EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Shurmur Sez, Giants.com’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Pat Shurmur:
Q: You play Philadelphia tomorrow night. What is your biggest challenge preparing a team to play a game on a short week?
Shurmur: “To get the game plan to them and certainly get them back physically, which is typical on a short week.”
Q: Mentally, do you cut back at all?
Shurmur: “No, I think along the way we’ve developed some things that we feel good about, and you try to focus on those things. I think we have some ideas of the things we want to run against Philadelphia before the week starts, and then we just try to focus on those things.”
Q: You lost a tough, emotional game in Carolina on Sunday. Is it good to immediately prepare for another game because you can put that behind you, or is it tough to do because of the difficulty of putting a game like that behind you so quickly?
Shurmur: “I think win, lose or draw, you have to put all the games behind you. It’s the same for the team we’re playing. (The Eagles) lost a tough game, as well, so it’s just the way the world works. You just keep playing, and we’ve just got to try to improve on our effort from last week and put a winning effort on the field.”
Q: You said several times last week that the issue with the offense was it needed to score more points. You did score more points. Do you still think there were opportunities where you could have scored more, and is the message the same this week?
Shurmur: “Yeah, we get greedy. We needed to score three more to beat them, so that’s just the way it is. Every time you go on the field, you want to put a drive together that scores a touchdown. That’s the goal and we have to do the things necessary to do it.”
Q: Do you take any solace in the fact that you lost no ground in the NFC East race and that if you win Thursday night, you have the same number of wins as everybody else in the division?
Shurmur: “It just reinforces that you just keep playing because you never know. You never know where this thing is going to go, so you just can’t get down on yourself, you can’t worry about what’s happened in the past. You just keep worrying about getting better and put a winning effort on the field.”
Q: There were several questionable calls by the officials in the game at Carolina. After the game, some of the players said, “We need better refs.” In your mind, is it okay for them to blow off steam like that, or would you prefer they let you handle it?
Shurmur: “I handled it with them, and the players assured me that that will never happen again. Those are excuses. When you talk about officiating, that’s excuse-making and that’s not what we do.”
Q: You had some nice down-field throws and Eli (Manning) still completed 61 percent of his passes. But he also threw two interceptions. As a whole, do you think the passing game made strides on Sunday?
Shurmur: “The passing game helped us score 31 points, and I think that’s the most important thing. Of course, we had a couple of explosive plays, but we also had a couple throws we’d like to have back. That’s the way the game plays out and I’m sure at some point during maybe later in the third quarter, people were starting to wonder. But our team never did, and we found a way at one point near the end of the game to be ahead. That’s what you shoot to do, and then we have to do a better job at the last minute and eight seconds.”
Q: Was the pass protection better on Sunday?
Shurmur: “Much better. I thought our guys fought hard and I was pleased that as a group we protected better.”
Q: You ran for 50 yards, averaging under four yards a carry. Is your sense that the run game should be producing more?
Shurmur: “We’ll see, we’ll see. Each game plays out differently. (We) intend to run the ball, because you certainly want Saquon (Barkley) to have his touches, and we’ll just continue to do what we need to do to score points.”
Q: You were very forceful after the game talking about the (Odell) Beckham, Jr. controversy. Most teams at some point have off-the-field issues. Were you pleased with how your locker room responded to the distraction?
Shurmur: “I’m not talking about that anymore, but I believe in our locker room and I believe that anything that’s thrown at us, we can – our locker room has a way to deal with it and in every situation, make us stronger.”
Q: You said the Beckham to Barkley pass has been in your playbook. Did you hold tryouts among your receivers to see who can throw the best pass?
Shurmur: “No, we all know that Odell can throw the ball, so it made sense to throw it behind the line to Odell and then let him throw it. He’s very talented.”
Q: When you’re standing on the sideline and you see it unfold and Saquon’s running down the field without a defender…
Shurmur: “That’s how you want it to be drawn up. If you’re going to call a play like that, you want it to have the effect on the game that it did, and you certainly want it to be a big play and hopefully a touchdown.”
Q: Defensively, I think everyone assumes when OV (Olivier Vernon) comes back, the pass rush will improve. He has produced in the past. But do you think you need to find ways to pressure the opposing passer more frequently?
Shurmur: “I think so. I think you’re always looking for pressure on the quarterback, and you try to generate it without having to blitz. That’s when you can be sound in coverage and then certainly affect the quarterback. We’re doing some things to affect the passer. Certainly, when you have a pass rusher with OV’s skill and ability, it’ll help.”
Q: Eli Apple returned after missing two games. What did you think of the play when he came up face-to-face with a much larger Cam Newton and forced him to fumble?
Shurmur: “That was a good tackle on his part and when we’re facing offenses that have quarterback-style runs like that, it’s important that our guys come up and force the run like Eli did. That was a good play.”
Q: Ereck Flowers, for whatever reason, didn’t work out here. Coaches often think or hope they can get the best out of a player who seemingly hasn’t played to his potential. Is it frustrating to you, as a coach, that it didn’t work out with him?
Shurmur: “I’m not frustrated. We came in and the guys that we chose to keep all had a clean slate. We worked with Ereck and we made an effort to help him be better, and it just didn’t quite work out for us here now. Sometimes, a change of scenery is good for a player and we wish Ereck the best. In the short time that I’ve been with him, I’ve gained an appreciation for who he is as a person, and on a personal level, I just hope he goes on and has a good career.”
Q: What do you like about (tackle) Brian Mihalik (Flowers’ replacement on the roster)?
Shurmur: “I think he’s competitive, he’s smart. He came in and learned our stuff and he’s a big man. He’s got good length, so he sort of understands how to play the position. He’s young and he’s a developmental player, but he’s played in regular-season games at tackle, so he’s got experience as well. We’re going to elevate him and get him ready to go.”
Q: The Eagles are second in the league in time of possession. Is their style of play challenging?
Shurmur: “I think what’s important is we keep them out of the end zone and anytime you’re on the field, certainly when you go on the field on offense, you’re charged with scoring points. When you go on the field on defense, you’re charged with getting the other team’s offense off the field. So we’ve got to find a way to be good on third down, get them off the field and then do what we have to do on the other side of the ball.”
Q: Does Carson Wentz look to you like he’s back to being the player he was prior to his knee injury?
Shurmur: “I’ve always been impressed by his style of play and he seems to be playing at a high level again.”
Q: They throw to their tight ends more than any other team in the league. Sometimes on third and long, they’ll deploy three tight ends instead of three wide receivers. Does that make them different to defend?
Shurmur: “Can be. I think the new player (Dallas) Goedert and then certainly Zach Ertz, who I was with, are two very, very fine pass-catching tight ends, but they also do the other things necessary to play the position. They’re willing blockers. When they’re asked to pass protect, they do that well, and they obviously have a real good feel for how to utilize them and get them the ball.”
Q: Defensively, why have they been so successful against the run?
Shurmur: “I think the Eagles defense starts with their front four and they rotate them. They have eight guys up and they rotate them all the time, keep them fresh and they’re very disruptive in the run and the pass. That’s going to be the challenge for us initially, block the front four so that we can run it and throw it.”
Q: Fletcher Cox is their best defensive lineman. Why is he such a disruptive player?
Shurmur: “I know him very well from my years there, and he’s an outstanding person, first. I think he’s a guy with high integrity and he plays hard and he’s tough and he’s obviously super-talented. He’s big, so he’s the full package, and we’re going to have to really play our best game to block him well.”