ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Giants began their season with a loss, dropping their home opener 26-16 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
After the game, Head Coach Joe Judge and several players spoke with the media about the game. Transcripts of each interview can be read below.
Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Alright guys, I appreciate you. I was talking with the team a little bit afterward, made sure I checked in with every player, so I’m sometimes slow out of the locker room and I appreciate your patience. To start this off, I’ll just tell you right now that I’m proud of how this team fought for 60 minutes. That’s something I really wanted to see – you guys asked me earlier in the week what I wanted to see from this team, I wanted to see a team that played together for 60 minutes and fought regardless of score, circumstance, or situation, and I saw that. I’m proud of how our guys played. Now, obviously there are some things that we have to do to clean up. The mark of a good team is improvement you can make moving on from Week 1. This next week we’ve got a big test, but we’ve got to stop with the turnovers, we’ve got to eliminate the unnecessary penalties, we have to do better at the end of the half, we have to finish ourselves in the red area, so those are the big things that stuck out right there. I’m sure there is a litany of other things that you guys want to ask about, so I’m going to open this up for questions.
Q: Hey Joe, just wanted to get your first analysis of [Quarterback] Daniel’s [Jones] performance, and then what you saw on the interception down by the goal line.
A: Well first off, I like the way he played aggressive. He stood in the pocket – it was obviously a strong rush coming at him all night – he played confident in there, he stood in there as long as he could, he delivered some good, accurate passes for us. He had two throws I know he wants back down at the goal line, that’s something we can’t have happen. Look, I’ll talk to Daniel a little bit more about it, I’ll watch the tape and make sure we clean up everything involved. That’s definitely something you can’t have, 19-play drive and come away with no points, especially down there in the low red. That’s not acceptable, but I’m proud of the way he played aggressive, I’m proud of the way this team stuck together.
Q: Big play early in the game, you recovered a muffed punt. On that third down play, [Tight End Evan] Engram was trying to kick out there, did Jones miss him or did Engram not run the proper route?
A: You know what, I’ve got to watch the tape before I give you a final answer on that. I just know that in that situation right there, we want to come away with seven points. We got the field goal down there, it was an opportunistic play by the special teams taking advantage of a muffed punt. That’s something we were kind of figuring would kind of happen at some point in these early games with some of the guys not getting preseason experience. We were ready for it, our guys took advantage of it, they did a good job getting on the ball and advancing it to give our offense position, but we’ve got to come away with better points than just three right there.
Q: Obviously, the Steelers were keying on Saquon Barkley in the running game, but what do you guys have to do better, what can you control to succeed there and keep that going and win some battles in the run game?
A: You know, every week is going to be a little bit of a different challenge based on the scheme we’re going to see, that’s obviously a very talented front we played tonight. But look, we’re going to stay aggressive with the run game. Saquon is a key part of our team, he’s going to be a difference-maker in how successful this team is going to be, so we’re going to stay with him. We have a lot of confidence in him, I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our offensive line. Look, we’re going to watch the tape and clean up what we have to, it’s going to be a different opponent next week with a little bit of a different challenge, but it’s obviously something we have to improve on in the run game. That’s not something we’re going to shy away from, we have to improve on that, but I have all the confidence in the players – the offensive line, the skill players – and we’re going to keep leaning on these guys and that’s how we’re going to have success with the men we have in the locker room right now.
Q: How did you feel like your cornerbacks played? I know you had a few different guys that lined up against [Steelers Wide Receiver] Juju [Smith-Schuster] in particular and a couple of the touchdowns, one of them [Defensive Back] Isaac [Yiadom] was covering. I’m just curious how you felt those guys did, especially in their tough spot tonight.
A: I thought overall they competed for 60 minutes. This is a team that makes a lot of explosive plays. I think [Defensive Coordinator] Pat [Graham] was able to limit some of the production early on, really do a good job against the run game early on, forced them to be one-dimensional, put a lot of pressure on [Steelers QB] Ben [Roethlisberger]. That was good for our defense, that limited some of the exposure the guys had. They made adjustments, they’re a good team, they’re going to take some shots down the field, that’s a very talented team, very talented offensive skill group. When you play the Steelers, you have to understand they’re going to make plays. These are talented guys, they’re a good team for a reason. They’re going to make their plays, and you’ve just got to stay disciplined and committed to the process, and eventually work to make more.
Q: With Saquon, on 10 of his 15 carries, he was hit behind the line of scrimmage, eight of them went for negative yards. When you hear that and see that, is that all the offensive line? And also, when that’s happening, I know you want to stick with the run, but does it kind of hurt you more than it helps you to even try to run at that point?
A: I think you have to have confidence in the game plan and stick with it as long as you can based on how the opponent is playing you, but we’re not going to give up on the run. We have confidence in our offensive line, we have confidence in our backs. We’re going to give Saquon the ball a good bit, he’s an integral part to how we’re going to be successful. I’ve got to look at the tape before I give a lot of final answers. A lot of the things you see on the field I don’t want to overreact to emotionally. I want to watch the tape, clear it up and make sure I have all the information. Obviously, it’s something we have to clean up, but I have confidence in our offensive coaches and our offensive personnel, and we’re going to make those adjustments, clean it up, come back strong and make improvements going forward.
Q: The way you played up front defensively, do you think that you guys ran out of a little gas in the second half? It seemed like [Defensive Lineman] Leonard [Williams] specifically and [Linebacker] Lorenzo [Carter] were really causing havoc and then in the second half the Steelers were able to give Ben some time and make things happen that really cost you down the stretch.
A: There are no excuses there. Both teams had the same opportunities to prepare, the same circumstances to play in. We’ve talked about it throughout the weeks, this is the first time that anyone has had an opportunity to be out there for the duration of time that we had today. I thought our guys had good conditioning, but towards the end you saw both teams a little winded and they were able to make some plays at the right time. You give Ben an opportunity to sit back there, eventually he’s going to find somebody and make some plays. I’m proud of how the front played, especially early on they were able to be disruptive and create some havoc, I loved the energy they played with. Look, throughout the year, we’re going to have to improve our conditioning and nobody is in a full-game condition in the league. Across the league, you watch 32 teams and all 32 are going to have to consistently work on that over these next four weeks to really get in that game shape for the duration of the season.
Q: I’m curious watching [Center] Nick Gates and [Offensive Tackle] Cam Fleming tonight, it looked like maybe they struggled with some of the stunts that Pittsburgh threw at them up front. Just curious about your thoughts on them and how you can get better in that regard moving forward, especially against another tough pass rusher in [Bears Defensive End] Khalil Mack next week.
A: We definitely have a tough front to face next week. The only way we can improve on any of that is really by going out there every day in practice and putting our players in positions they’re going to have to play in in the game. We have to do a better job as coaches of giving them the looks they’re going to see. Pittsburgh is a good team, they make adjustments, they’re not going to stay in one front throughout the game, they’re going to give you different looks. Chicago is going to be much of the same story. So, we’ve got to do a good job, starting with myself, of making sure our players see everything they’re going to face possible.
Q: What did they do exactly to give you such a hard time in the run game? And was it what they did or was it partially, in your opinion, your guys not performing up to what you expected?
A: We always like to take the approach that it’s up to us to control whatever comes our way. I don’t like looking at the opponent too much and thinking they’re dictating anything. We have the opportunity to react and be prepared, so I’ve got to look at the tape and give you an exact answer later. Like I said earlier, there’s a lot of things I don’t want to misspeak on right now, I want to take a final look at the tape. Obviously, they had a lot of good plays up front, they did some movement, did some stunts, changed the fronts a little bit on us, but ultimately we have to handle whatever comes our way.
Q: Joe, I noticed you stood between [Defensive Lineman] Dalvin [Tomlinson] and [Safety] Jabrill [Peppers] as they were kneeling and put your hand on their shoulders. If you could just talk about how that came about and any pregame conversation with the team on kneeling, and how you decided what you were going to do.
A: Real simple, nothing was scripted in terms of who stood next to me or who I was touching. But look, we made a decision as a team we’re going to respect everybody. As a team, the thing that makes you special is you respect everybody’s unique background and you can move on. So, we went out there, we respected our players’ right, we respected our players’ choice to handle it how they wanted to handle it. I’m proud of how our team handled it in terms of sticking together and not letting anything externally divide us, we moved on from the anthem and then we played 60 minutes of tough football where our guys were committed to staying out there and working together for the entirety. To me, the players have a choice. We talk about it as a team, we had a lot of conversations, we always do, we’re very transparent as a team. I respect everybody in that locker room, and they respect each other, and that’s what’s important.
Quarterback Daniel Jones
Q: What happened on that interception on the goal line, could you take us through what went down there?
A: Yeah, you know, obviously a play I’d like to have back, I’d like to have a chance to look at it with the coaches tomorrow and we’ll look into it. That’s a costly mistake there after a long drive, so… you know, something I got to work on and improve on.
Q: Hey Daniel, there was a lot of optimism heading into the season. Does this take a little of the air out of that optimism?
A: No, I don’t think so. You know, as a team, there’s certainly things we need to clean up and tighten up, learn from this first game. But I think, as a team, we showed what we can be and you know, like I said, opportunities to improve, opportunities to learn and we’ll look to do that, but attack those opportunities with the same enthusiasm and the same energy that we had going into this game. I don’t think anyone is discouraged, I think guys are, if anything, motivated and looking forward to next week and the next challenge.
Q: Daniel, that drive, that 19-play drive. You made so many good, gritty plays on that drive. I think you were 4 of 5 on third downs… when you’re going like that, does that cause you sometimes maybe to get overconfident, is it tougher to throw the ball away or to abandon the play after making so many plays to get yourself there?
A: No, I mean, I think you play every play independent of the other, focusing on executing that particular play. Like I said, I want to have a chance to go back and look at it and learn from it, but we can’t afford those mistakes in those situations.
Q: The turnovers aside, how would you rate out your performance tonight and how much more frustrating is it to be out there against a front that had 22 pressures and 11 hits?
A: I think as an offense, I thought we did some good things and some not so good things, and I certainly feel like I played good at times and bad at times. I think we got to do a better job of being consistent, avoiding the bad plays, avoiding the big mistakes, and I’ll certainly work to correct those things. We got to be more consistent and execute at a higher level.
Q: What went into the decision on how you guys handled the pregame with the anthems, please?
A: Yeah, so we had a team meeting and discussed that and came to the decision to let everyone do what they felt in their heart was the right thing to do and respecting each other’s decisions. I think that was the way we approached it, we have had a number of discussions as a team, leading up to this week, dating back to the spring. As a team, we respect each other, we support each other, and I think that was the way we felt was most appropriate to go about that based on a lot of discussions we’ve had, dating back to the spring.
Q: Two questions about the opening drive: on the delay of game, were you guys trying to run the play or was that you guys just trying to draw them off?
A: Yeah, I mean that was a 4th and 1 situation right there, and we wanted to get out of the huddle a little quicker than that so… yes, situation, trying to use a hard count.
Q: After you get the muffed punt, on the third down with Evan (Engram), why do you think you guys weren’t able to connect on that when you think back on it?
A: Just got to do a better job trying to extend the play and let him find a little space in there so… just go back and look at it.
Q: Daniel, two-parter: this looked like last year with you and (Darius) Slayton, why do you think you guys have such good chemistry? It seems like there’s games where you look for him first? And then, do you ever wonder, with Golden Tate hurt now, if you’re ever going to play a game with all your weapons, because it’s 17 in a row where it’s been that way?
A: I thought Darius did a good job tonight, and he’s had a good camp and came in ready to go. I certainly have a lot of faith in him, I got a lot of faith in all those guys. We got out there, and I thought guys stepped up and made plays across the board. I know Golden is working to get back and I think he’ll be back when he’s healthy, so I’m looking forward to it. We got a lot of guys that can make plays, so my job is to get them the ball.
Running back Saquon Barkley
Q: You didn’t have great stats and the running game struggled. What happened in the running game and why didn’t work very well?
A: I’m not really too concerned with the stats. You have to give credit where credit is due. They have a great defense, especially their defensive front. They made some plays and we weren’t able to win the game today.
Q: I think you were hit behind the line of scrimmage 13 or 15 times tonight. How much harder is it to get going when you can’t get downhill against a front seven like that? What do you guys need to do to get better going into next week?
A: We just have to go back and watch the film and learn. Something I’m proud about with the team today is the way we fought, especially when we were hit with adversity. We just have to go back and watch film, continue to believe in each and come ready to work next week and get ready for Chicago.
Q: You talked about how you would have a lot of discussions about how you would handle the national anthem. Some people kneeled, some stood. What were those discussions like and did you ultimately decide not to kneel during the anthem?
A: We definitely had some discussions about it. We came to an agreement as a team that it’s your right to have your own decision. We’re going to stand with each other. If you stand, you stand, if you kneel, you kneel. We’re all going to respect each other’s decisions. For me personally, I respect everyone that’s kneeling and I respect everything that’s going on. I want to continue to fall back on what I’m doing in my community and try to be a leader in that aspect. Try to make change that way. Everyone that kneeled or stands, I respect it all. I kind of just did what I normally do.
Q: That third quarter drive there, 19 plays and you come up with nothing, an interception. How much of a back breaker was that?
A: I guess you can look back at that moment and that hurt us. You don’t know what could have happened the rest of the game. We didn’t execute the rest of the game. We had a really good drive, I don’t know how many plays it was. Like you said, I think you said 18 or 17. They made a play. At the end of the day, even after that we were still in the game. We were still able to find a way to win a game and we didn’t do that. That’s the most important thing, find a way to win games and that’s what we have to be able to do better.
Q: How strange was it to play a game that matters in a situation like this? You’re so used to playing in front of big crowds. What was tonight situation like?
A: It’s definitely different maybe on play one. Then you get so locked into the game that it really kind of doesn’t have an impact. On Slay’s score, that big touchdown for us, it felt just like a normal game. Obviously, we would love to have the fans there, we have amazing fans. We know they are cheering from home. We know what’s going on in the world and unfortunately that’s the case. We have to continue to go out there and play the sport that we love. You have to look at it as a blessing in disguise. We’re still able to go out there and be able to play the sport that we love.
Q: You said you are not too concerned with the stats. Stats aside, what’s your assessment of how you played overall?
A: I have to be better, I have to be better for the team. We have to find a way to get the run game going. That’s how I truly believe. I have to go back and watch film to give you an honest answer. I can’t just talk off of emotions. One thing that just pops in my mind is find a way to get the run game going for this team. I know that’s going to be a key part of our success. I truly believe and I still believe in it. Keep grinding at it, keep working at it and find a way.
Q: We saw the camera pan to you, you looked really frustrated at times on the sideline. What was it that was getting to you? Was it the lack of success? Was it specific schemes they were doing that was disrupting you?
A: I guess I probably showed a little emotion on my face. I’m human at the end of the day. At the end of the day, the moral of the story is we didn’t win the game. That’s the only thing I’m about, trying to find ways to win the game. That’s going to be my whole mindset coming back this week. Getting ready for Chicago, what can we do. what can I do as a player, and as a team to put us in a better position and give us a better chance to win the game.
Linebacker Lorenzo Carter
Q: Lorenzo, let’s start with the pregame stuff and how the team came to its decision, how you came to a decision. You seemed especially moved when you were lined up at the goal line.
A: That was just a team decision. We came together, we talked about the situation and just decided that we’re not going to put too much into it. Those three minutes or those two minutes really shouldn’t be a distraction for us and [Head] Coach [Joe Judge] made it clear that it’s not going to be a distraction. We just said, ‘Do what’s on your heart,’ and that’s what was on my heart. Everything we did was genuine and that’s really it.
Q: How do you feel you guys played as a defense? It seemed like you were aggressive early and effective at times. Of course, it didn’t hold up for the full four quarters, but I want to know what you think you guys did well and what you need to improve on.
A: Like you said, I think we came out with a great mindset, ready to play ball. It’s been a minute since we got a chance to get out there and play somebody else, so we were really excited to go get the opportunity to do that. But we know that we have to keep getting better. It’s game one, we got to get in the lab, got to go watch the film and got to go correct the mistakes we made, but we definitely put it out there that we have something we can build on.
Q: What did you learn about your defense as a whole from seeing what you guys did tonight?
A: I really haven’t had a chance to watch the film, but I know we’ve got some fighters. I know we’re going to go out there, we’re going to scratch and claw. Nobody gave up, even at the end of the game when it was really kind of over, we went out there and just kept fighting, and that’s what we’re going to do. Week in and week out, we’re going to keep fighting, we’ve got fighters on this team. That’s nothing new, it’s nothing I didn’t see all of camp, and we’re going to keep doing it and just try to keep getting better.
Q: Just to piggyback off of that, you’ve been here for some tough times. Why do you walk out of this stadium believing that this is a different team and a new chapter for what you guys were able to do tonight?
A: I just see the progress that we made and trust the coaching staff. We put in the work. All the offseason, all the camp, we’ve been putting in work. To come out there and just come up short, it hurts, it definitely hurts, but we see the kind of guys we have. We’ve got some tough guys in this locker room, a group of leaders. We’re ready to get back in there, watch the film tomorrow and get back to work.
Q: Looking at the guys in front of you, [Defensive Lineman] Dexter Lawrence, [Defensive Lineman] Leonard Williams, they were kind of flying into the backfield tonight. Just your thoughts on them and how much easier that makes your job as a linebacker when those guys are creating pressure up front.
A: Oh yeah, man. You’ve got to love it, you’ve got to love those big guys up front. But it’s something we’ve known. We’ve got a crazy defensive line. That room over there, I love playing with them. Those guys are going to fight, they’re going to scratch and claw. Like you saw, they make their plays. We’ve just got to all step up, everybody keep making plays and just try to feed off of each other. That energy is contagious, man. We need guys like that throughout the defense. Everybody can make plays and the more plays they make, the more plays we make.
Linebacker Blake Martinez
Q: Curious how you felt like you played tonight in your first game tonight. I know you had a few big plays and I’m just curious how you evaluate yourself tonight.
A: I want to look at the tape before I know exactly how to assess myself. I felt like going out there, first circumstance with not having fans, first game with a new team, new defense and everything. I felt consistent out there, felt I knew what I was doing, was able to play fast, play aggressive and just go back plays at the line of scrimmage.
Q: The defensive line it seemed like was wrecking a lot of havoc on Ben Roethlisberger, giving him a lot of trouble especially like Leonard Williams and Lorenzo Carter… what’d you see out of those guys?
A: Both are amazing players, they went out there and did their jobs, made big plays, that’s what we expect from them. It’s just awesome to see those guys, each and every one of us on defense have been working really hard together and it’s cool to see guys go out there and perform well.
Q: When you look along those lines, when you have Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence both really creating a lot of pressure up front, how much easier does that make your life as an inside backer, and how gratifying was it as a front seven to create the kind of pressure you guys did tonight?
A: It’s huge. The first day I came here and we were able to be in person and I got to see those guys in person stand in front of me, I told Pat (Graham) thank you and then moved on from there. Like I said earlier, they did a lot of great things tonight and it kind of trickled on back to help each and every one of us out there.
Q: Hey Blake, what do you think you guys did well as a collective defense today and what do you need to clean up? Seemed like you had a really strong first half, a lot of good energy, but obviously the final score doesn’t reflect that it was good enough.
A: Once again, just want to be able to check the tape and see completely what happened, to kind of assess it and have that answer. Overall, I think we had, like you said, great energy across the board. We’re just working to keep getting better and just like Coach Judge told us every single time we practiced this week was, the big jump from week 1 to week 2 is where good teams show up.
Q: What happened in the second half? It seemed like they were able to get their running game going.
A: I think it was just little things here and there. Once again, I don’t know exactly the complete answer, because we obviously want to check the tape and see where things kind of went wrong in certain situations. At the end of the day, it’s going to end up being our fundamentals, our technique, our job, our assignment for that given play was lacking, and I think that was kind of a collective for us on defense. We kind of hurt ourselves in the grand scheme of things.
Q: You guys give up that score there right before the end of the half, was there something there that happened that went wrong?
A: Once again, just going to have to check the tape on that portion once we are able to see it tomorrow or the next day.
Q: Momentum-wise, what does that do? You played well, and then all of a sudden you’re down.
A: It’s definitely a tough moment to obviously have that happen. We always talk about how good teams are good in the red area, third down and two minute. Obviously, that was a two minute situation and we needed to stop them and we didn’t do that. Obviously we had to refocus and readjust to start the second half.