Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Good team win today. I was pleased with the way the guys prepared throughout the week. There were a lot of things we focused on throughout the week, starting with fundamentals and going over the roots of how we want to play defense, run defense, play better zone drops and vision for our breaks. Offensively, win up front. We knew they had a good defense and a very good run defense, as well. Our emphasis was being able to finish the game and when we need to run, run effectively, and I thought our team did that. Moving around – this is a good team, puts a lot of pressure on quarterbacks, puts you behind the sticks. Thought (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) did a very good job of using his legs to extend plays. The receivers did a very good job today of getting open, making catches and then making them miss tackles in space. Had some productive plays that way. Thought the kicking game created field position for us, threw some pressure on their specialists as well as covering kicks, so all three phases played together. That was a good job of complementary football. We were able to go ahead and grind this out to a point and then you have to capitalize on your opportunities. I thought down the stretch of the game we did that and we were able to go ahead and have a good team victory. That's a good team on the other side. I think (Panthers Head Coach) Matt (Rhule) does a great job with them. Obviously, they're going through some different things and changes, but they come out there, they play hard, great team speed. We knew it was going to be a great challenge and I'm pleased with the way the guys responded throughout the week. With that being said, I'll open up to any questions you have.
Q: The defense hasn't played as expected this year and then last week there were some questions about effort and all that. To come back out today and respond the way you did, what does that say about them and what was your assessment of them today?
A: We're a very resilient team. You guys ask me all the time, how do I see the guys come to work, how can I gauge the mood in the building? I tell you all the time, I do it based on how they show up to work, how they meet, their intent in their actions and what they're doing, how they practice on the field, so that's my barometer. That's my measuring stick right there. When the team comes in, they work, they prepare and they do everything necessary to have success, they work together, that's when you know your team is moving in the right direction. I see it from our guys every week. We talk a lot to our guys about (when) you turn the tape on. Well, we turn the tape on Monday the same as we turn it on every week. What did we do well? How do we continue to build on that? What do we have to correct? What do we have to fix? And it always starts with fundamentals. The call, the scheme, the check, whatever it is against a certain opponent, that's going to be different week by week. When we turned the (tape) on last week from the Rams game, there's a lot of stuff that we had to correct, right? Not all of it is going to apply to what we're going to do against the Panthers today, but the fundamentals always apply. That's what we had to do, that's our emphasis right now, being a good fundamental team, eliminating mistakes. There are some things we have to clean up from this game. We'll go ahead and attack that on the film, make sure the guys understand the focus and what we're working on, then keep going forward.
Q: Daniel has had games with more rushing yards, more passing yards, more touchdowns, but is this maybe as tough a game as you've seen him play? I mean, he's running the ball, he's taking hits, he's catching the ball, all those things.
A: Are you saying tough in terms of the challenge for him or physically tough with what he showed?
Q: Physically tough. He took a lot of shots.
A: I think sometimes it's maybe presented a little bit different because you see him running down the field and he takes a shot on the catch he makes and all that stuff. But there are a lot of times he stands in the pocket and I gauge his physical toughness based on how he stands in there with the rush coming at him and still delivers the ball. To me, there's different ways you can gauge that. He definitely had a lot of plays today in terms of showing his toughness. I thought he did a heck of a job on that trick play we had with the catch. We weren't really going for originality on that, but we thought it could be effective and he made it work. Him and (Wide Receiver Dante) Pettis did that. They actually had a play in practice that looked basically identical to that with the way that Dante threw it and how he had to catch, so it's amazing how practice execution becomes game reality.
Q: He had to make a one-handed catch in practice?
A: In one of them he did, yes.
Q: Did he get them all in practice? Did he drop any in practice?
A: He didn't drop any. We had a couple, I would say, errant throws. It was a little bit of try-outs on the field at times, but Dante comes from a baseball family, so I'm sure he's not going for Thanksgiving in the future if he doesn't make that throw.
Q: How much did you look at this game going in and say, 'Look, they have a really good defensive front. We need to use his athleticism to our advantage here'? I know you always kind of do that, but how much more did you do that this week?
A: I thought (Offensive Coordinator) Jason (Garrett) and his staff did a really good job early in the week of identifying how we want to play this game, what does that team do well, how do we have to go ahead and play to our strengths and not let them use their strengths to expose something of ours. We did some things that we knew would not show up in a lot of games that we had. That was a focus of ours throughout the game planning. Obviously, Daniel's athleticism shows up in that. Quarterback runs showed up throughout the game. Thought he did a good job – some were outside, some were inside, some of the roll passes where we give him a run-pass option. Did a good job throwing the ball accurately on the move today. Our receivers did a really good job of being in the right place at the right time making catches on the move. I was really pleased with how that skill group came together this week. Those guys worked really, really hard this week and there were some things we had to change about how we practiced this week just due to some of the numbers that we had. Some of the things we only did at a walkthrough pace in practice showed up at full speed this week in the game. That was just commitment by those guys of just going back to how to do it fundamentally, making sure they were sharp in their technique and then just communicating a lot between Daniel and that skill group of watching a lot of tape and him saying, 'This is where I'm going to lead you, this is what I'm looking for.' It showed up today in the game. I was pleased.
Q: When you go back and look at the tape, what will you look at specifically? You had two of your offensive tackles illegally downfield. What are the kinds of things you and the coaches are going to focus on?
A: Specifically on those ones, we can't be down the field illegally. That's got to be a focus of the guys understanding what the play is. It's a movement type of pass. We've got to know it's going to be extended time. We can't go down the field. We've got to be smart on that, understanding where the line of scrimmage is. Where's that gray area – a little bit of a buffer zone. Everybody in the league has that, a yard or two, but you can't go drifting on down the field. You have to be more conscious of what you're playing at that point. Our guys, obviously, they made a mistake. We corrected it. We shouldn't have had two. We shouldn't have had any. We don't want to have any going forward and that will be a focus that we have to concentrate on. We don't want any pre-snap penalties or unforced errors. There were some things in the first half that kind of delayed some of the movement and stopped us. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot, so they stopped us in the red area. We were able to have a red area stop ourselves in the first half. But we were moving the ball at times then putting ourselves back with those penalties. We can't have that. We've got to coach it better and we've got to execute better.
Q: We've asked you a bunch about your pass rush and not getting sacks. Obviously, (Linebacker) Azeez (Ojulari) and (Defensive Lineman) Leo (Leonard Williams) did and were effective today. What was the difference today as to why you were able to be more disruptive in the pass rush?
A: I don't think there's going to be any kind of broad-stroke answer to that. The guys have been playing hard. There were some things that happened in the game that they were able to take advantage of the opportunities and we were able to finish with some plays. It's not all about sacks. At the end of the day, you can say, 'Okay, this guy is a 10.0-sack guy.' Well, if he played 1,200 plays, what did he do with the other 1,190 plays? So, it ain't all about sacks. It's about pressuring the quarterback, pressuring the operation, playing complementary football where the pass coverage ties into the pass rush, the zone drops or the man leverage, whatever it may be (and it) all ties together. Thought our guys did a good job as a unit today of really doing that. There was great focus from the defense throughout the week in practice in terms of playing together, understanding how this team is going to attack you, what are their different modes of attacking you and how we have to defend them. There was a great consciousness this week in terms of how to really be in the right place at the right time based on who we're playing. Thought they did a good job in preparation and it showed up in the game.
Q: Just curious, how long have you had that trick play in the playbook and why pull it out in this matchup today?
A: Honestly, (Quarterbacks Coach) Jerry Schuplinski pulled that out of the vault this week, but it wasn't like he invented the play either. You can take it right off the reel of the Super Bowl against Philly when he was in New England as far as what they did. Actually when you look at that game, that play was run by both teams, both in the second quarter. You look back at the Detroit game last year and they ran it against Detroit, a copycat gimmick early in the second half on the first drive, part of their script. You kind of look back in terms of things that come up and sometimes you just watch plays. Look, you don't have to invent the wheel to drive the car fast. Sometimes, you've just got to take what works for you.
Q: Carolina was very vocal this week in terms of attacking guys physically on defense. How important was it for you guys and how much was your defense kind of looking forward to that challenge?
A: There's always a lot of talk. We're focused more in terms of what we've got to do responsibility-wise. They can sit there, say they're going to run the ball and come out here and throw the ball 60 times. Things change within the game. You can say one thing as a coach and you get in the flow of the game, then you have to adjust. You have to change. In terms of coming and knowing they're trying to run the ball, they always try to run the ball. They always try to pass the ball, too. They always have an element of screens, misdirections that show up in every game. Just because someone has a quote in the papers, you can't just go ahead and adjust your game plan processes or just zero in one thing because if you do that and you stop that one thing, then everything else may kill you, too. You've got to be balanced in how you prepare with it.
Q: You mentioned Daniel and the idea of working with different receivers this week, getting communication down. How much did he take ownership of that this week? You went into today and didn't know for sure which guys were going to be in and which guys were going to be out.
A: It really wasn't any different than any other week. It really wasn't. Pettis and (Wide Receiver David) Sills (V) catch passes every day in practice from Daniel, whether they're running our offense or they're working some of the scout team stuff, working with Daniel or (quarterback) Mike (Glennon) or (Quarterback Brian) Lewerke, whoever it may end up being. It really wasn't a great amount of difference in terms of how we prepare as a skill group. Those guys are always working together. You guys ask me all the time in terms of if someone's hurt, how do you respond? We prepare everybody. We have faith in everybody on our roster to come in, make plays and be productive. We coach every player. Our job as coaches is to coach, develop, correct and make sure we put you in a position to be successful. Their job as players is to execute and be productive. Our guys come to work every week and they do a really great job. I thought Dante really stepped up today and made some big plays for us. Sills did some nice things down the field for us, made some plays in the kicking game, stuff like that being out there. That guy has earned the right to be on the field. He works hard every day for us in practice, so when it was time for his number to be called, we knew he would be ready. That wasn't a question. You talk about the other guys, (Wide Receiver) Collin Johnson, (Wide Receiver) John Ross (III) made some plays for us, (Tight End) Evan Engram showed up big for us at times, so there were a lot of guys making a lot of plays, but that's what we expect every game.
Q: Any of those guys with injuries that we didn't talk about – I know you don't want to talk about it, but do you expect any of them back this week?
A: They're all making progress for us. We'll move them around and see where they go.