Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Statement: I really don't have a lot to add to what I wanted to say last night with regard to the game. I'll just try to give you some injury updates on the significant ones. Saquon Barkley has a high ankle sprain—I don't have anything to add, time frames, anything—I'll just say it's a high ankle sprain and we'll just have to see. Alec Ogletree has got a left hamstring strain. Tae Davis left the game with a concussion, so he's in the protocol. Then, the last injury that kind of popped up that would be somewhat significant, Russell Shepard has a left foot sprain that he's getting evaluated. I don't have much information on him, he's going through the process of final evaluation as to the extent of the injury. Aside from that, I really don't have much to say. It was a great win for us, it just goes to show you that you never know what's going to happen right down to the very end. We did many things not well early in the game, and we found a way in the second half of the game to play well enough to win. Let's just leave it at that. So, I'll try to answer your questions.
Q: How big of a hit is it to lose Saquon if it's for an extended period, which high ankles usually tend to be?
A: Well, we're just gong to have to see, first off. We certainly believe in Wayne Gallman and we certainly believe that he'll be able to step in and do his very best, and we'll just have to see. At some point, we may have to add a running back behind him as we go forward here. But it's like any injury, it's very unfortunate to have Saquon out of the lineup. We all know what he brings to the team, but it's going to fall on all of us to move forward and do what we can to win games.
Q: What are you looking for in a running back? I assume you'll have to add one to the roster.
A: I'm sort of on record as saying it's very important that, number one, they're able to run with the football and gain yardage. I think it's also super important that they're able to understand pass protection and who to block with regard to protecting the quarterback. Then, I think one of the things that's super important is their ability to catch the ball. A lot of times the running back is the outlet and that's the best choice. Even though you try to keep your eyes downfield, sometimes the runner with the ball in his hands with a little bit of space in underneath coverage is where it needs to go. So, they have to really be able to do all three things.
Q: You guys are always making your free agent lists, what you're looking for at every position, but with Saquon out, do you re-evaluate whatever list you've put together?
A: That's a dynamic process. Depending on what happens in the game on Sunday, certainly the (pro personnel) guys are ready to go with their different lists of players and what their role might be.
Q: Is there anything you can put your finger on that was different in the first half than the second half as far as things switching up defensively?
A: I can tell you that the calls weren't much different. I do think sometimes it's just a mindset. They scored on six possessions—they had the ball six times and scored six times—and then they came out in the second half, and we had some backups playing, but they came out in the second half and I thought we were more disruptive, we created an interception—unfortunately, we turned it over right back—but we created an interception, and ultimately they only scored three points. We still gave up big plays, but they only scored three points in the second half. I think we're always talking about situational football and this was a game where defensively, I guess it would be their offense, but defensively they were one for five in the red zone, where we were much better, and I think that's where it comes to. So, even in the midst of playing through the big plays that they made against us when the rubber sort of hits the road and they were in the scoring zone, we did a better job of getting them stopped.
Q: If the defensive calls weren't much different first to second half, what does that say about your defensive group? Do they have to get a feel of the game early, or is it an effort thing, is it a confidence thing?
A: Well, it's a young group, as we know, and it got younger when Tree (Alec Ogletree) went out, and I think Ryan Connelly has done a really nice job—he sort of switched his positions, went from being told the calls to making the calls. It's a young group, so there's a lot to be learned from each time we go on the field. I think a week ago it was the same story—we weren't very good in the first half and then we played much better in the second half. We gave up one scoring drive against Buffalo in the second half. So, what it tells me as a coach is we can do it. We've just got to do it better starting out the game, and I think that's going to be the challenge moving forward. It's just like offensively, we scored on the first drive the first three games, then we have little pockets in there where we're punting the ball and then all of the sudden we find a way like we did yesterday to score again. So, it's about consistency—we always talk about starting strong and finishing fast, and we certainly have to handle the first half better.
Q: From an outside perspective, it seems like Saquon's injury puts more pressure on Daniel to produce as a catalyst to the offense. How do you do that, and will you have to do some things to kind of relieve that pressure, if you view it that way?
A: Well, I don't view it that way. I've already acknowledged the fact that when you lose a player like Saquon, it hurts in some ways, but it creates opportunities for others. That's just the way it is. Daniel's just got to do what he can do. I still think it's important to spread the ball. We're going to need to run the ball more effectively than we did yesterday—we faced a pretty good front. That was a very good front, our guys battled up front, certainly. But we've got to run the ball better, regardless of who's carrying it.
Q: What was Eli's demeanor like on the sideline during the course of that game? Was he more involved than a typical backup would be? Can you walk us through that?
A: He was very involved. He was very involved in a way that I would expect any backup to be. He was there… Listen, we were all there in support of Daniel. Me trying to give him the right plays and the people off to the side trying to give him the right advice. It was actually a really good situation for Daniel. Can you imagine being in your first start and sitting next to a guy that's done it for over 15 years, and done it at a very high level? That had to be very reassuring for Dan.
Q: After seeing how the offense responded to Daniel, do you have any thoughts of maybe you should have done this earlier?
A: No. Nope. Not at all. We found a way to win a game. There were a lot of things we did well, and there are certainly a boatload of mistakes that we have to correct. I make light of it in some ways by saying we're doing Monday things right now, and we're getting those things corrected. But no, I feel like I did what I thought was best. At least in this scenario, it played out well for Daniel. He had a good performance the first week out.
Q: In that regard, how much do you believe a change like this can sort of rejuvenate the group, or sort of give them a jolt? I'm wondering how much you believe in that in general, that one move like that can help the whole?
A: I think certainly there are things that become catalysts for whatever. Early in the game… Lost in some of this was we ended up blocking a (PAT) early in the game. So, you don't know how that affects the last field goal. You never know. A guy that goes in and plays well might give guys confidence. I think everything that we do is connected. There was great excitement on our sideline like there always is. We just found a way to make enough plays to win the game.
Q: You were talking about the running game. Were there times that if Eli were the quarterback, he would have checked out of certain situations, and that's something that Daniel has to learn?
A: No. There weren't any of those situations last night if that's what you're asking. In terms of run-pass checks, we had a couple that I think were executed properly. Daniel did it in a way that Eli would.
Q: Did you not run Daniel in the preseason intentionally so as to not show everybody exactly what he can do?
A: No. No, there was only one call there that was going to become a potential run. Most of the running around were drop back passes where he felt like it was right to scramble.
Q: Obviously, your last offensive drive, everybody is looking at the clock, seeing the way things are going down. Because it was Daniel out there, was it harder to kind of pay attention to the clock? What was your mindset in that situation? You had to get into the end zone but you didn't want to leave too much time for them to come back down. Is that a lot on the quarterback out there, you have to see when to snap the ball, that kind of thing? Is it a growing situation or did it play out the way you wanted?
A: No. Listen, there's a lot made of that now, too. When you need one score to win the game and you're in a two-minute scenario, you're doing everything that you can to win it. The ideal scenario, obviously, is to leave them no time to then go back down and score. I get that. But we got down in there low and we were choosing to throw the ball. There were a couple of incompletions, which stopped the clock. Let's say for instance you convert, and you have another set of downs. Then you still want to have time to do that. Then we didn't have timeouts. It played out well that we scored. Ideally, you have obviously less time for them. We have to stop them on defense, too, now. But the prime objective is to score. With the time that was left on the clock and a fourth down call, in terms of messing with the clock, your hands are sort of tied.
Q: I know Jackrabbit is your top cornerback and one of your top players on defense, but as that game was going on and Mike Evans was doing to him what we all saw he did to him, was there any thought to giving Jackrabbit help? The last pass obviously could have lost the game for you, and throughout the game, it was a struggle for Jackrabbit.
A: Listen, there are a few calls in every game where a safety will lean one side or the other, or we're in a split shell or shell coverage, or there's pressure. Everybody every once in a while gets a little bit of help. That's just the nature of playing football. Listen, they have really good receivers, and they did a good job of getting them the football. Our guys challenged, and there's certainly stuff we can learn from that scenario. We don't want to give up big plays like that. But the thing that we're going to build on is that when they did get close, we were able to stop them. We'll work on that. We'll try to improve it. We're always looking for ways that we can help the players on a rep or two, and we'll continue to do that.
Q: The touchdown to (Sterling) Shepard with the two defenders right there. He's, I think, at the pylon so he's right by the boundary as well. I'm looking at that thinking that's a ridiculous throw. Did that one stand out to you for any reasons?
A: That was an outstanding throw and catch. It's probably a standard route concept, but Shep did a good job. Actually, Shep was interfered with on the way into the end zone. That's what I think the flag was. But Daniel knew it was a clean look. In his mind, he trusted that Sterling was going to be where he was going to be. No, that was an outstanding play on both parts.
TE Evan Engram
Q: Can you just talk a little bit about how different the offense felt yesterday with the new quarterback?
A: I wouldn't really say different. We definitely had the same schemes and the same things we've been running. Just to have some big plays, some big explosive plays, put a lot of our guys in good positions to make plays with the ball in their hands. It just paid off.
Q: What was the difference if everything was the same? Why were you able to execute?
A: Like I said, nothing was really much different. We went out there, we made plays, and we got the win.
Q: What was the plane ride home like?
A: It was definitely a lot better than the first plane ride home. It's really special getting a win, it's a good feeling in the locker room. It was a hard-fought battle and a comeback victory. It was really fun celebrating with the guys, and it felt good to come back home.
Q: How hard is it going to be to replace Saquon? How much of a bummer is that, his injury?
A: Yeah, it's tough. Saquon is obviously a special talent. He brings a lot to our team and our offense. It's unfortunate, he's definitely in our prayers. (We'll) try to get him back as soon as possible.
Q: Can you walk us through Eli's demeanor on the sideline throughout the game? What did you guys notice, did anything in particular stick out as something that you thought was impressive?
A: He was a big soundboard for Daniel. There were a lot of tough situations we got in, some adversity, we fell behind, and (then) through some good things, he made some good throws and good plays, he was that supportive soundboard. Obviously, Eli has been through pretty much everything, and he was a big help for Daniel through the good and bad.
Q: You talked briefly about not having Saquon in the lineup. He's such a focal point of your offense in the passing game and the running game. Can the offense still function and be a high-scoring offense without him? With Wayne Gallman as the only running back on the roster, is he capable of doing any of the stuff that Saquon did?
A: We lost Saquon before the half and we came back. A lot of guys stepped up and made plays and we found a way to win. I think we have a lot of talent, and we have the personnel to be successful and to move forward. We are definitely rallying behind Wayne and are going to push him, and make sure he gets prepared this week, as we all know that he will. We are all going to come in on Sunday with that same mentality that we had going into the second half after losing Saquon.
Q: Obviously Saquon is such a huge part of your offense, and you have a quarterback now who is going into just his second start. As you guys try to alleviate pressure on Daniel, rather than putting more on his shoulders, how do you guys try to hope to do that and make up for Saquon's absence?
A: It's simple, we just have to make plays. We are going to get opportunities. A lot of guys are going to have to step up, like I said, and we just have to get it done. Coach is going to do a good job at game planning, putting Wayne in good spots, and putting other guys in different positions to be successful. At the end of the day, we just have to make plays when they come to us and just continue to build off yesterday.
Q: On the first play of the third quarter when you had the catch and run for a touchdown, is that a tight end's dream to see open field, and to get a block? Have you run any faster on a football field than that?
A: (laughter) I think that might have been the fastest that I have run, definitely with the ball, and probably in my career. It was a play we kind of drew up, we kind of called it coming out of halftime. We knew that we definitely needed a spark. Personally, that's my goal and what I strive for to be for this team, just to be a spark plug. We definitely were in position to make a big play. It was also important everyone did their job protecting Daniel, receivers ran great routes, and Daniel hit me in stride. Slay (Darius Slayton) made a huge block downfield. Just distracting that guy for a little bit gave me a leeway to get down the sideline and get in the end zone.
Q: Do you get a different feel now that you've won a game with this team?
A: Definitely. It's definitely very motivating, but at the same time, we understand that we can be even better. It's definitely a good first step in the right direction. It's important we enjoy it and build off of it, but there were some mistakes and some things that we can fix to put us in an even better spot. It definitely gives us some life and gives us some motivation moving forward, but also, it's important for us to stay hungry, to come in each and every day to find ways to get better and build off of it.
S Antoine Bethea
Q: What was the main difference between the first half and the second half with the defense, what had to change and what did?
A: I think it was the sense of urgency, I think it's crazy that it was the same guys out there but like you said, it was two completely different halves. I think we came out in the second half with a completely different sense of urgency. It was just tighter coverage and guys were doing their job a little bit more.
Q: What did you think of Ryan Connelly at inside linebacker after Ogletree went down?
A: I like Ryan. Since Ryan has come in, he's shown that he is a very intelligent player, good player. Downhill, makes plays, so I think with him being in the rotation since OTA's, I think with him moving to Mike (Linebacker) when Tree went down, I don't think there was really any fall off. I think Ryan stepped in and did a great job for us.
Q: Is there any sense that Jones is giving you a spark but that you have to start playing a full game or it's not going to make a difference?
A: We have to play a full game, you are correct about that. With DJ, we always can't depend on him to come and bring us back from a deficit. In the defensive room, we have to come out and start the game better than what we have been doing. We have to put a whole game together. The past two weeks, our second halves have been good, but the first half hasn't been as such. We have to start putting a full game together.
Q: Did you change up what you were doing in the second half?
A: No, the same thing we were doing in the first half, we were doing in the second half. Like I said, I just think it was tighter coverage in the second half. The pressure was getting home, so it looked different. It was the same calls we had throughout the game, we just executed better in the second half.
Q: What kind of spark did Daniel give the whole team yesterday?
A: He definitely gave us a spark. He came in and did what he was supposed to do, and then also the guys around him helped him out a lot. Evan, Shep, Slay, he came in and made some big plays. DJ came in, did a good job, did what he was supposed to do, gave us a chance to win. At the end, as everybody saw, he was able to run it in. He definitely gave the offense a spark, gave the team a spark. Hopefully we can just build off of that and rally off that energy for these upcoming weeks.
Q: Do you look at that game yesterday and say it was a bit of luck that you were able to win that game?
A: That's football. You can call it luck, but that's football. Guys miss field goals. We had a lot of work to do to get to that point. The offense was able to put points on the board, the defense played better in the second half, being able to get off the field. That's football, that's why you have to kick it, to see if you are going to make it. You can call it luck, you can call it whatever, but that's football at the end of the day.
Q: What do you say to a veteran like Jackrabbit when he has a tough day like he did yesterday?
A: If you play in this league, you are going to have a tough day. It's all about how you bounce back. If you have ever played in the NFL, you've had a bad day, that's what it is. Nobody has ever played in this league for how long Jackrabbit has played and hasn't had a bad day. Jackrabbit knows what he needs to do, he is a veteran, he is one of our leaders. You can expect next game that he will play better. We expect that from him and he expects that from himself.