight ends do a great job on the outside and you get that one-on-one, you've got to do whatever it takes to get to the end zone and in that case, it was trying to use your speed.
*Q: Eli (Manning) said he thinks the offense is starting to really run through you and the results since the bye kind of show that, you guys have won four of the last five (games). What do you think has been the biggest difference from the bye week to now, versus where you guys were at the beginning of the year? *
A: The (offensive line). O-linemen dominated games, especially up front, on both sides of the ball, to be honest. We've been executing in all three phases of the game, and that's what we weren't able to do in the first half, especially on the offensive side of the ball. We weren't executing. I told you this before, Coach (Shurmur) put up a whole film of plays that we missed and plays that we didn't make, and if we make those plays, we have a different record in the first half of the year. But you can't really worry about that anymore, you've got to put that in the past and focus on the remainder of the season and focus on the next game that we have up and continue to get better. I think the biggest thing would be the play by the offensive line, they've been tremendous giving Eli time and making me look way better than I actually am.
*Q: Now that you've eclipsed (1,000 rushing yards) and done it in 13 games, can you chew on that and kind of reflect on what that means? *
A: Yeah, getting 1,000 yards in the NFL is an amazing accomplishment and being the first rookie ever for the Giants to do that is even a bigger one. It's big because even though my name might go in the record book, it's not just myself – it's the offensive line play and the guys in the running back room, from active to practice squad to (injured reserve), all those guys have been a tremendous help for me throughout this year. We got that record as a whole.
Q: How aware are you of where you sit among the rushing leaders in the league?
A: I see it on Twitter. What am I, fourth, third right now? To be up there with the names of those guys, the (Ezekiel Elliott's), the (Todd Gurley's) of the world, the Philip Lindsay's of the world – his story is amazing, he's been killing it this year too and I love watching him play. It's an honor to be up there, but at the end of the day, that doesn't really matter. It only matters how many wins you get and we've got to figure out how to continue to get those wins.
Q: This latest surge – you were high on the list, but you weren't this high until the last month or so. Is winning a rushing title a goal for you?
A: Yeah, I want to be great. I want to go down as one of the best, and that's not just going to happen in one day. You have to work for it, obviously with the help of your teammates, but if I don't get it this year, I'm going to get it at some point. I promise you.
Q: How much more satisfying is it producing the way you are and seeing wins versus early in the season when you were coming out after a great effort and seeing losses?
A: Yeah, that's what it's all about. Coach says, 'teams beat teams – players don't beat teams'. You can go for 400 yards and lose the game. Obviously playing at a high level helps, but getting a win, in general, it just sits different in your stomach, no matter if you played well or you played bad. Obviously, if you played bad, as a competitor you want to do better, but at the end of the day, all that matters is about that win and the team coming together and getting a win. It's just different. When you win, the locker room's different, the train ride, the plane's different. It's an exciting feeling.
Q: You've had five touchdowns of 50 yards or more. When you pass a point at the line of scrimmage, does your brain go to another gear or something, step it up?
A: Sometimes you don't even look at the guy in front of you. The way my brain processes it, I'm doing anything it takes to get to the end zone. Obviously with the help of your wide receivers blocking down the field, I think not enough credit's given to those guys when you have touchdown runs – not only from myself, but just in the league in general, but especially on this team when you see (Sterling Shepard) and Odell (Beckham) and all those guys downfield blocking. But my mindset, the way I process it is, make that guy miss and try to find a way, whatever it takes to get into the end zone. I know I have five this year, but it just doesn't sit well with me, there's a couple that come to mind that I might've left on the field. Could've definitely did a better job of it, but I'll get better.
Q: When are you fastest – first 10 yards, next 30 yards, last part?
A: I would say my acceleration, so probably the first 10 or 15 (yards). I'm a football player, I'm not a track runner, I'm not built like a track runner at all, so I hit top speed a lot quicker but I'm not able to maintain my top speed for as long as a guy like Tyreek Hill. That guy can fly. I can get up to those speeds, but definitely something I will hope to get better at, too, that I can maintain that speed for a much longer period of time. But the good thing about football is it's 100 yards, only 99 yards really, so I think I'm good on that.