The McAdoo report, an exclusive weekly interview with Giants head coach Ben McAdoo:
(Note: The Giants were unable to clinch a playoff berth last week because they were defeated in Philadelphia, but gained entry into the postseason on Saturday when Tampa Bay lost to New Orleans.)
Q: How did you specifically find out the Giants were in the playoffs and what was your reaction?
McAdoo: "My wife was upstairs cooking. We gave the coaches and players some time off, so I was downstairs shooting some baskets with my son and daughter. The Saints game was on, so we were watching the ball game as we were playing a little hoops."
Q: It's quite an achievement to make it to the playoffs. It hasn't happened here in five years, and you're a first-year head coach. Did you feel some sense of pride?
McAdoo: "I was thinking about correcting Philly and getting ready for Washington (where the Giants play their regular-season finale on Sunday). This league is a one-week-at-a-time league. You have to prove yourself each week and each day."
Q: The questions this week center on who is going to play and how long some of the key players are going to play. You have to take into account injuries and other factors, but is it safe to say there is no right or wrong approach regarding player participation in a game in which you've already clinched a playoff berth?
McAdoo: "Right. It's hard to take into account injuries. You have 53 players that can play in a game. You have 46 that you can dress. You have to go play. You might as well prepare well, play well and win the game."
Q: The Packers won their final game five times in the six seasons they made the playoffs when you were on the staff there. In 2012, you lost to Minnesota (one week before a postseason rematch), but won the previous four games. Are you a believer in the value of momentum entering the playoffs?
McAdoo: "I think you need to prepare for each week and focus on that week solely. In this business, it's better to win than it is the other way around. Period."
Q: Eli Manning has his starting streak (198 consecutive regular-season game), and Odell (Beckham, Jr.) needs four catches to reach 100 for the season. How aware are you of the players' individual milestones?
McAdoo: "I'm aware of some of those things. Big picture-wise, it's not a factor in your decision making."
Q: There's a lot of speculation about how long Eli is going to play. What about the flip side? Josh Johnson is your new backup quarterback, and he hasn't thrown a regular-season pass since 2011. Do you have any desire to get him a little action just in case something happens?
McAdoo: "Eli has great command of the offense and he's moving as well in the pocket as he has since I've been here. His arm strength is better than it was when I got here. Those questions don't make a whole lot of sense to me, other than age (Manning will turn 36 on Tuesday). With that being said, he's a hell of a quarterback. Every time he hits the field, we have a chance with him. I'm excited to take this next step."
Q: Eli has thrown 571 passes this year, not including the hundreds he's thrown in practice. As a former quarterbacks coach, I'm sure you are sensitive to the potential wear and tear on a throwing arm. How much do you monitor the potential stress on his arm at this time of year, after so many throws?
McAdoo: "That's something that we talked about after the 2014 season. Just ways we can help him out and strengthen his arm. I think the new schedule does wonders for him physically. We're on the field an extra day. Not for long or at a high intensity, but we do take a day off (Friday in a normal week) of him throwing. He throws three days a week, and we space that out during the course of the week. He has a chance to acclimate, a chance to work and a chance to de-acclimate. I think that helps him in the long run."
Q: Last week in Philadelphia, you gained 470 yards and had 10 third-down conversions and 24 first downs. The stat sheet said it was arguably your best offensive performance of the season – but you scored only one touchdown. How do you view that game as a whole offensively?
McAdoo: "We just need to finish better. We had 88 attempts at the plate. We're productive up and down the field. A lot of third downs and third-down productivity. We ran the ball well, threw the ball well. We had a lot of situational football; that's why the pass attempts were up the way they were (a franchise-record 63). We just have to finish plays better, finish drives better, and finish the game better. We had plenty of opportunities in the ballgame. The last few weeks, we feel that we're making strides. We're taking steps in the right direction. We just need to keep throwing effort at it, keep working at it, and we feel it's going to come."
Q: The 22 third down attempts were the most the Giants have had since 1983. As you're calling a game, does it feel as if you're getting more third down attempts than normal? Or were you surprised when you looked at the stats following the game and saw you had 22?
McAdoo: "In case you haven't noticed, that call sheet, we could play doubleheaders with that call sheet (of plays). We were definitely prepared for it. I noticed during the course of the game that we had a significant time of possession. I thought that was something that was very encouraging for us. We moved the ball running it and throwing it. It just so happens that there was a lot of third downs in the ball game. We did feel it, but we were prepared for it."
Q: The 63 passes Manning threw last week were an anomaly, but the three wide receivers – Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard – combined for 26 catches. Were you pleased all three of them were so involved in the game?
McAdoo: "We definitely like dealing the ball, spreading it around. We had some nice moments in the game when we were doing that at a high level. We had some other moments where we may have been off on a couple throws, and dropped some balls that we should've caught. We should've had more completions in the ballgame than we had. When you're playing December football, in the elements and on grass, you have to handle the ball better. The Duke is like a bar of gold this time of year."
Q: You'll be in the same situation in Sunday – a road game on a grass field in cold weather. Do you see any parallels from last week and the game in Washington?
McAdoo: "There will be. I don't think it'll be as chilly. I don't think that the wind will be as great. But it's on grass, and there's a chance for some precipitation. There are some similarities."
Q: Defensively, you didn't have Janoris (Jenkins), but DRC (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) stepped in, and Trevin Wade and Coty Sensabaugh made key plays. Is that what you've had on defense all year, guys stepping up when called upon?
McAdoo: "Yes. You can see that the whole way through the roster, on special teams as well. On offense, we had a bunch of guys playing up front for us at certain periods of time. The left guard spot on offense, and different guys stepping in on defense, whether it's left end or it's a corner, at nickel or safety. A lot of guys step up and are making plays. On special teams as well, especially early in the season with the volume of young guys we were playing with, and they were getting experience. That's paying off for us now."
Q: Washington arguably has the most explosive offense in the NFL with Kirk Cousins throwing it to Jamison Crowder, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed - how difficult are they to defend?
McAdoo: "They are. It's tough to say who you want to take away. They have players, a couple of running backs that are pretty good. They have a nice one-two punch at the running back position, too (in rookie Robert Kelley and Matt Jones). A big back and a skill back. They have a bunch of skill players. I think Cousins is at his best when he deals the ball around and they can run it a little bit. Upfront, they're doing a nice job, too. They have two big tackles that are athletic. They cover you up pretty good. It'll be a challenge."
These five players could make a key impact in Sunday's matchup with the Redskins
Q: Their O-line doesn't get a lot of recognition, but they have two Pro Bowlers (Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff) and they got a lot bigger at center. You didn't see much of Kelley the first time (four carries). What do you see upfront in how they block for him and how he's doing?
McAdoo: "They do a nice job upfront. (center Spencer) Long does a nice job declaring everything for him and keeping them on the same page. The two tackles (including Morgan Moses) are width builders. They do a nice job maintaining the width of the pocket, keeping that thing firm for him. He has some nice throwing lanes out there to get the ball out quick. Kirk does a nice job of getting the ball out quick."
*Q: Defensively, you can't really pick a corner to throw on, because both of them are very good. *
McAdoo: "(Bashaud) Breeland has definitely improved over the course of the last couple of seasons. He's upped his game and is playing at a high level. He's very confident. We know Josh (Norman) on the other side is a very talented player. He's going to be aggressive and take his chances. He's a physical player. We saw that the first game and we saw it last year. I'm sure we will see more of it on Sunday."
Q: They have a number of guys that can rush the passer, don't they?
McAdoo: "A bunch of guys that can rush the passer. (Chris) Baker is very good inside; he probably doesn't get enough credit for them. They have three guys outside and (Trent) Murphy has really come onto the scene. We noticed him when we played the first time, but he's really taken steps since then to emerge as one of their feature pass rushers and run stoppers, too. He's playing a lot for them now."
Q: Your coverage teams will be challenged again this week. Crowder is tied for the league lead in punt returns (with a 13.1-yard average). Do you have to be on-point again with your coverage teams?
McAdoo: "No question. Crowder has really changed the game for them, not only on offense but also on special teams. He can stick his foot in the ground and go north and south. He's very aggressive with the return. He's not a guy that wants to fair catch a bunch of them. He does a nice job for them in the slot to really change the game and take the pressure off of the outside guys and the tight end."