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The McAdoo Report: Keep focus on one game


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

Q: How was your Thanksgiving?

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McAdoo: "Great Thanksgiving. My wife, Toni, cooked one heck of a meal. My daughter, (7-year-old) Larkin was in charge of making sure we had everything that pertained to the Pilgrims and the history covered. My son (4-year-old BJ) and I played football until it was time for dinner. It was great. I won. He ran out of time."

Q: You said you watched parts of the Thanksgiving Day NFL games? Were you more interested in the division game (Dallas-Washington) or watching Scott Tolzien, your old protégé, play quarterback for Indianapolis?

McAdoo: "I watched a little bit of the Dallas-Washington game. It's interesting to see two very good teams. It was nice. I enjoyed watching Scott play. I knew he'd be well prepared and he was. He made some nice throws. They fell behind early, but it was nice to see him out there playing."

Q: Six weeks to go in the season. Things are starting to crystalize in the division and wild card races. Do you talk to the players about where they stand, or do you want them to just focus on the game? Are you talking about big picture at all?

McAdoo: "No. We need to focus on our preparation for the week. We have a big game on Sunday (in Cleveland). That's what's important, not what goes on outside of here. We need to focus on our own preparation and farm our own land."

Q: I don't know if you heard, but the Browns are 0-11. You've coached in a game similar to this one. You were with the Packers when they played the Lions in the last game of Detroit's 0-16 season. How did you approach that game as far as the opposing team's record was concerned?

McAdoo: "I witnessed the birth of my daughter and then went to the ball game. It was an interesting day. That game came down to the end (it was decided by 10 points). It was a hard-fought game, and it was a battle until the end. Just like we expect this one to be. These teams, this is what they do for a living. They're pros. We can't expect anything but their best effort and performance. We need to be at our best. If you do not prepare with that mentality, you can get beat in this league. You can get beat easily and badly if you're not prepared to play each and every week at the highest level."

Q: Is that game a good lesson for you this week? A team that was 0-15 came into Green Bay and they still fought to the end of the game?

McAdoo: "Absolutely. You need to be at your best each and every week. There are no exceptions. It's a loser's mentality to think otherwise."

Q: Some of your players have said Cleveland is going to win a game this year, and we can't let it be against us. Can negative motivation like that be as strong as positive motivation?

McAdoo: "I could care less what motivates players, as long as they're motivated."

Q: We've talked this season about staying with the run game in particular games. You weren't running the ball as well as you wanted to. The last couple of weeks, you ran for more than 100 yards. Is committing to it over the course of the season the same mentality as sticking with it in a game?

McAdoo: "We're going to stick with the run. We're going to get better with the run and get better at getting better in everything that surrounds the run. The last couple of weeks, the weather turned. We stuck with it. We got more attempts at the plate. We got into a little bit of a rhythm and got physical. When we go back and look at it, our barometer is to win the down. We want to win the down whether we're running it or throwing it. That's something that we're working to improve."

Q: We always hear so much about the importance of communication on the offensive line. You've been shuffling players in and out because of injuries. How does that affect communication and how important is it that you can keep shuffling players in and out and still play well enough to win?

McAdoo: "Shuffling players in and out of the offensive line is probably the biggest challenge in the game. Guys need to be able to communicate visually, verbally and sometimes through osmosis. We have guys that have been in the room together for a while, whether it's been on the active roster or the practice squad. Whatever the case may be, there are guys that have been in the system who are on the practice squad that have been in the system longer than guys on the active squad. That's not a concern."

Q: The first five games, you had four sacks. The last five games, you had 14 sacks. Did anything specific change, or are Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon just playing better?

McAdoo: "I think everything is related. Our defense is playing at a high level. I believe we're stopping the run. That's important to us. If you stop the run you can get after the quarterback, you can cover people tightly. It's tough for the quarterback to have a place to go with the ball. When you're covering tightly and he's moving off the spot, if he doesn't have a place to dish the ball because the coverage is tight, he's going to go down. There's no other place to go with it other than throwing it away. We're winning some one-on-one matchups up front and some one-on-one matchups in the secondary with the linebackers in coverage. We're stopping the run and that's a good combination." 

Q: Defensively, you've become much better in the fourth quarter, allowing six points in the last four games. How much do you emphasize the importance of the fourth quarter and the importance of finishing strong? Is there something specific you can turn to as to why you're playing so much better in the fourth quarter?

McAdoo: "I think the players respond to what we preach as coaches, and that's just play the play. Don't worry about the scoreboard or the quarter. Don't worry about any of that stuff. Just focus on playing the play, giving it all you can and the effort you can for the one play. When that play's over, you learn from it, you flush it and you move on to the next one. I think that mindset carries throughout the game. When the fourth quarter comes, it doesn't change our mindset. We play the game the same way. We do finish strong and that's more of a belief in each other in all three phases. It doesn't matter how the game goes, we have three phases that can come through at the end."

Q: When Victor Cruz got hurt in Philly two years ago, the other starting receivers were Rueben Randell and Odell (Beckham, Jr.), who was making his first start. Victor was the alpha receiver. Now, he seems to be in more of a secondary role, and Beckham and Sterling Shepard have become the more prominent targets. Is Victor accepting that?

McAdoo: "I don't know if I see that. I think all of the skill players on offense play a role. It depends on which game it is, who the opponent is, which coverage they're playing and what is called and being adjusted to. That really dictates where the ball goes. To me, it's a combination of things as to who gets the targets and the production. Obviously, Odell is going to get his opportunities first. Those are the facts. Outside of Odell, it's a combination."

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Q: So this week, Victor could get eight balls thrown to him?

McAdoo: "Exactly. We don't call plays to certain players. The play call comes in, the situation is a factor and then the way the play uncovers itself versus the coverage that it faces dictates where the ball goes."

Q: When you were asked about Terrelle Pryor the other day, you said you knew of him because he was from southwestern Pennsylvania, your home region. I know how proud you are of that area. Do you just naturally follow guys from Western PA?

McAdoo: "Doesn't everyone? I mean, yes, he was a big-time player at Jeannette High School in a few different sports. Heard about him when he was really young. I followed him coming up and I was hoping that we could keep him in the state of Pennsylvania somewhere. That didn't work out (Pryor went to Ohio State). He had a successful college career. Now he's turning into a successful professional." 

Q: When you look at him on tape, do you see a natural receiver? He was a quarterback until last year. Would you know that if you didn't know who he was?

McAdoo: "He's a natural, fluid athlete. Regardless of the position that he's playing, he can change his body to fit the type of skillset you need to have to play that position. He's a natural, fluid mover. Whether he was playing quarterback and running around like he still does a little bit running the read option, dropping back or throwing, or playing slot receiver or outside receiver or anywhere, he's a guy to me that has a skillset and can do a lot of different things for you."

Q: (Cleveland's) Josh McCown doesn't get a lot of acclaim as a quarterback, but he knows how to play and knows what he's doing. Is he a smart veteran who knows what he's doing and where to throw the ball?

McAdoo: "He's a pro. He's going to know what you're doing and what the plan is. He's going to be able to figure it out throughout the course of the game. You're going to have to keep some different looks going after him. I was in Green Bay when he was in Chicago and came up. He had a very good performance against us. He's played some very good football in this league. He's won some games. We need to be at our best."

Q: How tough are they to prepare for with all the formations and wrinkles they use?

McAdoo: "They're similar to Cincinnati that way. They make you prepare for everything under the sun. You have to defend the whole field. East, west, north and south, as well as the changes with the quarterback that they play. They make you defend the whole field and schematically just about everything under the sun."

*Q: Defensively, it seems they have one or two very good players at every level. *

McAdoo: "They do. They're young, hungry and fast. You can see them improving on film."

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