The message that I brought to the team today after looking at the tape was one of our real concern. Yes, we are 7-4, but what I really want from an individual and a team standpoint is for us to play as well as we can play. That is not taking place right now and that has to be corrected. I think that if you look at all three phases yesterday, you will see some very positive things on special teams. The numbers and the results were not quite as good as the week before. We punted the ball very well, obviously we benefited from some rolls and the fact that the ball wasn't handled. I thought our punt return team, although the return part of it wasn't there, we caused some issues with our rush and there were some bad balls particularly punted in the second half. I thought our kickoff coverage team did a decent job, a respectable job, our kickoff return, we had a chance for a couple of good ones which we had some yardage and others that weren't quite as good as I expected them to be. We had the 48-yard field goal. We got some good push on our field goal rush team but no result in terms of any kind of blocks there. That was okay. I thought it was not quite as good as a week ago but I thought it was really steady. I thought (Dave) Tollefson, number 71, helped us with regard to making him active and his presence was felt on special teams.
Defensively, I thought we played okay. We played against a team that was number one in the league with the rush. There were some situations that weren't great. Obviously the second play of the game with the long touchdown and then the third quarter where following our field goal they took the ball and used some nine, nine and a half minutes and drove the ball down and kicked their own field goal to balance that scoring. That got away there, too. We did not turn the ball over which defensively we talked about having to create some turnovers and to accomplish some opportunities to give our offense the ball with good field position which I didn't think we had very good field position the majority of the day. Again we held the rush; they rushed 39 times for 127 some yards.
Offensively, we didn't execute very well. Of course the number one thing was the interceptions, which three of them were touchdowns, one was at point-blank range and very soon a touchdown, so actually 28 points came off of that. I didn't think our pass protection was always as good as it could have been. Our running game, although it looked like we would have some balance in that first drive, really never was to be taken advantage of for the rest of the game with the exception of a couple of plays by (Ahmad) Bradshaw later on. Our passing game was not very well executed. I didn't think our routes were real sharp or crisp and obviously Eli (Manning) had the interceptions and they were the story of the game. My whole-hearted support goes to Eli. I think we all served as a part of the problem yesterday. We have some things obviously that we have to straighten out and do much better from the offensive side of the football, which I think we can do moving forward.
Yesterday was certainly a very poor performance and one in which we have tremendous regret, particularly turning the ball over. One of the biggest things that I talk to our team about consistently is turnovers and you are not going to win a game when you turn the ball over like that and people score. That is the number one thing that is a problem for me today, but secondly is our execution, and then all the way around again, playing the game as well as we possibly can play and we have not achieved that today.
What can you tell us about Kareem McKenzie and Antonio Pierce today?
They are both sore. It looks like they will be okay but they are very sore today. Hopefully that won't affect them on Wednesday but they are sore.
Is it a sprained ankle with Pierce?
Yeah, it is a sprain.
What is McKenzie's injury?
Multiple contusions on that one leg that he was rolled up on and hopefully that won't be an issue.
Is there a thread with the offensive struggles over the past few weeks?
No, I don't know that there is a thread. First of all, last week I was on the warpath about points. We hadn't been scoring enough points, we had to score more points, which obviously we didn't do yesterday either, but we haven't had the consistency. That would be the one thing that I would point to. I don't know how you could take the ball for that one drive… we are down seven to nothing after two plays, we take the ball, we drive it the length of the field, a good drive, and we mix the run and the pass well, we score, it is a 7-7 game. After that there was, as I mentioned, not real good field position but nevertheless there was nothing to show for it, with any kind of consistency, offensive production from that point on. I think once the Vikings saw the way the game was going, particularly at 21-7, they played a game where they were not going to make any errors themselves and they didn't. The quarterback was 10 out of 12 and even with that we had four sacks. They rushed the ball, there was no concern if they did have to punt the ball, they punted the ball. The consistency thing is the number one thing and the execution on a consistent basis, where we should be at this time of the year, was not there.
Are you concerned about how Eli will respond to yesterday's performance?
No. I think he will respond well. I talked to him and he was very forceful in telling me that he was okay or however you want to put it. He has great inner-strength and it is most unfortunate and if you play the game any great length of time, these things happen. I remember a quote reading that John Unitas book how he had five (interceptions) in one game but they won the game and he said he would throw five every day if they could win for sure. It certainly is a real slap in the face, if you will, when that happens because it is not something that is a part of our game. We are normally more in control of our game than that. We don't turn the ball over like that and although we have had some interceptions this year, certainly nothing to that effect. I think he is very strong, he is very principled, he is a guy that will never shy away from taking responsibility and certainly that is not the case today.
Do you like his approach in terms of the way he does not show his emotions?
That is him and that is good enough for me. That is the way he handles everything. He doesn't get real excited about things when he does them very, very well and he has had some very, very good games here, don't forget about that either. He has the whole support of the locker room. Everybody is, ‘whatever we can do to make it better we will do it,' I think the team is very strong in terms of where we stand. We had a good week of practice, we had a fast week of practice, we had a lot of good things happen throughout the course of the week, and also the deep ball. We threw a lot of deep balls last week in practice and had some success with that. We were all excited about this game as well and we knew the history of the two years prior, we knew all of that going in, so it wasn't that. I just think that for whatever reason we put ourselves in such a bad hole that there was no way that we could scramble out.
Do you know why Eli seems to be throwing off his back foot like he did early in his career?
I don't, other than the fact that there were some times when the rush was in his face and he couldn't follow-through. He did rush a couple throws, which he would be the first one to tell you. Why that exact question, other than the fact that occasionally there were people in his face, I couldn't answer.
Where is his growth at this stage in his career?
You can't just take the one game. You are going to have to stand back and look at the season and see where we go from here. I told the team yesterday that this is the real test right now. I said something about it at halftime and I said it after the game, that it is not about a man and the fact that he gets knocked down, it is what he does after he gets back up. I think that what everyone is saying about our team based on yesterday, hey, we earned it. We came about it because of the way we performed, so we deserve it, but on the other hand, let's see how we respond now. I think there are five games to go. It is the first game of a five-game season for us. Chicago certainly proved what they are made of when they came back in the last six minutes to win there, so it is going to be a most difficult game in that division (the NFC North) again on the road and let's see how we come back from that. I think that there is not one guy sitting in that team room that is not very much aware of what happened yesterday and where we are right now with our circumstance. I think there is a lot of pride on our team. I think they will respond well, but I think this also, too: We have to perform at a much higher level. There is a lot of pride involved and there is a lot of looking at that tape and asking themselves, ‘why did that happen? How did I do that? Why didn't I do that?' and I think from the standpoint of the quality of our play again and being as good as we can possibly be, that stuff has got to happen pretty darn fast.
Since you are so far behind the Cowboys in the division and ahead of the rest of the NFC for the wildcard, is there any worry about complacency?
You know what is really interesting, John, when you talk about that? That is the furthest thing from my mind today. The one thing that is on my mind today is the quality of our play, individuals playing as well as they can play, and our team playing as well as we can play. Nothing really is all that important right now other than that fact because we need to play at a higher level and a better level. We knew Minnesota was a good football team, forget their record, but that notwithstanding that is not the type of game that we play.
Is there any worry about complacency?
No, I am not worried about that at all. I am not worried about that and I don't know how that can happen. I don't refer to that, they are aware of it, but that is not the most important thing right now.
Is it across the board that receivers lacked crispness on their routes?
I did make a general statement obviously, but there were certain things that were not done very well. Why that would happen at this point in the season? That is a good question. I think right now the idea is crispness, execution, and timing. You certainly discussed the ball that was intercepted by Sharper, so I am not going to go into that, but some of our timing wasn't as good as it should be.
What has been different with the offensive line with them giving up a lot more sacks as of late?
We are playing against good football teams with outstanding rushers, outstanding players, there isn't any doubt about that. It is not all the offensive line, let's face it, the backs, the tight ends, everybody is involved in protection, but we can play better. Without a doubt, we can play better.
Is pass protection one of the hidden issues that you have when you lose your top two running backs to injuries?
Part of that. When you have guys that haven't had the opportunity to be out there that much during the regular season and you ask them to be involved in protection schemes, you have heard me many times say about young running backs (and) the first thing they have to do is learn to pass protect and what their assignments are. Certainly Ahmad gave us a real jolt when he did play, that is something that he has to continue to get better at. Reuben (Droughns) did a solid job in terms of stepping up and taking people on. I didn't think anywhere across the board we finished the way we need to do. Sometimes the blows were very good, very sufficient, but it is the follow-up that allows the quarterback to continue to follow through or finish what he is doing and I think that the word finish could be used as well.
Is Eli staring down receivers too much?
You see it sometimes but I don't know that… you could turn it around on their quarterback, too, but it didn't have that much of an effect on us. I thought because of their pass rush some of the things they did with those veteran safeties was smart. They sat underneath some things and got away with it. You won't get away with it every week, but they did.
It seemed like there were a lot of tipped balls yesterday?
He did have balls tipped yesterday.
Is that a result of looking down receivers, too?
That is part of that. You fight that battle of, ‘okay, what is the answer for pressure, well let's go to the three-step game.' Well, what their scheme was, which was in a way, they played a lot of blitz-zone or blitz-man coverage or dog-man coverage and they did a lot of what we call hugging with the linebackers. The linebacker, if the back would hesitate, he would come and if he couldn't get home all the way, he would read the quarterback and get his hands up. That happened two or three times with their linebackers. The ball that was intended for Shockey that quite frankly would have been a touchdown for us, making it 27-17, that ball was tipped by Leber in the middle of the thing because Leber is starting toward the back, gets his hand up in the air, tips the ball, we lose the touchdown, and they have the entire sideline. There was some of that going on in terms of tipped balls. You always want to say, ‘can you slide and find a way to throw the ball through an open area?' Well that wasn't the case yesterday. We had some balls tipped.
Do you anticipate Derrick Ward or Brandon Jacobs practicing on Wednesday?
You are going to have to, like I am, wait and see what transpires. Right now the idea that Ward would practice on Wednesday has been planted from the trainers and we will see. He has another couple days to try to get ready and the word on Jacobs is not there yet.
How about Aaron Ross and his hamstring?
We are going to have to see. He is sore. He was restricted during the game to just playing in a substituted defense. Hopefully he can make some progress for the next couple of days but he is going to be limited no doubt.
How about Kevin Dockery? Did he get hurt?
No. He just got the wind knocked out of him.
With your positive take on Ahmad Bradshaw in recent weeks does he deserve more play time?
You would like to take full advantage of what you saw yesterday, without a doubt, his quickness, his power, and his ability to move the pile despite his stature. We will have to see. It is more than just running the ball.
Has Plaxico Burress' injury taken away your deep threat and are defenses playing you differently as a result?
You are at the game, you see it, it is being played differently. There are other things to take in. We had seven plays over 20 yards yesterday. I think to answer you, the big play has been missing and the 30- and 40-yard touchdown, yeah, that has been missing. Putting ourselves by consistency, by the quality of our execution, in position to score points, that is the thing that is frustrating for me. Right now it is not being done with any kind, in any way, shape, or form to satisfy what we need to get done in order to make sure we are in position to win.
If you hit on some of those big plays, that then might take away some of the inconsistent plays on the longer drives?
That is true; we tried a couple of things yesterday. We had an opportunity with a ball that ended up, because of the rush, being underthrown to Plaxico that we thought would have been a touchdown in the corner of the end zone. There was one for about 31 yards that he did catch that ended up being underthrown and he came back because again, pressure there. We had fully intended to throw the ball deep. We practiced it all week and we did throw it deep, we had some pressure, couldn't get the ball exactly where we wanted it, but we did have that as an objective. There wasn't any doubting the numbers going in, in terms of where they were ranked in the secondary, so we did have those things in mind. We weren't able to accomplish everything we wanted to, but we did make that attempt.
Coaches and players always say they play the season one game at a time. They all say they don't look…