PAT SHURMUR: Are you referring to Dallas?
PAT SHURMUR: Yeah, well, there are challenges to it, of course. But keep in mind that backups prepare each week like they're going to play, and it happens all the time. There are more than a handful of teams that have had to play backups either to finish a game and then start the next one or a string of games. So I'm impressed by the way the backups in this league prepare themselves, so I'm sure whoever they play will be ready to go.
Quarterbacks are often judged by how they play in big games. Is that what you judge quarterbacks, and is that something you still need to see with
PAT SHURMUR: I think you judge a quarterback based on whether he can lead to you victories or not. You want a guy that is very efficient, but you want a guy also that does the things necessary to help you win. That's partly why I think Nick's done a good job for us. He's a very good decision maker. The ball means something to him, so he doesn't put the ball in harm's way very often. We all understand how turnovers affect the game. He's a very good decision maker and for the most part he's a very accurate thrower. As time goes on, he's understanding more and more and to greater detail what we're trying to do. So all those things are why the quarterback can help you or contribute to victories.
You've had a lot of different games and the big game in Oakland with the seven touchdown passes. When you've looked at this past game and evaluated all the different parts of the quarterbacking, was this Nick’s best game of the season?
PAT SHURMUR: Yeah, I think so. I think he played extremely well. Some of his incompletions were because he threw the ball away, which were actually good plays because that happens at times. So I think it was a very he played a very, very good game. Did some good things with his feet. You know, the marquee about offense for us this week was, of course, the running game. But I felt like he did well.
As a follow up, do you distinguish between a game in late December and in January and a game in October or early September?
PAT SHURMUR: We have that one week at a time mindset. Last week's game was big. We got one down and one to go. I don't think whatever the setting is is too big for Nick. He didn't play very well, I don't think any of us played well the first time we played Dallas. I looked back on it now and I don't recognize some of what happened. We dropped balls, we weren't on the same page with who we blocked. Certainly Nick had some inaccuracies. We did a poor job coaching and playing. I think we're a different team now.
I think Nick, so Nick had that experience, and was knocked out of the game. Then came back soon after and threw seven touchdown passes against Oakland. So I don't think what's going to happen in the settings, I don't think it's going to be too big for him. I think he understands what's important as we put together a plan and we go out and execute and try to be better than Dallas when we play them Sunday night, and that's it.
How important was Sean Lee in stopping the run game in the last meeting?
PAT SHURMUR: Yeah, he's a terrific player. When he's been in there playing, he obviously has a significant impact on why their defense can play well.
Something you touched on before on just how backups have come in and done a good job this year, with Josh McCown and Matt Flynn.
PAT SHURMUR: Sure.
A decade ago it seemed like when a team lost the quarterback and was on the backup, it was a disaster. Any reason why you think now you're seeing better play out of backups?
PAT SHURMUR: I don't know. I think we saw there are a lot of examples of guys coming in and winning games. There are also examples of guys not doing I think not doing so well for their team. I think it's on an individual basis. I think part of it is the make up of who that guy is. I think when you're looking at a backup quarterback, typically when you get to this time of the year, they don't get many reps. They get some, but they don't get many. So the guy has to come in and function at a high level without much preparation, especially if he's coming in the middle of the week.
When you had the first Dallas game, you said you don't recognize the team that played that day. Is there anything you can put your finger on what went wrong?
PAT SHURMUR: No, I kind of hit on what it is. We dropped balls, we weren't on the same page at times with who to block. We threw the ball inaccurately at times. We didn't do a good job coaching and give them the best opportunity to succeed as players. We just weren't very good. I don't want to take anything away from Dallas. They did a lot of good things to defend us. We threw interceptions. So we did not play well. We can't do that this Sunday.
Do you have Nick studying the tape from the Dallas game?
PAT SHURMUR: No, we've watched it. We watch everything about it because there will be some scheme and some components of their defense that remain the same, though things change as the year goes on.
You were 1 for 10 on third downs throwing the football in that game?
PAT SHURMUR: I forgot to mention that earlier. No, we weren't very good.
What was the problem on third downs specifically when you go back and look at it?
PAT SHURMUR: A combination of all those things I just mentioned. We were inaccurate a couple of times. We had some protection issues where he was being challenged in the pocket so to speak, and we had a couple of drops.
The tendency this year has been to run the ball on third down. I think you have the fewest number of throws on third down. Why is that?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, I think we've done a decent job on first and second down where can you get them in the shorter third down situations which can be more run pass, let’s just call it for what it is. Then we're willing to run the ball anywhere. We ran the ball the other night, it was third and long, and we were upset we didn't get it because we felt there was room there for us to convert.
Do you worry that you may have to pass your way out of trouble in some games?
PAT SHURMUR: No, not at all. We feel good. If we call a run or we call a pass, we expect it to work.
Would you say you've incorporated more power runs lately?
PAT SHURMUR: Are you talking about gap schemes?
PAT SHURMUR: I wouldn't say that. I'd say we've remained consistent throughout.
Are you surprised he doesn't fumble more?
PAT SHURMUR: He's pretty I don't want to jinx him here. I'm not superstitious. I'd call myself a victim of routine. But, no ball security is important for everyone. We work on it with LeSean, and just like we do all players there are times his running style, there are times when the ball is loose and we remind him of that frequently. In fact, you can ask him that.
He seems to have an instinct for knowing when somebody's coming, and that's when he tucks it in.
PAT SHURMUR: Yeah, but it's important that we secure the ball. You can't always know who is around you. He knows that.
Have you ever had three backs with this kind of breakaway ability?
PAT SHURMUR: No, this is a good group. I felt like that back in the spring when we started training. I really felt good in my two previous lives away from this building. I wish I would have had a crew like this. I mean, we trust any one of them to be in the game and do all three things, pass protect, run the ball and catch it. They do a very good job of knowing who to block. They understand the run game. They understand where they fit in the pass routes and they do a good job with protection. So I think we're blessed here.
PAT SHURMUR: We feel good. We feel like we have three. We used James the other night more. You saw him start out on the edge and kind of skim back and block the outside edge. It's very important for tight ends to be smart and know how they fit into the world, because that is a very, very tough position to play. In my opinion, it's second to quarterbacks, because you're part of the offensive line. We line you up in space. We ask you to move around and see the big picture. I think all three of those guys do a good job of that.
You played James more the past two weeks. Is that a difference from early in the season what you're doing in the run game and how you're blocking?
PAT SHURMUR: No, I think we're using him a little bit more. But to go back and answer your question, the types of runs we're running are exactly the same. How we block the perimeter might be different, but it's the same types of runs.
You seem to be using Casey a lot on the goal line.
PAT SHURMUR: Yeah, yeah. Well, we've used a lot of two- and three-tight end sets down there which gets them in the ballgame. We've done a decent job of running the ball, and we've converted on some play action, kind of boot and naked type throws as well.
You're kind of asking him to go all the way across a lot of times. He seems to be able to make that block.
PAT SHURMUR: He's done a good job. That takes a little courage too. Because a lot of times you're cutting that backside end free. You know, you're running from a long way, it can be quite a collision at times. So he's courageous. He knows what to do and he's willing to do it.
On October 21st, the morning after the Cowboys game, did you see Nick putting the team in the situation it is in now?
PAT SHURMUR: I don't even want to think about the day after that game. Yeah, we trusted Nick to be in there. And we knew as a team that we'd get better. I was telling somebody it's like my early schooling where you could throw one test out. I wish we could have thrown that one out. It was a bad day. We didn't play well on offense, and the game was close enough where if we had just gotten out of our own way, we could have maybe affected the outcome more.
When you guys played Dallas here in the last game in 2008, and you beat them 44 6?
PAT SHURMUR: It's a crazy scenario.
PAT SHURMUR: I think Oakland had to go to Tampa and win, we were in pregame and we didn't know. It was a lot going on there, and we went out and played well.
Do you remember the mindset of the team going into that game?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, the mindset is always to go out and win. I think let's not confuse that. Regardless, outside the building everybody's crunching the numbers, these are the scenarios. But we're working today on Tuesday to get ready to play Dallas on Sunday and put our best effort out there and win. So that's what you do, and you don't worry about all of that.
In your prior life you guys were a very good screen team especially when you had Westbrook. Now you're obviously a good screen team again. Is it practiced the same way here as Andy did? Is it the same thing or do you do a little bit?
PAT SHURMUR: We do a lot of the same. We practice the screen game like we did then and we all have done since. There are reasons why screens are good. Some of it is schematic. Some of it is the feel of the running back. Some of it is the defense thinking you're doing something else, whether you're throwing the ball on the perimeter or dropping back to pass. But we all know the end result of screens, aside from being able to get explosive plays out of them is to help us slow down the rush at times. So we'll do them. We love the screen game. We have a lot of ways to screen. Hopefully they'll continue to be successful.
Is there one thing that's consistent when you're running the screen that has to be done?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, I think deception. They see one thing, think you're doing one thing, and all of a sudden you're doing another. You can call them on all down and distances. Call them out of all formation groups. You can drop back, play action, sprint. It doesn't matter. They're thinking you're doing one thing, and you get a few guys to cheat one direction, and you go the other.
Does the fact that you have such an athletic offensive line help there?
PAT SHURMUR: I do think so. And I think Coach pointed to that yesterday. We have some linemen that can run, and guys that can pull flat, get to the numbers and block in space. It really helps. If we got less mobile, thicker, less fit type guys, typically your screen game doesn't look as good.
When you look at the Dallas defense particularly against DeMarcus Ware is it a combination of injuries and switch to the 4-3 or what do you see?
PAT SHURMUR: I see when he's in there playing, that is the same guy we've played against for nine years now. I think he's an outstanding player. When he's in there, he makes a difference because he can wreck the game. He's a fantastic player. In terms of their defense, we look at it on an individual basis. We see where teams are not ranked statistically right in some people's minds and they come out and have a great effort. We've seen other times where this team is good against one thing or the other and doesn't have a good day. So none of that matters. We have to match up what we do. We have to play better than the first time we've played them, and we're playing an opponent that would be better. So that is the match.
How much fresher is this team now you're at game 16 than you have had in the past as an assistant or eye head coach.
PAT SHURMUR: I've been on teams where guys have worn down. We've had very few guys that are injured mortally where they can't finish the season. When I talked to the older guys, and I talked more to the guys on offense, Todd Heremans, Brent Celek, Kelce, to see how they're feeling on a day to day basis. Their energy level is high and they can go out and train. So I think there is something to it.
In 2010, the Rams had the same scenario where their division title was on the line. What do you remember about the hours leading up to the game?
PAT SHURMUR: Yeah, we had to go to Seattle and win the game to win the division. What I remember about the game is we dropped six balls and it was a tight game. That's what I remember. I was bummed out we lost. That's what I remember. But in terms of the anticipation of the game, it really is like any other game. We just get our guys ready to go. Keep them in the moment, take them through the process, and go out and kick the ball off and play.