NYG Postgame (vs. Steelers) Transcripts: Head Coach Joe Judge
September 14, 2020
Opening Statement: Alright guys, I appreciate you. I was talking with the team a little bit afterwards, made sure I checked in with every player, so I’m sometimes slow out of the locker room and I appreciate your patience. To start this off, I’ll just tell you right now that I’m proud of how this team fought for 60 minutes. That’s something I really wanted to see – you guys asked me earlier in the week what I wanted to see from this team, I wanted to see a team that played together for 60 minutes and fought regardless of score, circumstance or situation, and I saw that. I’m proud of how our guys played. Now, obviously there are some things that we have to do to clean up. The mark of a good team is improvement you can make moving on from Week 1. This next week we’ve got a big test, but we’ve got to stop with the turnovers, we’ve got to eliminate the unnecessary penalties, we have to do better at the end of the half, we have to finish ourselves in the red area, so those are the big things that stuck out right there. I’m sure there are a litany of other things that you guys want to ask about, so I’m going to open this up for questions.
Q: Hey Joe, just wanted to get your first analysis of [Quarterback] Daniel’s [Jones] performance, and then what you saw on the interception down by the goal line.
A: Well first off, I like the way he played aggressive. He stood in the pocket – it was obviously a strong rush coming at him all night – he played confident in there, he stood in there as long as he could, he delivered some good, accurate passes for us. He had two throws I know he wants back down at the goal line, that’s something we can’t have happen. Look, I’ll talk to Daniel a little bit more about it, I’ll watch the tape and make sure we clean up everything involved. That’s definitely something you can’t have, 19-play drive and come away with no points, especially down there in the low red. That’s not acceptable, but I’m proud of the way he played aggressive, I’m proud of the way this team stuck together.
Q: Big play early in the game, you recovered a muffed punt. On that third down play, [Tight End Evan] Engram was trying to kick out there, did Jones miss him or did Engram not run the proper route?
A: You know what, I’ve got to watch the tape before I give you a final answer on that. I just know that in that situation right there, we want to come away with seven points. We got the field goal down there, it was an opportunistic play by the special teams taking advantage of a muffed punt. That’s something we were kind of figuring would kind of happen at some point in these early games with some of the guys not getting preseason experience. We were ready for it, our guys took advantage of it, they did a good job getting on the ball and advancing it to give our offense position, but we’ve got to come away with better points than just three right there.
Q: Obviously, the Steelers were keying on Saquon Barkley in the running game, but what do you guys have to do better, what can you control to succeed there and keep that going and win some battles in the run game?
A: You know, every week is going to be a little bit of a different challenge based on the scheme we’re going to see, that’s obviously a very talented front we played tonight. But look, we’re going to stay aggressive with the run game. Saquon is a key part of our team, he’s going to be a difference-maker in how successful this team is going to be, so we’re going to stay with him. We have a lot of confidence in him, I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our offensive line. Look, we’re going to watch the tape and clean up what we have to, it’s going to be a different opponent next week with a little bit of a different challenge, but it’s obviously something we have to improve on in the run game. That’s not something we’re going to shy away from, we have to improve on that, but I have all the confidence in the players – the offensive line, the skill players – and we’re going to keep leaning on these guys and that’s how we’re going to have success with the men we have in the locker room right now.
Q: How did you feel like your cornerbacks played? I know you had a few different guys that lined up against [Steelers Wide Receiver] Juju [Smith-Schuster] in particular and a couple of the touchdowns, one of them [Defensive Back] Isaac [Yiadom] was covering. I’m just curious how you felt those guys did, especially in their tough spot tonight.
A: I thought overall they competed for 60 minutes. This is a team that makes a lot of explosive plays. I think [Defensive Coordinator] Pat [Graham] was able to limit some of the production early on, really do a good job against the run game early on, forced them to be one-dimensional, put a lot of pressure on [Steelers QB] Ben [Roethlisberger]. That was good for our defense, that limited some of the exposure the guys had. They made adjustments, they’re a good team, they’re going to take some shots down the field, that’s a very talented team, very talented offensive skill group. When you play the Steelers, you have to understand they’re going to make plays. These are talented guys, they’re a good team for a reason. They’re going to make their plays, and you’ve just got to stay disciplined and committed to the process, and eventually work to make more.
Q: With Saquon, on 10 of his 15 carries, he was hit behind the line of scrimmage, eight of them went for negative yards. When you hear that and see that, is that all the offensive line? And also, when that’s happening, I know you want to stick with the run, but does it kind of hurt you more than it helps you to even try to run at that point?
A: I think you have to have confidence in the game plan and stick with it as long as you can based on how the opponent is playing you, but we’re not going to give up on the run. We have confidence in our offensive line, we have confidence in our backs. We’re going to give Saquon the ball a good bit, he’s an integral part to how we’re going to be successful. I’ve got to look at the tape before I give a lot of final answers. A lot of the things you see on the field I don’t want to overreact to emotionally. I want to watch the tape, clear it up and make sure I have all the information. Obviously, it’s something we have to clean up, but I have confidence in our offensive coaches and our offensive personnel, and we’re going to make those adjustments, clean it up, come back strong and make improvements going forward.
Q: The way you played up front defensively, do you think that you guys ran out of a little gas in the second half? It seemed like [Defensive Lineman] Leonard [Williams] specifically and [Linebacker] Lorenzo [Carter] were really causing havoc and then in the second half the Steelers were able to give Ben some time and make things happen that really cost you down the stretch.
A: There are no excuses there. Both teams had the same opportunities to prepare, the same circumstances to play in. We’ve talked about it throughout the weeks, this is the first time that anyone has had an opportunity to be out there for the duration of time that we had today. I thought our guys had good conditioning, but towards the end you saw both teams a little winded and they were able to make some plays at the right time. You give Ben an opportunity to sit back there, eventually he’s going to find somebody and make some plays. I’m proud of how the front played, especially early on they were able to be disruptive and create some havoc, I loved the energy they played with. Look, throughout the year, we’re going to have to improve our conditioning and nobody is in a full-game condition in the league. Across the league, you watch 32 teams and all 32 are going to have to consistently work on that over these next four weeks to really get in that game shape for the duration of the season.
Q: I’m curious watching [Center] Nick Gates and [Offensive Tackle] Cam Fleming tonight, it looked like maybe they struggled with some of the stunts that Pittsburgh threw at them up front. Just curious about your thoughts on them and how you can get better in that regard moving forward, especially against another tough pass rusher in [Bears Defensive End] Khalil Mack next week.
A: We definitely have a tough front to face next week. The only way we can improve on any of that is really by going out there every day in practice and putting our players in positions they’re going to have to play in in the game. We have to do a better job as coaches of giving them the looks they’re going to see. Pittsburgh is a good team, they make adjustments, they’re not going to stay in one front throughout the game, they’re going to give you different looks. Chicago is going to be much of the same story. So, we’ve got to do a good job, starting with myself, of making sure our players see everything they’re going to face possible.
Q: What did they do exactly to give you such a hard time in the run game? And was it what they did or was it partially, in your opinion, your guys not performing up to what you expected?
A: We always like to take the approach that it’s up to us to control whatever comes our way. I don’t like looking at the opponent too much and thinking they’re dictating anything. We have the opportunity to react and be prepared, so I’ve got to look at the tape and give you an exact answer later. Like I said earlier, there’s a lot of things I don’t want to misspeak on right now, I want to take a final look at the tape. Obviously, they had a lot of good plays up front, they did some movement, did some stunts, changed the fronts a little bit on us, but ultimately we have to handle whatever comes our way.
Q: Joe, I noticed you stood between [Defensive Lineman] Dalvin [Tomlinson] and [Safety] Jabrill [Peppers] as they were kneeling and put your hand on their shoulders. If you could just talk about how that came about and any pregame conversation with the team on kneeling, and how you decided what you were going to do.
A: Real simple, nothing was scripted in terms of who stood next to me or who I was touching. But look, we made a decision as a team we're going to respect everybody. As a team, the thing that makes you special is you respect everybody’s unique background and you can move on. So, we went out there, we respected our players’ right, we respected our players’ choice to handle it how they wanted to handle it. I’m proud of how our team handled it in terms of sticking together and not letting anything externally divide us, we moved on from the anthem and then we played 60 minutes of tough football where our guys were committed to staying out there and working together for the entirety. To me, the players have a choice. We talk about it as a team, we had a lot of conversations, we always do, we’re very transparent as a team. I respect everybody in that locker room, and they respect each other, and that’s what’s important.