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The McAdoo Report: Fundamentals & physicality are key


The McAdoo Report,'s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Ben McAdoo::

Q: Big game this week – 11-1 Dallas, a division rival with an 11-game winning streak. You need to win to keep your NFC East title hopes alive. The players talk about a statement game. No question it's an important game, but do you want the players to treat it differently than any other game? You do still have three games after this. What are your thoughts about how they should approach the game?

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McAdoo: "I think that it's important to recognize that it's a special opportunity to be able to control your own destiny and give yourself an opportunity to play in the postseason. At the same point in time, we have to recognize that we need to prepare to play the ballgame. We need to put the work in that's necessary to get the techniques and the fundamentals right. It's going to give us an opportunity to win the game on Sunday. That's really the focus this week."

Q: You could beat a team that's 11-1.Do you believe in stuff like statement games?

McAdoo: "Yes, there's one every February. To me, you have to do the work and put yourself in position to get to where you want to go. This is another opportunity for us to do that."

Q: The players were disappointed after the loss last Sunday in Pittsburgh. Did you have to remind them that you're 8-4 and a lot of teams would like to be in your position right now?

McAdoo: "I just told them that the film didn't look the way we want it to look. It's my responsibility to make sure we're ready to go. We're going to do that this week. We're going to put the pads on today (Thursday) and we're going to get after it fundamentally. Get better that way, work on our fundamentals and physicality. Get those back in shape because we're going to play another physical ballgame this week. We're going to make some adjustments, minor adjustments, but again, we're not going to throw the baby out with the bath water. We know we can win in this league. We've done it. We just need to stay consistent in this league moving forward."

Q: At the end of the 2015 season, your offensive statistics were very good. This year, they're not as good. We've asked you a couple times if you get frustrated, but you won't admit to frustration. Is that just your nature? And what are your thoughts as to why the offense just isn't operating as well as it did a year ago?

McAdoo: "I believe we have the coaching, the talent and the scheme to be able to play the game the way we want to be able to play the game, and do it at a high level. That's where our focus needs to be. Our focus does not need to be on frustration. That does not get anything done. That's an immature, selfish way to act. That's not going to help us."

Q: Are you confident with four games to go that you can still ascend and get closer to where you want to be?

McAdoo: "Absolutely. Who says we can't take one step at a time to get this offense playing exactly how we want to play?"

Q: Odell Beckham, Jr. had 10 catches for 100 yards the other day. Do you see teams increasingly do whatever they can to prevent him from getting deep? He had a couple of big plays in Cleveland, but in three of the last four games, his average has been no more than 10 yards a catch.

McAdoo: "He attracts a lot of attention. It's a challenge to get him the ball. Teams pay a lot of attention to him. You know going into the game they're going to have a plan for him. In the past, there may have been one way to take him away. Now, what we're seeing is they have a few different ways to try and take him away and make you go the long road. We just have to be patient. That's where the consistency part of things really shows up. You have to be patient and consistent. You have to eliminate the unforced errors. You're not going to get many opportunities to let him blow the top off of things."

Q: Because they're so focused on not letting that happen?

McAdoo: "Yes. When you have a premier player, they don't want to have a premier player wreck the game."

Q: Victor Cruz expressed his frustration after the Pittsburgh game. He said Monday you approached him about having a talk. How important is it for you - I don't know if "diffuse" is the right word, but if a player has an issue, he understands that the door is open that they should come and not let something like that fester?

McAdoo: "Communication is the fuel to any successful relationship. Football is a people business and a relationship business. That's what it's built on. If you have closed doors, it's hard to get better and improve. My door is always open."

Q: The key play of the game the other day was Lawrence Timmons' interception of an Eli Manning play on the 2-yard line. When you watched the tape, did Eli just not see him? Was it just a good play on Timmons' part?

McAdoo: "It's a combination of a few things. It's never really just one thing. I think it was a heck of a play by Timmons, number one. A lot of guys don't get there to make that play. He's played a lot of football. His skillset is a challenging one to deal with on the field. He showed up in a big way for them. It's a combination of a little bit of the route, the defense, the throw and the location. A little bit of where the play occurred, on the front line as opposed to the back line. You have to take your hat off to Timmons, he made a nice play."

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Q: You lost Jason Pierre-Paul for the rest of the regular season, at least. In 2013, when you were with the Packers, Aaron Rodgers missed seven games with an injury. JPP is not a quarterback, but it is a key player that is out for an extended amount of time. Your Packers team rallied and won the division that year. Is it safe to say that that's the response you're looking for from this group - a key player is missing, so everyone has to step up so you can still realize your goals?

McAdoo: "Yes, everyone has to step up. It's not just the defensive line room, it's every room. It's the special teams and the offense. We have to rally around the defense like they've been rallying around us on offense and special teams for the entire year. It's a team game. Everyone needs to raise their game up a little bit to make up for the loss of JPP for who knows how long. We'll take it from there. The longer we keep playing, the greater the chance that we can play with him again. We just have to focus on things one week at a time. Raising our level of game. The most important thing is that you cannot press. Let the game come to you. Just do your job and your job only. Do it at a high level."

Q: Backups are always saying that they want a chance to play more. Now the young reserve defensive ends will have that opportunity. Do you say to them, "You want a chance, here it is?"

McAdoo: "I don't think you have to say that. I think they're excited to show what they can do out there."

Q: Olivier Vernon has a sack in five straight games, and has two sacks in each of the last two games. How well has he been playing in the last month or so?

McAdoo: "He seems to be in a groove right now. Very disruptive. He's playing the run right now, too, which is important for us. Not just getting after the quarterback. He's an impact player."

Q: Eli Apple had the interception and the fumble recovery in Pittsburgh. Early in the year, he had missed a couple of games. He was taken off the field in another. How important is it for a rookie to make a big play or two to boost his confidence?

McAdoo: "Eli is a very talented player, obviously where we picked him this year in the draft (No. 10 overall). He's a young player that is still developing. There's going to be ups and downs. He did some very encouraging things in the ball game last week. The interception was one heck of a play to be able to come up with the ball there. We look forward to Eli to continue to keep growing."

Q: You faced teams with some very good passing attacks this season. Now, you have a Cowboys team coming in here that likes to run the ball. They run the ball more than they pass it, which is unusual. Is this a different type of preparation for the defense this week against a run-first team?

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McAdoo: "I think you have to prepare for situational football. We know they're going to run the ball. That's what they do and that's how they're built with that front. You have to be able to play situational football to play a complete game. A thing they do a nice job of is once they get that run going, they try and match some blocking up and take their shots down the field. That's something that we have to be ready for as well."

Q: (Dallas quarterback) Dak Prescott and (running back) Ezekiel Elliott are having terrific rookie seasons. In your time in the league, have you ever seen a pair of rookies develop as quickly as they have?

McAdoo: "I don't know together in those positions that I have. I think that's very unique. It says a lot about what they're doing and a lot about their young men down there. They're two tremendous young players. They're both winners from winning programs (Mississippi State and Ohio State, respectively) that won when they were in school. I think I read that Zeke hasn't lost a road game ever. That's pretty impressive. Again, they're young players that are developing. They're learning on the fly and being productive in the process."

Q: They have the second-best run defense in the league. Their linemen are not overly big, but they're good penetrators. (Linebacker) Sean Lee has 37 more tackles than anyone else on the team.

McAdoo: "They're very disruptive with the way they play upfront. They're a good run defense. They don't get many attempts against them in the run. They play about 27 minutes a ballgame, usually with a lead. They're very disruptive with the way they play in the front four. It's how they move. They cancel a lot of gaps that way. They play very hard and are very well-coached. Sean, he's a very talented guy. He has good instincts and has a good nose for the ball. He can also tackle well. With all the mud up front and the gaps being canceled, he can flow freely to the ball quite a bit. He doesn't come up short. He usually is a pretty good tackler."

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