In this week's edition, the head coach discusses cold-weather preparation, sleeping the night before games, and getting back to fundamental football, among other topics.
(Due to a technical issue, "Tuesdays with McCarthy" was not posted until Wednesday morning. The interview, as usual, took place on Tuesday.)
The Festival Foods Facebook question of the week is from Eileen from Appleton, WI. Do you have the team prepare differently for a cold weather game?
The most important thing in cold-weather games is the ability to handle the football. We make a concerted effort to practice outside during our team periods unless the conditions will negatively impact the quality of our practice. Generally, cold or snow won't force us inside. In my experience, it's the wind or rain that can most negatively affect practice. We evaluate the weather every week when we prepare our practice schedule. There are certain drills that are more conducive to being performed indoors, but it's important for us to have our team drills outside. We go to great lengths to practice outside as much as we can.
Dremma from Caddo Mills, TX
Are you able to sleep the night before a game?
Half the time I do, and half the time I don't. I'm always in a hotel bed the night before a game and the variation can impact my comfort level. It often depends on how my week progressed and like everyone in this business; there are certain things that keep me up at night.
Heather from San Antonio, TX
What do you think about the way the schedule worked out this year with playing both Minnesota and Detroit twice after the bye week? Is this ideal or do you wish you had played either team earlier?
That's a great question to discuss after the season. Having the division race determined in the last few weeks of the season is an outstanding concept. However, it does stress your football team to a greater degree. We have a plan and we'll evaluate it after the season.
Q. What are the keys to better pass protection?
There are a number of keys. First and foremost is the scheme and how the blocking concepts are built into the various matchups involved in any given game. It's not as simple as man-to-man blocking. Whether it's a six-man or seven-man protection, the extra players fitting into that concept have added responsibilities aside from just blocking one particular defender. Additionally, the internal time clock and efficiency between the quarterback and the receivers' routes has to be in sync.
Q. What do the Vikings offer in the way of a pass rush?
They have a strong pass rush. Jared Allen has been one of the premier pass rushers in our league for a number of years. He's someone we always need to account for. However, they also have very good complementary pass rushers and the entire group plays with a lot of energy. Brian Robison is playing very well and Letroy Guion brings some juice inside for them. The Vikings will be another good challenge for us. It will be the third week in a row that we'll compete against a big-time defensive line.
Q. Does a loss such as this past Sunday's help focus a team?
Definitely. Nobody on this team – player, coach or support staff – feels good about what happened on Sunday night. We take great pride in how we perform, not only for one another but for our fans and the organization. Our theme this week is urgency. I expect to see a lot of urgency throughout the week of preparation, and most importantly on Sunday.
Q. Are blocking and tackling aspects of the game that suffer from not enough contact work in practice?
The practice structure is definitely different than it used to be. I support the emphasis on player safety, but I don't necessarily agree that taking the pads off the players during practice increases player safety. Teaching your team how to practice is another element of coaching. Teams don't just show up in the offseason and know how to practice in OTAs. It's similar in relation to padded practices during the season. If I believe the No. 1 reason the team isn't playing to its capabilities is because we aren't excelling in the fundamentals, it's important to get back to the basics. However, getting back to basics in shells and helmets is not the best environment in which to accomplish that.
Q. How important is it at this time of the year to be a physical football team?
It's very important. Everyone emphasizes the physicality of their football team when the weather changes. The weather changes in November and December and it's the time of year when every team's play accelerates. It's naiveté not to expect it. Because of the success we've experienced, we always believe we're going to get a team's best shot. In part, that means we're going to get our opponent's most physical game. That is always part of our preparation and it will be again this week for the Vikings.
Q. Do blocking and tackling define physical football?
They're definitely examples of it, but other fundamentals are factors as well. Poor pad level can inhibit the ability to be physical. Physical football shows up a lot in a team's finish, whether it's blocking or tackling, getting off press coverage or keeping your hands on the receiver. Physical football is not something that is limited to play at the line of scrimmage.
Q. How do you get it back?
There wasn't a switch that was flipped that caused us to lose it. The Giants deserve a lot of credit. They're a big, fundamentally-sound team that likes to create certain "phone-booth" situations. There's nothing wrong with going into a phone booth with a bigger opponent, but you still have to find the right way to win your battle. We didn't get that done. They did a great job of playing to their strengths, and we did not. That's why they were able to come away with a thorough victory.
To see previous editions of "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.