What are the challenges for a young quarterback playing in his first playoff game? Is it any different? COACH SHURMUR: It's all the same. I think, you know, obviously we're in the round of, we're 1 of 12 right now and obviously we're in a win‑or‑go‑home mode. But that's been the case last few weeks, so we feel like we've practiced it.
Can you talk about the value of having three running backs that can carry the ball?
COACH SHURMUR: Yeah, our running back situation is outstanding. Obviously, we have a starter but when we put Bryce [Brown] and Chris [Polk] in there, they have done a really, really good job. They both can run the ball, they both catch the ball well and they certainly both can pass protect.
Did you expect that going into the year? You knew what LeSean McCoy could do, but did you expect three guys?
COACH SHURMUR: Well, we hoped we did. We thought early on that these would be guys that could compete and contribute and then, in fact, have.
How do you kind of balance, you know what their strengths are, their weaknesses, the best situation to get them each in or is it just a rotation?
COACH SHURMUR: We let it roll. We let it roll. We really don't mind who's in there. Obviously, LeSean gets most of the work but the guys that go in there, there's times when we put them in strategically and we have a reason for it but then there's other times, it's just their turn, they are in there and they go.
Was that a strategic ‑‑ touchdown run that Bryce Brown had, was that a strategic insertion…
COACH SHURMUR: No, we just put him in there and he obviously did a good job getting in the end zone.
The Saints, their defense, you don't hear people talk about them too much. Obviously, Drew Brees is on the other side. What are some of the things they do well?
COACH SHURMUR: It starts with their coordinator. Rob Ryan is very aggressive in nature. They get pressure on the quarterback. They create turnovers. You know, they have had injuries in the back end like most teams and they have found a way to kind of compensate for that by getting pressure.
Did they change anything last week with Kenny Vaccaro out?
COACH SHURMUR: You know, he's obviously a terrific player and they are trying to compensate for his lack of being in there but no, very similar in scheme.
After watching the film, how do you think Nick Foles handled the pressure the Cowboys sent, especially in the second half?
COACH SHURMUR: I think he did a good job. We knew going into it it was going to be a battle. We knew they were going to challenge us and our guys did a good job of blocking them and Nick did a good job of standing in there.
Foles seemed to hold on to the ball quite a bit, he took some sacks. Should he have gotten it out? Was it just not possible?
COACH SHURMUR: I think once again, when we talk about those types of questions, you know, they are individual basis. There's some times when he could have got it out and others when he threw it away certainly. And then always when you can't make the throw on time, for whatever reason, whether guys are not open or they have done a good job on defense, you want to try to scramble if you can, if you can't get anything done with your feet, then throw it away and I think he's displayed the ability to do both.
Given Rob Ryan's nature of being aggressive and the way you struggled on pass protection last week, do you expect him to be blitzing a lot?
COACH SHURMUR: I don't think he's going to change what he does. We anticipate he'll come after us.
You guys have had a lot of success with the screen game and it looked like the Cowboys were able to stop that on a couple tries early. What were they doing early on? COACH SHURMUR: Yeah, you know, I think we tried to run a couple of play action screens early that we didn't have much success with, so we got away with it and got to some other stuff.
I know you study defense at this time of the year, but in the offseason, do you look at Saints head coach Sean Payton as a play caller and what do you admire that he does?
COACH SHURMUR: They have developed an outstanding offense there. You know, he incorporates a lot of principles in his offense. He has ways to play action and take shots. He has other ways where they are primarily completion‑type throws where he can keep Drew [Brees] in rhythm and they do a good job of running the football.
So they have a well balanced offense and it's obvious that Drew Brees and Sean Payton are on the same page when they develop a plan and call it, and they do a good job of ‑‑ you'll see at times where they are just moving the chains, which happens, when a defense wants to try to play you that way. And then you see within that game plan, they take their shots, and it's a well balanced offense, executed by an outstanding quarterback and a good play caller.
You've spent most of your career coaching in places that are cold this time of year. What's it like for a quarterback in cold weather and what kind of stuff do you tell him?
COACH SHURMUR: I think it comes down ‑‑ you kind of figure out how cold it is in warm ups, and ball security is always at a premium no matter what the temperature. And so what's important is you go out there and execute. You get yourself ready to go out there and throw and hand it off and then make sure you do an extra good job of securing it.
You guys have done a remarkable job at basically ‑‑ not turning it over as opposed to the last couple of years, what's made the difference?
COACH SHURMUR: Well, we emphasize it quite a bit and I think it comes back to the guys that are touching the football have done a good job of securing it. The other night, we had one fumble in the pocket which has been rare. But for the most part, we emphasize it, we talk about it, we coach it, we drill it, and then the players that touch the ball understand the importance of protecting the football and they have done a good job.
On the Brad Smith play against the Cowboys, Chip Kelly talked about how a lot of teams go man down there, designed against the man defense, was there an opportunity for Foles to check out of that play if he saw it was zone?
COACH SHURMUR: Nick can adjust whatever he wants, but in that case there, there was no reason to. We felt like if it wasn't there, we had other choices. As you could see, Brad ended up throwing it in the back of the end zone.
So even though the first choice was…
COACH SHURMUR: Call it, let it eat, that's it. And if it doesn't work, then you move on to the next play.
Does Foles have a tendency to take his eye off the receivers and look down when he's scrambling around?
COACH SHURMUR: No. I think he does a good job of keeping a downfield focus when he scrambles. You've seen him make good throws in scramble mode. He did it quite a bit the week before. If you remember, he was scrambling around, hit [Zach] Ertz coming back. So he does a good job.
What's important, when a quarterback is moving around, once he's outside the pocket, you look deep, middle, short, with the idea that if you can't make those throws, then you run; and then if you try to run and you can't get any yards and you're outside the pocket, then throw it away. So they have kind of a mental checklist they go through, they drill it off and it's something that I think he's done a pretty good job of.
Lane Johnson has played more football than he's played, going into his 21st game including the preseason. What's the challenge for a young guy like that, ton of reps and snaps and how is he holding up?
COACH SHURMUR: Well, I think he can't get mentally weary of the process and I think he does a good job of getting himself ready to come out here and work. It's a Tuesday but it's really a Wednesday in our world, as you know. He does a good job of recovering from the day before, and coming back out here and getting to work. He's a tough guy. He's a smart guy, and he's valuing great ‑‑ he's gotten great value from all the reps he's had.
It seemed like you guys ran a lot of sweeps in fourth quarter, did you see something there and why were you so successful with that play?
COACH SHURMUR: Well, we think it's important to attack the perimeter with the run game. We had a couple sweep plays schemed up. We do it every week, but we had some success and we kept at it.
McCoy finishing with 314 carries and 360‑plus touches, are you surprised how well he's held up given that workload?
COACH SHURMUR: Well, he's gotten a lot of work, for sure. And not really. He's embraced what had we do behind the scenes. I think he's done a good job of taking care of his body. He understands the importance of work, rest and recovery, and I think it's paying off for him.
Rookies in general: How do you keep them sort of mentally fresh and physically ready? COACH SHURMUR: Well, we just get them right back in the routine, the process of training. We emphasize all the things that keep somebody going. Hopefully, they are getting their rest, taking care of their bodies and you just keep them going and then you work with them.
This is something, this is kind of the first step for all of us. You want to be one of the 12 and now we are. Now once you're here, it's win‑or‑go‑home. I think they all understand that.
When you were coordinator in St. Louis ‑‑ when you went on the road, did you prepare your offense in a different way? Did you notice for whatever reason, outdoors in the temperature, that something slowed down with your offense at all?
COACH SHURMUR: No, I don't think so. When you go on the road, typically, when you go on the road, you adjust your cadence. You have to use more of a silent cadence if you don't use it at home. Other than that, you get yourself ready to play. I'm sure there's a lot of guys on their team that grew up in the north, you know. Growing up in the north, now I know why all my relatives retired and moved to Florida, you know. (Laughter).
But for the most part, I don't get into that, domed team/outdoor team. I think you play the teams, you know, and you ‑‑ I'm not into that part of it.
The statistics though are pretty overwhelming for domed teams going on the road ‑‑ it's not a high percentage ‑‑
COACH SHURMUR: I was always better at English. I don't worry about that.
Did you notice a difference when you went outside, that you played okay?
COACH SHURMUR: No. The year we didn't have Sam Bradford, it didn't matter where we played. After we got Sam, we tended to play better everywhere.
But does a quarterback who plays outside and knows the patterns and knows the wind compared to one who is usually in a dome, doesn't that have to be some type of an advantage?
COACH SHURMUR: No, I don't think so. We are playing the New Orleans Saints and we are going to get their best and we just happen to be playing them at home in front of our crowd, which we think is a neat deal.
You have more plays of 20‑plus yards in the NFL since they started tracking it and at the same time you don't turn the ball over much, which seems like a difficult combination to achieve. How are you able to do that?
COACH SHURMUR: I think just the basis of how we play offense. You know, we try to keep it simple and make it look complicated to the outside world. And I'll go back to the lack of turnovers; the guys that carry the football and touch the football understand how important it is to possess it. That's first and foremost.
Then we have done a good job when we throw the football, Nick is making good decisions and then we have guys that can track the ball down the field. And when we are running the ball, we are getting the running back to the second and third level where they have a chance to make big gains.
I think all of that is the reason why. It will be a fun thing to study here in the offseason. You don't reflect much right now, you know. We are just getting ready to play the next team. I'll maybe have a better answer for you hopefully in April.
Is Nick unusually accurate in that mid‑range throw, 25 to 30 yard range?
COACH SHURMUR: I think he throws an accurate deep ball. You see the baseball skills in Riley [Cooper], he can track the ball extremely well and then [DeSean Jackson] Jack does a really good job of tracking it, as well. And then our tight ends, like the other night, Brent [Celek] did a good job in traffic of making the catch, and running down the seam. So it's a combination.
Evan Mathis didn't make the Pro Bowl. Do you feel like he had a good shot of making it?
COACH SHURMUR: I don't ‑‑ you know, that whole Pro Bowl thing goes in that indoor, outdoor. I don't worry about all that, I really don't. I see the way the Pro Bowl gets selected at times and they are nice awards and they are well‑earned by everybody that makes it, but there's a heck of a lot of other good football players that are not involved in that game.