Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Good team win. That's a well-coached football team, they play very hard, they do a lot of things, they pose a lot of issues. It was a week that we had to do a lot of prep as a team to account for a lot of things they have both personnel and scheme-wise. I'm pleased with the team effort. I'm pleased with how the coaches came together this week and worked on the plan, got the players prepared. We made a lot of plays down the stretch in all three phases. These are things that really carry over for us. Obviously, there are some weapons on that team that are going to be productive regardless of what you do. You've got to play through the storm a little bit, so a lot of credit to those guys in terms of how they play. We'll see them in a few weeks and we've got some things to look at on tape to, obviously, make sure we keep moving in the right direction as a team. With that said, I'll open up to any questions you have.
Q: How did it go with (Senior Offensive Assistant) Freddie (Kitchens) calling the plays?
A: I was pleased with the way the offensive coaches worked throughout the week. I was pleased with how they communicated on the sideline, made some adjustments. Obviously, there are some things that we've got to go ahead and continue to do better, and make sure we have avenues for plays to put ourselves in a position to be more productive in some areas. But I was pleased with some of the adjustments down the stretch. It was a very productive drive we had in the fourth quarter, got the ball back, took a lot of time off it, ended up with points, put us in position to make it a touchdown game. That's critical within this situation here. I was pleased with how those guys all worked together throughout the week, got those players prepared. I was very pleased with how those guys all worked together throughout the week, got the players prepared. I was very pleased with how the players responded throughout the week in terms of working and then performing today as a team.
Q: This defense forced four turnovers today. I know sometimes those things come in bunches. What was different and what worked so well for you guys?
A: I think with the defense, the point we made this week was just about team defense. That sounds generic, we say that a lot, 'team defense.' When you play a defense like this and you look at the offense in terms of how they make a lot of plays and they've been so productive with the run game specifically in the last few weeks, and what really leads to those runs being so productive. A lot of times, it's that they do a good job coming off the ball, so don't take this the wrong way, but they do a really good job more so than just knocking you off the ball of getting you out of lanes, getting you misfits, getting the edge, getting you out of the C gap, whatever it may be. They really go ahead and they pose a threat and they pose issues with how that quarterback can run. One thing he does a really, really good job of is he holds that thing at that mesh point for a long time and that really forces the read and forces you to declare as a defense how you're going to play. This guy does a really good job of running this offense in terms of taking what you give him. You can see that in every game and you can see that today, as well. He's very productive with his legs and he knows how to extend plays. Really, those quarterback runs, those designed runs, he does a really good job of. When we talk about the defense preparing this week, it's all about assignment football. It's all about kind of playing your job, playing your role and trusting everyone. This isn't like playing Georgia Tech – not anymore – but this isn't like playing triple option teams, where you're facing those kinds of schemes, but it's similar in terms of you've got to play that assignment defense against this team and understand how all the pieces fit and who has each responsibility and trust the guys to make the plays. Thought our linebackers as a whole did a good job of tackling in space, thought there were opportunities that we got after them in the pass game, put some pressure on, that was a bonus. But in terms of the run game, thought the tackling overall was good. There are some things that we have to correct, there are some things in the open-field – we had bad entry, we've got to keep our feet moving into contact, keep our eyes up, wrap and get them on the ground – but I thought overall one of the biggest focuses we had this week was tackling. It was a shorter week, so we didn't have a padded practice where we went out there and went live and popped pads, so that's something you've got to get and simulate in different ways, but the open-field work is critical in preparing for a team like this and a player like him where you've really got to be good and disciplined in space to play with your feet moving, the right entry, the right leverage and finish the tackle. I thought overall as a team, that was good. Obviously, there were some where he made us miss and we've got to keep improving. We don't want to have any missed tackles, but you've got to minimize them against a team like this.
Q: One of the things that you guys did is you picked him off three times when he'd thrown five all year. Was it pressure or what?
A: It's always a combination of everything. It's always a combination of, number one, can you stop them and put them in a position where they have to throw. Then when they do throw, can you get enough pressure on that? Even if it's not directly on that play, does that accumulate throughout the game, that they feel that pressure in their head and that internal clock running. Then, it comes down to playing assignment football on the backend as well, with (Safety) Xavier (McKinney) and those guys in terms of breaking and making the interceptions. Obviously, (Linebacker) Tae (Crowder) had one at the end of the half, but it's just being in the right place at the right time and playing with good discipline. If it's man, you've got to play your leverage, you've got to look through your man. If it's zone, you've got to get the right depth, right zone, you've got to make sure that you've keying the quarterback and you're moving the right way. You've got to play your assignment. Really as a whole, the plays come to you. When you play your assignment, play with the right technique, right discipline, you play flying around to the ball.
Q: Can you talk about the development of Xavier and (Safety) Julian Love?
A: I think both guys really just make constant improvement. Zay is a guy that last year, obviously, missed a significant amount of development time with being hurt and you saw him last year improve every week. He's a guy that this year has continuously gotten better. Part of the thing with the defense early on is you've got to put the right guys in the right places. You find out how to use your guys best to be most productive. One thing we've really found with him is this guy can do a lot of things close to the line of scrimmage. He can cover man, he can play underneath as a robber, he does all those things very well. The one thing he really does exceptionally well is playing the deep part of the field. That's where he's made a lot of plays right now. He plays with very good vision, very good instincts. He's very intelligent. He understands what he's seen earlier in that game as well as on tape to kind of go ahead and calculate the formation along with the personnel and how they're using it, what they're going to get to. He plays with good discipline on the backend of the field. He's made a lot of plays by sitting back there, letting the play develop and then he, obviously, has the skillset physically to make those breaks and finish with those catches.
Q: You had a lot of moving parts in the second half. Can you talk about some of those guys that had to step in?
A: We lost a couple of guys, obviously, with getting injured, so we'll check on them and see where they're at. I know right now they're both getting looked at by the medical team. In terms of the next guy coming up, that's why we practice and prepare everybody. We talk about it all the time, whoever's in the game has to be productive and produce. (Cornerback Aaron Robinson) A-Rob is a guy who's similar in a lot of ways to what Xavier dealt with last year, as we just talked about, in terms of he missed a lot of time in development because of the injury situation and he's improved every week. This guy has a really good skillset, he's very instinctive, this guy plays physical. But what you see week after week is for these young guys especially is they have to understand how to really make sure they play with the right technique and discipline in these matchups because the reality is everyone they're ever going to cover in this league is a good athlete. Everyone has a skillset, that's why they're here, so you've also got to play with the right fundamentals and discipline. He's really improved on that aspect of it right there. Obviously, he's very aggressive at the point of attack with the ball coming as far as making breakups or getting a hand on the ball. I like the way this guy works. He's not shy, but he's got a quiet demeanor to him. The guys know he's always listening, but he's a very good communicator at the same time, which is kind of ironic to say that he's quiet but a good communicator. Think the thing he does best in communicating though is he listens. He listens and he listens to the install, he listens to the coaching points and he learns from other peoples' mistakes.
Q: Coverage-wise, you guys have done it before, but putting (Cornerback James) Bradberry on (Eagles Wide Receiver) DeVonta Smith. It seems to kind of work in what your game plan was and how the other guys could play their assignments. Was that kind of the plan going in to press him with Bradberry?
A: That was part of it and then there were also some adjustments within the game. In this game plan, there was playing in terms of just matching up based on alignment, as well as matching based on personnel. I think James has done a good job. He's a guy that works extremely hard for us. He's a really good leader for us. His style, he's a leader by example. He's not afraid to put his arm around a guy and challenge him. James really comes to work every day and there are a lot of things that people don't know about James, in terms of days he comes in there and maybe we have a plan with the medical team of we have to pull off this guy today, today we've got to get this guy a little bit of extra rest. Next thing, you look out there and there's 24 in one-on-ones and you kind of tell him, 'Hey James, we can back you down a little bit right here,' and he'll say, 'Nope, they're out here working. I want to get out here, too. I don't want to be the guy standing around watching.' You really appreciate and respect the guy who does that, you respect the way he works and, obviously, he's a productive player for a lot of reasons. To me, he's very productive because of how he works in practice and carries it over to the game. That number 6 (DeVonta Smith), he's a heck of a player. He's a guy when you play against, you've got to know where he's at because you know the quarterback knows where he's at. He's a guy who can make plays going down the field and he can really challenge your guys. He's an explosive player. Like I said earlier in the week, this guy is everything everyone thought he could be coming out. He is one of the top players at his position in the league. That's a lot to say now at a young age, but this guy is really a special type of player. We're obviously going to see him a whole lot, so next time we see him I'm sure they're going to have a different plan and find a way to match us up and create ways to get him open. We've got to keep improving with our techniques as a team and put them in a position to be successful.
Q: The ceremony at halftime with (Michael) Strahan – I know you're not seeing it, but does the team feel that? Did this team feel the presence of Strahan, especially in a game like this where the defense did carry?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, and we talked about it earlier in the week in terms of what's going on logistically at the game. They come out for halftime stuff, but with a guy like Strahan being honored – we're always big on the history of the organization. We talk about the area, the people we represent and the history of the organization, who came before us in terms of who we represent. When you've got a guy being honored like that, you don't want to go out there and lay an egg. Let's just be honest with what it is, you don't ever want to do that, but you don't want to go out there – Michael Strahan is out there being honored for the great player that he was and what he did for this team – you don't want to go out there and lay an egg, especially defensively. Those guys are conscious of it. I'll let him talk for himself, but (Defensive Lineman) Leonard (Williams) said to me coming out after halftime, he goes, 'It's good to see Strahan out here.' They're very, very conscious of that. They're very conscious of the people who came before us, very conscious of the players that made an impact on this team over the years. The only pictures we have in the building are of former players. We've got the Boroughs, we've got the area of North Jersey, we've got the areas so everyone is alert and aware of who we represent, to know the areas, and then we've got pictures of former players. That's all we've got. We don't need a bunch of motivational sayings and all that type of stuff. All we need is who and where, that's all that's important.
Q: How much of an emphasis did you put on trying to get the ball to some of your playmakers in space? Saw you guys try to get the ball really to (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay) in certain spots, (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley), even (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) early getting him out in space to make some plays. How much was that an emphasis throughout the week?
A: That was the emphasis. That was the emphasis, period. I explained earlier in terms of just how I see the game and I see the game through players. That's just the way I see the game. To me, it's important that we make sure that we're involving all of our guys. Sometimes we were able to put them in positions today to make plays. Thought Kenny made some huge catches for us down the stretch. He's obviously an issue in the red area. There were two opportunities to get the ball to him in the end zone. Obviously, not going to sit here and talk about anything that happened within the game, but obviously it's something that drew a lot of attention to it. It's all about players, that's it. It's what we do our job for. It's about the players. We want to put them in a position to make plays, give them a chance to be successful. In terms of the plan, there's not going to be a secret. The reality is we're going to always look for a way to get the ball to our players, that's it.
Q: You were asked about the operation. What did you think about the actual play calling and the way that Freddie went about it, the rhythm to it?
A: I thought all of those guys working together did a really good job of talking through the series, making some necessary adjustments. Not every play was perfect. There are a lot of things we're going to have to go back and make sure we correct, and keep pushing forward and working with, looking at what worked, what didn't and how we can improve on that. However, in terms of how those guys working together operationally with it, I was very pleased with it. I was very pleased with it.
Q: The last time you had the ball on the third-and-10, Daniel ends up rolling out and sliding. Is the idea there only throw it if a guy is wide open or do you have to be aggressive there to try to get the first down and run out the clock?
A: They're going to use their last timeout right there, so we don't want to give them a freebie and then all of a sudden give them a drive with a timeout. That's part of it right there. I don't think that's any kind of trade secret. I think everyone operationally within coaching kind of understands what you're doing there. There are times we can drop straight back, sit in the pocket and zing it down the field and we have confidence in doing that if you have the right matchup and if you have the right situation. For us today, we had a lot of confidence in terms of how our defense was playing. I'm a big believer in situationally managing the game. I thought it was big for us there that if we're going to give them the ball back, we're going to make them play rushed.
Q: Was it frustrating to hold the ball for only 23 seconds on that drive after Julian Love's fumble recovery at the end?
A: In four-minute football, which is the situation you want to run the clock out, hopefully you want to finish with the ball in your hand, but you talk about all the situations. You talk about the second we get the ball back, the first person I go to is Freddie. I talk to him and (Tight Ends Coach Derek Dooley) Dools and (Quarterbacks Coach) Jerry (Schulpinski) and (Wide Receivers Coach) Tyke (Tolbert) and all those guys on the headset, and we're all talking about what we're thinking. But we've had these conversations throughout the week, so when we called those plays today, that's not the first time we've talked about what we're going to call. We talk about four-minute offense on Thursday night. We talk about it on Friday. We talk about it at the Saturday coordinators' meeting. We talked about it in my office in the stadium today in terms of four-minute, two-minute, what're we thinking here. And then you get to the game and you say, 'Okay, four-minute is coming up, what are we thinking?' After I hit them with, 'Here's the flow of first, second, third down and what we have to start thinking about,' then I go right to (Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey) T-Mac and (Assistant Special Teams Coach) Tom (Quinn) and I start talking about, 'Okay, let's talk about the situations coming up.' If we don't finish this right here, it's a got-to-have-it punt situation. What're we expecting? Probably a rush, which is what we got. How are we going to handle this right here? How are we going to handle this situation? Then, I go to (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat (Graham) and it's like, 'Alright Pat, let's just be ready right now to play defense against a two-minute drill where they need a touchdown with no timeouts.' So, that's the situation right there and you lay it down and you play it. Before that, there are other situations that come up, as well. You've got to talk through all the things that are coming up. I want all the coaches always thinking through processes and talking about it to players. I don't want the players surprised, so when it's third down and we're on offense, that punt team better be ready on the sideline because Tom and T-Mac I've talked to about 'Here's the situation, here's how we're going to address it. What're we expecting to get based on the history and tendencies of the coordinator and based on the players they have? Is this more of a rush or return type of philosophy here? How are they going to handle it? And then how do we handle it and coordinate it, as well?' Defensively, you've got start talking about, 'Look guys, third down is coming up.' I know what the offense is going to do, I know what the call is going to be because I hear it getting buzzed in. You start hearing Pat, 'Okay guys, here's what you're looking at scenario-wise. The ball could be here. The ball could be on this hash based on the direction we're going.' Let's start thinking about how they're going to call this game and what they're going to do. So, you always want to try and play ahead as much as you can.
Q: The only touchdown you scored was by a guy who had not had a reception in the NFL. That's a play you have to your tight ends, right? You just put the next guy in there so he gets that play?
A: We knew he was going to be the guy in there all week, so this wasn't a situation where (Tight End Chris) Myarick just by happenstance was in there. That was a play designed for a couple different reads and he ended up being involved in it, and did a good job making it right there.