Good afternoon. A couple of thoughts – I thought that Eli (Manning) played well last night, and I thought that he did a good job of managing the game. His percentage of pass was up. He did not throw an interception. There was one ball down in the green zone there that could have been a problem, but he had a very good quarterback rating last night. He did a good job in all phases of his game. His pass-protection was good. I thought for two weeks in a row we protected the passer well. I thought that was a big plus.
We did get the two turnovers. The unfortunate thing with one of them – with (Mathias) Kiwanuka's – was that in fumbling it back to them, they went ahead and score(d) on that particular drive.
Offensively, we had a lot of numbers last night and not a lot of points. But it was a better performance and I do feel better about that aspect of it. The irony of it is our execution was better, and yet we had seven penalties on the offensive side of the ball. Three of the personal fouls really hurt us in terms of the yardage that was lost, and then we made the yardage up, but at the end a couple of opportunities to get it in the end zone, we didn't make it. Had we not had the penalties, perhaps that yardage would have been a part of a touchdown drive. That was the negative, I thought, with regard to the penalties hurt(ing) us. We had obviously the two opportunities in the green zone which we did not score (on), which would have meant the difference in the game – two touchdowns there rather than two field goals. And the fourth-down call, which I'll stick with, would have allowed us to keep the ball and been in some kind of a scoring drive. It would have kept the ball away from them and not allowed them to have the ball again.
I was disappointed in our kickoff coverage, our kickoff return. I didn't think either kicker really kicked the ball well in terms of the kickoffs. But the return games – they averaged the 36-yard line, we averaged the 30. I thought we could have done a better job with that. I thought we could have covered better than we did. Other than the turnovers, defensively I don't have a whole lot to comment on on that side of the ball.
Q: When you look at the two red zone tries that were field goals instead of touchdowns, did they do anything differently defensively?
A: Not really. I think on that…Where we had the running play that lost a yard, I think they made a good play. I don't know that that's exactly the way they would have drawn it up. We had a wham on and the nose and the backside backer scraped over the top to the same side, which is normally not what you see. We had an opportunity to score on the pass to (Jeremy) Shockey. I thought it was put in the right spot. That would have been a touchdown. We tried a screen – what we call a knock-down screen – They had a blitz on and we weren't able to distinguish Tiki (Barber) right away. With the pressure in the face of the quarterback it ended up (that) the ball (was) going at the feet of the receiver rather than take a chance on a turnover. There's no question those were critical situations in the game and I told our team today that despite the numbers, points are the key and we needed to come away with the two scores. We really haven't scored the kind of points that I think are needed for quite a few games now, and I think that's something we definitely have to get back on track with.
Q: After losing four straight games, it's human nature to get down. Do you keep reinforcing the big picture?
A: Absolutely, and then I did it today when I first walked into the room. I took a little bit of a different tactic in that I wanted them to realize that we had opportunities to win – of course, we had opportunities last week as well. I really wanted them to understand how it was we lost the game again and in no uncertain terms that these are two games we thought we could have won last week and this week and we let them get away. We did so because the quality of our play isn't quite where it should be. We're spotty in our play and when we do have opportunities, we haven't taken advantage of them. I'm disappointed in the drives to score on our defensive team. Obviously the last drive, a 42-yard pass on first down play when the game has been tied – that's very, very disappointing. The third-and-one run of 25 yards right before the half that put them in field goal range – that was very disappointing to me as well. I thought we had some containment problems with the quarterback, who was athletic, liked to maneuver, liked to get outside, likes to have a little bit more time to let people get downfield, and I thought that was something that we lost containment on the quarterback on a number of occasions as well. But I did point out the fact that this race for the playoffs is still very much in our grasp, and that the most important thing for us, as we noted going into last week's game, is that we need to be playing our best football right now. That's why I said, I'm encouraged by the way our offense played. What we have to do is get ourselves in harmony again with all three phases playing smart football and playing well together at the same time at the right time of the year. We did some things that were encouraging, but other things that need to be corrected. Certainly, I had already mentioned that the penalties on the offensive side of the ball were very discouraging. Not getting the ball in the end zone there with the two tight green zone opportunities – we'd been pretty darn good at that. Dallas has been an excellent team at keeping people out of the end zone. They're one of the highest-rated teams in the league at I think 50 percent allowing down there – 48 percent—but there's no excuse for us not getting the ball in. Then we gave up two big plays with the run, two big plays with the pass, which we knew we couldn't afford to do. We also allowed them off the hook on third down. They achieved at 55 percent on third down, which is something we knew we'd have to do something about. We did win the time of possession. They were the number one team in the league coming in in time of possession. We did win on the time of possession. So as I said, we did a lot of good things, we did some very bad things and a game which we had an opportunity to do something about – even if it's get it into overtime and have an opportunity to play overtime – that slipped away through our fingers in the closing seconds of the game. We're disappointed in that, but as I mentioned to you, I also pointed out to the players that our destiny is truly in our hands and we do have something to say about how this finishes here. We need to play our best football right now and we have a four-game schedule in front of us.
Q: You started out by saying you used a different tactic in talking to them. How was it different?
A: I've been, I think, more encouraging in some of these losses of late because I know how down they are. I was today, too, but I also wanted them to realize that we're losing these games because of what's taking place on the field. We're beating ourselves. We're hurting ourselves, and the fact of the matter is, the games are slipping away from our grasp by what's happening right in front of us on the field. There are some plays made, but there are not enough plays made. The untimeliness of some of the things that are happening is foolish. The penalties were foolish. Where did they come from? We've had a pretty good grasp on the penalties. We've had a pretty good handle on penalties here over the last few weeks, and all of a sudden we get nine penalties, seven of them on offense. Where in the world did that come from, and why would it show up now? And being excited about playing is not the answer. We talked about being smart and we talked about controlling our emotions under pressure and performing well. I did think that our offensive passing game showed improvement. I thought our speed up the field showed improvement. There's no doubt our pass-protection was better. Our quarterback was better. So that's something for our entire team to take as a positive. On the other hand, the chunks that we gave up were not a good sign. So it kind of balances off with the good and the bad and obviously it's not a very good day, having lost.
Q: How dangerous have these penalties been for you guys?
A: Well, that's what I said. We've been in pretty good shape. We've been in pretty good control of that situation. Last night they were very instrumental. You play a good defensive team and you set yourself back – The 2nd-and-25, for example – you're not going to make many, have many opportunities to come out from under that. We did get out from under one or two of them and they weren't – What I tried to make our team understand is if we put that yardage on the end of the run or, for example, the one screen that was 43 yards, that puts you inside the 10-yard line right now. That's the point that I'm trying to make. There's, again, some of the idea of team and focus and one and hurting our team with those things, those penalties is what upset me more than anything else.
Q: That's something you've always preached – don't take bad penalties. How can you as a coach to get them back to where they were?
A: I think they're foolish. There's no call for it. The Jason Bell penalty, that's tough. You have a guy running toward the end zone and you get there at the same time. He changes shoulders as if he's going out of bounds and he drops his shoulder…The call on David Tyree, I don't even know if there's contact there, to be honest with you. He's on the ground in front of the linebacker. I don't see anything there. But the other two are legitimate penalties and they hurt.
Q: Are some of these penalties a byproduct of the guys being on a losing streak and pressing –
A: I wouldn't go along with that. If you want to know the honest truth, they're stupid. They're bad penalties. They have no business in a game of that nature with that much significance. You pull away. You're smart enough not to get involved in that. I don't care what the circumstance is. You have to learn that the penalty is devastating to your team and I don't care what the circumstance is, you have to walk away.
Q: Other than reminding them of it, what are the repercussions of committing these penalties?
A: What you're doing to them, what I'm doing to them. You have so many people and they represent your team. You stand in front of the whole team and you point out the penalties. You read the names and they're all aware of it. Do we run a couple of laps? I wish it was that simple.
Q: Because there are some guys in there who you just said had stupid penalties who don't think they did anything stupid.
A: I just mentioned the four of them and gave you my opinion of all four of them.
Q: It seems like it would be a problem if a player instead of saying, ‘I'm sorry, that was stupid,' says, ‘I didn't do anything wrong. I was protecting myself.'
A: I didn't see any real protection.
Q: Plaxico Burress said he was protecting himself, because there are guys out there who want to hurt him.
A: I didn't see it that way.
Q: On 2nd-and-4 twice, you ran three pass-plays and Brandon Jacobs wasn't on the field for any of them. What is his role if not for those situations?
A: He comes in by circumstance, by situation, with the personnel that goes along with it. If it was goal line, Brandon would have been in there. If it was short-yardage, Brandon would have been in there. He plays by personnel and by situation. He's not in there in certain personnel combinations.
Q: Is there something they were doing there that made you think that the pass-play would be more effective?
A: Something they were doing? Not necessarily, no. Not necessarily.
Q: Does the way Jacobs has been playing in certain situations make you want to put him on the field in different situations, or is it too late in the season for that?
A: No, there's nothing late about it, and I think the rotation has been pretty good. The only time it's really suffered is when we haven't had a lot of snaps. The rotation last night was pretty good. It could have been a little bit more, but his role is what his role is. He does play. You saw him play in the third-down package a little bit last night. There's some opportunities there.
Q: Was the containment of Romo, especially on the Witten play, but on the last three Dallas drives where they scored the biggest issue for you?
A: That was a very big issue for me. Plus, we didn't have much pressure on him. When he got outside, he had little or none, which is the way he plays. You've studied him. You watch how he plays. But one of the problems that I have with that is that this is how we prepare. This guy is an athletic quarterback who is mobile, who does utilize opportunities when he sees a rusher duck inside or he thinks he can get to the edge to allow him to throw the ball further down the field. The pass to Witten, now Witten is running like what you would call a pump. He's faking a short route and then up the seam. By virtue of the quarterback bouncing outside like that, the whole thing had an opportunity to demonstrate itself even further. Our half-field cover safety got way too wide because there was a receiver going up the sideline, which is no excuse. He put the ball right on the money between the two guys, which he does very well when he's on the move. To me, you have to keep him in the pocket and when he gets outside the pocket you lose – He's not trying to run, now. He's trying to set himself up to throw the ball further down the field.
Q: Did the three injured guys you had that returned come through the game all right, and were there any other injuries?
A: There's, I think, basic bumps and bruises but I don't think anything…No setbacks there, that I know of.
Q: Is this a unique situation to deal with Kiwanuka two weeks in a row where he makes great plays, and then in the same play it's followed by –
A: You know, the only thing about it is he's a young kid who plays very, very hard. If you go back to any comments that I've made since training camp on the thing that's been most impressive. He has outstanding stamina, he plays very hard, he is a smart guy. He gives you everything he's got. There's not a lot more you can ask out of a young kid like that. He seemed to be in position a lot of times last night. I know he only got the one sack, but he was in position a lot of times. He's been struck with two devastating plays. One week after another. He bounced back well from the one a week ago and he'll bounce back well from this one. You've seen it as well as I have, and there really isn't much of an explanation. You would hope that if that opportunity came again – he does have a couple of interceptions, now – that he would secure the ball better and think about that first, before even running.
Q: On the Witten play, you mentioned that Will Demps had gotten too wide. Lately for him, he's had some missed tackles, which are obvious, but there are other times when the ball is thrown in his area and he's the closest guy there…Is it as bad for him as it looks?
A: He certainly can play better.
A: Both coverage and run support.
Q: Is the knee an issue for him?
A: I don't really think so. He has never used it for any reason.