Q. You spoke of better days ahead. Why do you believe that?
I know the quality of the people on our football team and in our entire football operation. People win in this league, and that will never change. Obviously, talent is important. Momentum and confidence are also important this time of year, and we know what that looks and feels like. However, when you get in tough spots, the character and the quality of the individuals is what pulls you through. I have great confidence in this group.
Q. What happened in the running game?
Against the Giants, the lack of success in the running game was a combination of some of the things we did schematically, and the execution. We allowed too much penetration at the point of attack or at the immediate backside area. We need to do a better job, and with that, the runners need to trust it. It’s like any part of football, the fundamentals weren’t clean on certain plays, whether it was our footwork, our hat placement, or our finish. Our production clearly wasn’t what it needed to be.
Q. Have we reached the point of must-win games?
It’s a must-win game because it’s a division game in November. We have three very important division games here in the next six weeks. We’re not in dire straits, but we’ve let some games get away from us. That being said, I’m not a believer in spending a lot of time on the past. We are allotted seven days each week to prepare to win. The way we manage our time, the language that we express among one another, is all part of the energy path toward success. That’s what we’re focused on.
Q. Do you spell out tiebreakers and title-race circumstances to your players, or just focus them on the next game?
We’re focused on the next game and our record. There’s a formula that equates to winning every year and everyone in the building is aware of it. The first part of that formula is winning our division games and that’s right in front of us. This is a home division game we have to win. We had one get away from us against Chicago at home, and we have to make sure we take care of business against Minnesota.
Q. What’s the emotion this team needs to tap into now?
From the outside looking in, emotion or energy sometimes gets tilted one way or the other because of the result of a game. Our football team plays with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. We’ve been stressed at certain positions, leading to more challenges during the week and in games. There are a number of components to it. Regardless of the challenges, the passion, energy, and commitment from our football team is present and as high as it’s ever been.
Q. Did you see good things on defense?
I saw good things on defense, but we surrendered too many big plays. A big play contributed to every scoring drive in the Giants game. The big-play production is really what got away from us. As far as the overall statistics and the situational numbers, third downs, etc., I felt good about those. They converted the two fourth-and-ones and those were both big plays that extended drives and their time of possession in the first half. Our defense had a solid performance, but it wasn’t good enough to win. We have a point goal each week, and we didn’t hit it defensively. We obviously didn’t hit our point-production goal on offense either.
Q. A lot of fans are seeing a similarity between this season and the 2010 season. Do you see one?
Yes, when I look at the medical reports, but every season is different. This season has brought on challenges we haven’t had in my time here, and that’s the beauty of the NFL. It’s extremely competitive from every angle. The unexpected happens routinely, and it’s the responsibility of everybody committed to the journey to respond and overcome it.
Q. How much do you use stats to evaluate a game?
To me, statistics are identifiers. I’ve always felt statistics tell me where I need to look. There are a lot of statistics that equate to winning. Some people say we won this play or lost that play. In the evaluation process, I’ve always been in the mindset of viewing a play as a plus or minus. What I mean is we may have a five-yard gain on a play, and that would at first glance look like a win. However, when you look at the play, in terms of design, it potentially wasn’t the best play against that particular opponent’s call. A player made the play successful, but I would grade the play as a minus. We really have to stay in tune with what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s something we discuss internally during preparation and we continually work on it. We stay focused on what we’re trying to get done each play, what we’re asking our players to do each play, and how that stacks up against our opponent, and evaluate that as a plus or minus. Because if we sit there and say we’re 1-for-5 in the red zone, so we’re terrible, that’s where a lot of people stop their evaluation. Frankly, that’s where it starts and that’s the way we approach it.
Q. Is there a common thread that runs through teams that play well late in the season?
Definitely. The teams that play well late in the season are confident, they possess a total belief in their identity and their success is tailored to utilizing their strengths. To me, that’s always been the most important aspect of winning late-season football. Let’s be honest, we’ve been trying to get into the rhythm of our identity these last couple of weeks. It’s the ability to play to our strengths, and maximize them, while making the key plays. Big-play production is a strong statistical indictor of success. Big-play production and turnover ratio usually tells you what kind of game you’re watching.
Q. What was the spirit that drove your 2010 team late in the season?
The belief in who we were. We lost so many guys to injury and brought in so many new guys, but the new guys just jumped on board. We took it one step at a time. One of our mantras here is to stack success, and that’s what we did each week. We haven’t had success the last couple of weeks, and it’s important for us to beat Minnesota and start stacking success. That’s how you do it. It’s one step at a time, and don’t get swayed. Everybody wants to talk about everything except winning this week, and that’s really the conversation we need to avoid. That’s why I repeatedly tell the team to listen to your language. Our language really dictates our action. If our work ethic, focus, language and conversational interaction is correct, the ability to perform is going to improve.
To see previous editions of Tuesdays with McCarthy, click here.