EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Shurmur Sez, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:
Q: After winning on Monday night for the first time in a while, is there more of an upbeat attitude around here this week?
Shurmur: "I think you always fight for the thrill of victory, and to be able to share that thrill in the locker room after the game, which we certainly did, and then we had a six-hour flight and once we got back here, then it was time to put it behind us and get ready for Tampa Bay. Being it's a short week, there was less time to think about it. Again, we had to make the corrections from the game, because we had a ton of them so that we don't repeat them here in the upcoming games."
Q: You've had better games this season statistically and stats can be misleading. But you had a big time of possession disadvantage, and the 49ers converted 62 percent of their third-down conversion opportunities. What did you do well in the game to win it?
Shurmur: "I think we fixed some of the things that we needed to fix. We scored when we got in the red zone, so we scored 27 points and we held the other team to 23, and so I think that's the most important piece. And we can still get better there. We got better in the red zone when we got down there and I think there's – again, I don't know what statistics you're relating to other than the fact that we probably didn't do as well on defense on third down, which allows them to possess the ball more. You can read into all of that however you'd like. We only had 10 possessions, which is typically – you either get 12 or 13, but we won the game. The most important thing is that we scored more points than them."
Q: You challenged Eli (Manning) last week to play better. He never complained, went about his business, and won the game by leading the offense to a late score. What kind of example does that set for everybody else?
Shurmur: "I think a lot was made of my conversations with Eli, but I basically told the whole team that we have to play better. A lot has been made of the offensive line, and I thought it was their best game. When you drop back to throw 32 times and the quarterback is only sacked once, that tells me that the protection was good. We ran the ball consistently throughout the game, I think, which helps and the receivers made plays. That's where that goes and then on the defensive side, we're working to eliminate the big plays, we're working to be good in the critical areas, third down and in the red zone. I thought our guys did a good job in keeping the score down. Then special teams, part of the improvement needs to come from special teams, and I thought the return phase of our teams was better. We got some return yardage, which helps with field position and that was a team effort, as well. I thought the returns that were positive were blocked well and then the returner did a good job."
Q: Everyone understandably focused on Eli's performance on the last drive, but last week you talked about things like sticking with his progressions, getting the ball out on time. Did he do those things during the course of the game?
Shurmur: "Sure. I think he did – I mean, he had a winning performance and when the quarterback has a winning performance, then you certainly maximize your ability to win the game. I think the hallmark of Eli's career is kind of around those last drives, where you have to go down and score, and I think he did a good job with that as well."
Q: In your four red zone trips, you scored two touchdowns and kicked two field goals. Did that success start with the improved play of the line?
Shurmur: "Always. It always does and we had more time to throw. The first touchdown, Eli had to hold the ball and they did a great job of protecting, so yeah, it always starts with the line."
Q: Saquon (Barkley) had 20 carries and 24 touches. Is that about where you like to see him?
Shurmur: "No, it depends on the game. I think if he has between 20 and 30 touches, I think that's a good thing. The combination of whether they're runs or passes really doesn't quite matter, in my mind. One of his most explosive gains was a pass on the last drive, where he can help get us down the field. Obviously, we want to run the ball and he's going to get his fair share of touches there, so we just have to continue to do that."
Q: Odell (Beckham Jr.) had four catches for 73 yards, but he did draw two pass interference penalties on drives that ended in scores. Do you take that into account when you analyze what kind of game he played?
Shurmur: "That's a contributing factor when you get that yardage. Penalty yardage is huge, but if you ask him, he had some other opportunities in the game where he can make plays, too. Yeah, the penalty yardage stuff is good."
Q: On the same drive, there was a holding penalty that set the offense back temporarily. At that time in the game, how difficult is it to overcome a 10-yard penalty, and what does it say that you were able to do so?
Shurmur: "It's good. I think anytime you have a bad play, you got to try to put it behind you and move on, and I think our guys did a good job with that."
Q: Lorenzo Carter might have had his best game. He had seven tackles, but he had what could've been a costly (roughing the passer) penalty on the first play of their final drive. He's a rookie looking to make a big play, but how do you teach him to avoid that infraction while not taking away his aggressiveness?
Shurmur: "I think the important thing there is to just be smart and use good judgment. We're going to find out what the league says about that penalty. You certainly don't want to have those penalties, but by the same token, I think it's important that you play with the idea that you're going to go out there and make plays. It's a fine line."
Q: (Grant) Haley played 31 snaps. He was a guy that wasn't on the roster early in the year, but has come on and made a contribution…
Shurmur: "He's a young player that as we moved along and we've had a couple corners that were on the initial roster leave the roster. He's made an impact and he's making the best of it and he's getting better each week. I'd anticipate we'll continue to see him as we go through the season."
Q: Do you think they spiked the ball with one second to go (as the officials ruled, or did time expire)?
Shurmur: "It's hard to tell. There's humans running the clock and there's humans deciding whether or not there was time left on the clock. I guess so."
Q: Corey Coleman had never returned an NFL kickoff before Monday night. What prompted you to look at him there and give him that job?
Shurmur: "He was an outstanding kick returner in college and he's practiced it in his years in the league, so I think the important thing there was he did a good job. You can see his skill and ability as a returner. Again, the returns were blocked fairly well, but he did a good job with the return phase of it."
Q: Do you think now with Coleman and (Quadree) Henderson you have returners with game-breaking ability?
Shurmur: "We have guys that have returned kicks now, and I really don't think you can have too many kick returners on your roster, kick and punt returners. The fact that we have a couple of guys that can do it and have done it, I think it's huge."
Q: Jonathan Stewart is still on injured reserve, but has returned to practice. Has he been a mentor to the younger running backs while he's been on I.R. and how much hope do you have for him rejoining the rotation?
Shurmur: "Behind the scenes, he's been getting himself healthy, but he's been involved in all the meetings and all the practice sessions. He's a veteran presence, he's a terrific human being, got a lot of experience, and so I'm sure he's been a steady presence for that running back room. We'll practice him here and down the road here we'll have to make a decision whether we'll put him on the roster or not."
Q: Tampa Bay leads the league in yards per game and passing yards per game. How tough is it to play defense against a team that has four wideouts and two tight ends, all of whom can catch, and a veteran quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) who knows where to throw it?
Shurmur: "I think it's a challenge, because you can't really commit to doubling somebody. You have to play solid team defense and everybody's got to cover their guy, so it's going to be a challenge. They do a great job of moving the ball. They fell victim to the turnover last weekend, but they moved up and down the field, 500 yards, but only scored three points. I think we've had this conversation before, and it doesn't help you when you turn the ball over."
Q: You were talking this week about your familiarity with DeSean Jackson. He's hurt the Giants in the past, but really (Mike) Evans is their top guy. What do you see from him?
Shurmur: "He's a big receiver, so they've got really one of each on the outside. He's able to use his size to his advantage, but he's good at getting open, good against bump and run, good at the top end of the route and he catches the ball. He's just as much of a challenge, just in a different way, than D-Jack."
Q: It's no secret that they struggle at times on defense, but they have talent in their front seven, including (Gerald) McCoy, JPP's (Jason Pierre-Paul) having a good year, (Lavonte) David — I don't know if he's going to play — but what do you see from their front seven?
Shurmur: "I think they have a good front seven and for whatever reason, they've fallen short in terms of winning games. But I think when you watch them on tape, they're very disruptive in the front seven and we got to block them if we're going to have success."
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