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What a difference two weeks makes. After losing consecutive games to drop to 1-2, there were murmurings about head coach Tom Coughlin’s job security, and about whether he’d lost his team irreconcilably. Not so fast. The Giants have responded nicely since those two embarrassing losses. Coughlin has his team playing well on both sides of the ball, and the Giants now stand at 3-2 through five weeks, good enough for a tie atop the NFC East. Here’s a substantial portion of Coughlins’ press conference from Monday (transcription courtesy of Giants’ official team website).
Good afternoon. We had a nice opportunity to look at the tape today and verified what we saw yesterday. I thought that the first half was played very well. I thought that one of the key plays in the game was the recovery right away of Chase Blackburn for the muffed punt. The score was nothing to nothing, down deep in what would have been our territory – that was a very big play in the game. I thought that the way the offense, defense, and special teams played together in the first half was outstanding. It’s what we’ve been looking for. I think that as our team comes together, and I did notice the support, the enthusiasm, the outstanding play, people taking pride and great joy in the success of others – I thought that that was very strong yesterday as well. I think the way in which we played on offense in the first half – the ability to put some points on the board – may have changed some of their thinking in going forward and the style of game that they’d play. Our defense did a great job of shutting the run down. Our defense was able to take a team that had averaged 172 yards a game and literally do a very, very good job of completely shutting the run down and in so doing, we also had outstanding success on third down, as they only converted 18% of their third downs and that’s a tribute to not allowing something to happen on first, down which makes those third downs shorter. I also think our kickoff coverage team – I thought Lawrence Tynes did a nice job, I thought our coverage teams did well, and we had three tackles inside the 20 yard line, which was outstanding. Our field goals were good, Sage did a nice job. I think he gave confidence to the whole crew and the ball was struck very well and I was glad to see the return of that as well.
Q: What has been the key over these last couple of weeks for your team to play well and win?
A: Prepare, practice, work hard, focus, understand the opponent, understand what we’re asking you to do, prioritize what needs to be done in order to be effective, go spend extra time in the classroom, which, whenever we play someone of the nature of Houston, for example, that is someone we don’t know all that well, we stress to them that because we don’t know the opponent, you’ve got to put them under the microscope, you’ve really got to do a good job. You’ve got to spend the extra time studying them and I feel like the evidence is pretty much there. If you want to take the defense, I think the idea of the way in which we adjusted and played this very unique style of running game, gives evidence to the preparation part of it.
Q: When you look at the connection between Hakeem and Eli, what can they do now that they couldn’t do a year ago?
A: Well, they’re spending more time together. They’ve grown to know each other better. There’s good communication between the two. There’s an expectation level that’s very high. Throughout the course of the week in which you prepare, you’re talking constantly about what the expectation is from the quarterback standpoint, what the receiver is going to do in this situation. We knew that there would be a lot of press involved yesterday and so that ability of the two players to talk about how in fact the receiver was going to get off the ball, what his best method was, how his break point would be affected by the way in which the opponent plays, so all of those things. You just give them more time to work together.
Q: What about Hakeem is distinct?
A: Well, he’s very, very good. He’s got exceptional hands. He really does have exceptional hands. He is the kind of guy that – you saw this when he was young, as a rookie – he was pretty much as fast as he had to be and he does have the ability to catch the ball in a crowd. He can be physical if he has to be, he can execute the routes the way you would like him to. There’s always room to improve. I think that he would be the first to tell you – I don’t think the second half was as good as the first half. I’m constantly asking him to evaluate himself in terms of the kind of focus and the kind of intensity with which he plays on a continuous basis.
Q: What about the catch he made at the end of the first half? That looked like a really good catch.
A: Really good catch. Really good. A drive sustaining kind of catch.
Q: How about the drop? We heard that his teammates and even you poked a little fun at him…
A: It wasn’t a joke. It was huge. I simply pointed out all of the good things he did and then I said, “Well, of course there was the drop…” It was a touchdown, but…at the time it wasn’t funny. It’s not very funny now.
Q: How impressed were you with the offensive line?
A: Well, let’s face it, each week is a brand new challenge. This is a good defensive team – the Houston defensive team – and they have their people plotted a lot of times in ways in which you don’t find them by looking it up on page 37 of the defensive manual. They overloaded some things, they distributed their people well if you noticed – and of course we knew this coming in – but just a small example would be Williams and Smith on the same side in the sub-packages. They had a real good scheme where they moved people around. Their pressure – I think they exerted…I don’t have the number in front of me, but it seemed as if their pressure package was utilized a lot more against us yesterday than I had seen and all of that has to be worked out and whether it’s the quarterback or whether it’s the offensive line and engaging the tight ends and the running backs… Again, it wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a lot of things thrown at those guys and they seem to do well sorting it all out.
Q: Is there anyone in the locker room encouraging everyone to come in to work on their day off?
A: Well, I think that a lot of our teams have been encouraged to do that. They like to come in and have lunch, for example. (Laughs) They seem to stop in at about that time. But we’ve had guys that have been in on Tuesday since day one. I mean, Eli is in here on Tuesday always and always has been. So if guys want to study with him or watch tape with him, they’re in here with him. Some of the defensive guys – you notice how the defensive backs will get together and come in. There’s a lot of that that goes on and it’s good because it’s unannounced. It’s not for anybody’s story the next day – that’s not what it’s about. It’s about guys wanting to do a better job in their profession.
Q: What’s your level of patience with Darius Reynaud?
A: I thought his kickoff return was better, especially the one that was out to the 29, 30-yard line out there. I thought he ran that very well. Obviously we’re still waiting for something to happen with punt return, and ball security is the number one thing there. I hope we have seen the last of that. To be honest, you have to give credit to (Houston’s Matt) Turk. If you noticed, the way that the ball was punted, it was way up in the air. You’re waiting, you’re waiting, you’re waiting. So, the style of punter was also given credit to them. He pounded that ball high up in the air, and the hang time was quite considerable.
Q: How long does it take to learn a new defense under a new defensive coordinator?
A: I don’t know that I would say an exact amount of time, but it’s a process and we’re certainly apart of this process right now. It’s constant repetition, constant study. The thing that happens in a game plan is that you hope that the majority of what is being introduced has already been introduced at a previous time, an earlier time, maybe in camp or some other time, so you can have recall. All these plans that we have: offense, defense, special teams, hopefully you’ve touched on them before. They’re designed specifically for the opponent that you’re going to play. His strengths, his weaknesses, and that’s the interesting part of it. You have to master the way in which the scheme is adjusted to fit the opponent, and that’s where the process is ongoing.
Q: Do you feel the players trust in that coming along?
A: You can see that, yes. You can see it.
Q: Is there a specific week where everyone came together and bought into it?
A: As I said, it’s as we go along and the development of some confidence. Confidence being difficult to come by, and earning it honestly. As that develops, because of the result, the past couple weeks being very good examples, they get a good feeling about one another. You always have to be able to count on the guy to your right and to your left. I like the way I keep referring to our team developing, and I like the way that is taking place in terms of the way we’re there for each other and keeping track. If the offense is on the field, the defense and special teams is very much involved in what’s going on, and they’re the guys out on the field congratulating when the play or series is over. I like that, and that’s taking place as a whole with our team, but also with the offense, defense, and special teams.
Q: What did you see from Bear Pascoe at fullback?
A: Bear is going to give you everything he’s got. He’s going to know what to do, adapt on the fly, give you everything he’s got. He’s going to be the right guy in the right place at the right time. He allowed us to continue to play in a style that we might not have had if it weren’t for the fact that he’s here.
Q: Anything with O’Hara and Kiwanuka?
A: Well, Shaun is going to work with the trainers tomorrow and see where that is. As far as I know, there is no change with Mathias.
Q: How’d Bradshaw and Phillips come through?
A: Seemed to come through alright. I know they’re sore today, but I don’t think it’s a setback.
Q: Bulluck any closer?
A: I think he is, but don’t know exactly where. He looked better this morning.
Q: After facing so much adversity a couple weeks ago and coming through that into this week, what does that say about your team?
A: I think one of the things, and I’m hoping it continues, is that as a whole we have learned to accept the ‘we’ instead of ‘me,’ and they’ve accepted that challenge. Adversity makes you stronger, and we have fought through that.
Q: On those plays like the Andre Johnson 48-yard catch and you get the ball back the next play, when the game could’ve tilted or changed but it didn’t, is that part of this?
A: Yes, and I think that is a good point and well said. I brought it up to our team today. We were able to overcome that 48-yard play with the fumble and the strip and recover the ball. The answering in the second half with that drive and kicking the field goal, I think those were a big part of the game as well. We’ve been down this street before where the offense has turned the ball over and the defense has made the stop or forced them to turn the ball over or kick a field goal. The ability to fight your way out of tough circumstances or situations, even if you’ve created them yourself, has to happen if you’re going to win.
Manning completed 27-of-42 passes with a pair of interceptions. His favorite target was Hakeem Nicks, who hauled in a career-high 12 passes for 130 yards with a pair of scores. Steve Smith also caught a touchdown pass and Brandon Jacobs ran for a TD in the victory.
"First off, I think the (offensive) line did very well up front, holding that strong front that they have," Nicks said. "(Offensive coordinator Kevin) Gilbride put together a real good scheme for us, we prepared well and we just wanted to come out here and execute."
The Giants (3-2) won their second in a row and used a strong defensive effort against the league’s second-ranked offense. The Texans (3-2) entered the contest averaging 415.5 yards per game, but were held to 195 on Sunday while the Giants had 414 total yards.
Arian Foster, the league’s leading rusher with 537 yards entering the contest, ran for only 25 yards on 11 carries and Houston finished with a franchise-low 24 rushing yards. Matt Schaub completed just 16-of-34 throws for 196 yards with an interception in defeat.
Andre Johnson was back in the lineup for the Texans after missing last week’s game with a sprained ankle and finished with five catches for 95 yards — all in the second half.
Houston managed only 11 first downs and held the ball for just over 21 minutes, while the Giants totaled 26 first downs and nearly 39 minutes of possession. The Texans were also just 2-of-11 on third down.
"I’ve never seen so many three-and-outs that we’ve had," said Texans tight end Owen Daniels. "I think we had more three-and-outs than we’ve had all seasons. Just penalties and not executing."
The Giants opened the scoring on their second offensive series, marching 85 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Manning connected on each of his five passes during the march and Jacobs converted a short third down with a five- yard run. Manning’s six-yard toss to Nicks made it 7-0 with 5:19 left in the first quarter.
Schaub was then intercepted by Corey Webster and the Giants took over at the Houston 40. Manning needed just four plays to put New York in the end zone again, keying the short set with a 27-yard connection to Hicks to set up Jacobs’ one-yard touchdown plunge.
The Giants quickly forced a Houston punt and followed with a 55-yard scoring march. Again, it was Manning to Nicks that did most of the damage on six-play series, as the two hooked up four times for 49 yards, including the 12-yard scoring strike for a 21-0 margin just over two minutes into the second period.
Houston finally answered with a sustained drive, but nine plays netted just 35 yards before the Texans had to settle for a 38-yard Neil Rackers field goal. The Giants got those points back just before the end of the half on a 45-yard kick by Lawrence Tynes.
The Texans managed just 74 yards of offense in the opening 30 minutes, including a mere nine yards on eight carries by Foster.
Johnson’s first catch of the day was a 48-yard reception in triple coverage that gave Houston a first down at the New York 35 on its first series of the third quarter, but Schaub fumbled while being sacked by Osi Umenyiora on the very next play and Justin Tuck recovered for the Giants. Manning, though, gave it back moments later when Sherrick McManis picked off a pass near midfield.
The Giants forced another Houston punt, but Manning was intercepted by Kareem Jackson and the Texans finally found the end zone with a short field. Schaub hit Johnson with a 16-yard pass to the one-yard line and former Giant Derrick Ward scored on the next play to make it a 24-10 game with seven minutes left in the third.
Tynes drilled a 42-yard field goal on the next New York series to extend the lead to 17 and Houston failed to cross midfield on either of its next two possessions before the Giants drove 73 yards for the game-sealing score. After taking three points off the board when a defensive penalty gave the Giants a first down, Manning threw a four-yard TD pass to Smith with 4:50 remaining to account for the final margin.
New York finished with 117 rushing yards, including 67 on 16 carries for Ahmad Bradshaw and 41 on 10 carries by Jacobs…The Giants finished with three sacks, a week after totaling 10 against Chicago. Umenyiora had two sacks and Tuck added one. The Giants have now won 14 straight games, including playoffs, when Tuck records a sack…Brian Cushing returned for Houston after missing the first four games due to a league suspension and finished with nine tackles, including four solo…New York has won two of the three meetings with Houston.
Even though he’s listed as ‘questionable’ on the team’s official injury report, all signs point towards running back Ahmad Bradshaw playing this Sunday when the New York Giants travel to Houston to take on the Texans.
“I felt great,” Bradshaw said. “No setback at all. I’m ready to go.”
Bradshaw, who practiced on a limited basis on Friday, looked good according to coach Tom Coughlin.
“He did well,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “He did OK — he got up on his toes, ran around.”
Bradshaw is second in the NFC with 382 rushing yards.
Starting safety Kenny Phillips did not practice today for the New York Giants, and the team revealed he is suffering from a sprained MCL. The new injury is to the same knee he had micro-fracture surgery on a year ago.
“It’s not a surgical issue, but he just has difficulty coming back from it,” coach Tom Coughlin said.
The Giants had to know that Phillips’ status would be a week-to-week thing this season. Still, a new injury to an already troublesome knee is not a good thing.
Full Injury Report
The Giants provide a host of go-to options. Eli Manning and his receiving corps – primarily Smith and Nicks – are good picks through the air, while the emerging Ahmad Bradshaw figures to succeed on the ground against a defense that remains iffy even with Brian Cushing’s return. And the New York defense is a must-play after a 10- sack week. For the Texans, Matt Schaub’s value will hinge largely on the status of Andre Johnson. If the latter is healthy, both are solid calls. And Arian Foster is the league’s best fantasy back so far … a no-brainer starter.
(Sports Network) - The Texans will be looking to build on recent success, as a win over New York would get Houston to 4-1 for the first time in its now nine-season history, in which the team has surpassed eight wins just once (last year). The Texans have won four of their last five against the NFC and feature an emerging star in Schaub, who’s completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 4,090 yards, 22 TDs and a 107.2 passer rating against the NFC since 2007. It’s his initial career start against the Giants. On the ground, Foster has gone for 100 or more yards in four of his last five games dating back to last season, while backfield mate Ward was a Giant for five seasons between 2004-08 and scored his first touchdown with Houston last week. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 12 attempts against the Raiders. Presuming full health, Johnson is an elite pass- catcher and has seven career games with 10 receptions/100 receiving yards against NFC foes. He caught nine passes for 83 yards in one matchup with the Giants.
No question, Schaub will be public enemy No. 1 for a once-again frothing ‘Big Blue’ defense. The nine sacks of Cutler in the first half were an NFL record, with ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora accounting for three apiece against the Bears. Not to mention Umenyiora’s two forced fumbles and Tuck’s one. Including playoff games, the Giants have won 13 straight games in which Tuck has registered at least one sack – he has 22 sacks in those games. Joining the Sunday night party, tackle Barry Cofield tied a career-best with 1.5 sacks against Chicago. As a unit, the Giants are now third in the league in total yards allowed per game, but have nonetheless allowed enough points – 18, 38, 29, 3 – in four weeks to be near the bottom of the barrel in that category. In other numbers, Umenyiora is tops among the healthy with four sacks and is equaled only by Mathias Kiwanuka, who’ll miss the game with a neck injury. Elsewhere, Tuck has a team-best 26 tackles to safety Antrel Rolle’s 25.
(Sports Network) - Eli Manning and Co. will be trying to prolong perfection this week, sort of. The former Super Bowl MVP passer is 1-0 in his career against the Texans. He enters the week 351 yards away from 20,000 for his career, which would make him the second Giants QB (Phil Simms) to reach that milestone. NFC Offensive Player of the Week Ahmad Bradshaw had a personal highlight reel away from the defense last week, carrying the ball a career-high 23 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. He’s averaging 95.5 yards per game through four weeks. Alongside, recently maligned big man Brandon Jacobs has been a successful horse as well through the years, with his teams going 11-2 in games where he carries at least 21 times. As for the air, wideout Hakeem Nicks had a career-high eight catches for 110 yards against the Bears and is tied for the conference lead with four TDs. Also, Steve Smith has 42 catches in his last six games with AFC foes, while Mario Manningham has gone 20 yards or more on five of six career scoring plays.
As for Houston on defense, the good news is there are few places to go but up. As mentioned, the Texans enter the week last among 32 teams in yards allowed and are an only slightly less unseemly 26th of 32 in points allowed – having given up 24, 27, 27 and 24 in four games. Still, the 102 points have translated into three wins and a first-place perch upon the return of Cushing, who forced two fumbles, intercepted four passes and made 86 tackles in his initial 16 games as a pro last season. Playing the role of impact rookie this season is the aforementioned Nolan, who stepped in for the gimpy Wilson and grabbed two passes. He could be called on to reprise that role with Wilson still listed as questionable on the mid-week report. Among the healthy holdovers, former No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams has five sacks in his last five home games and 44.5 in 68 career games. Also, fellow end Antonio Smith tied a career-high with two sacks against Oakland.
(Sports Network) – Who’d have guessed it would all happen in Houston?
The dream collision of unstoppable force and immovable object will apparently be occurring this weekend – sometime on Sunday after 12 p.m. CT – at the 70,000-seat Lone Star laboratory known to the non-scientific set as Reliant Stadium.
There, in an admittedly primitive 11-on-11 setting, the blue-clad control group known as the ‘New York Giants defense’ will be matched up against the white- shirted experimental group labeled as the ‘Houston Texans offense’ in an intermittent 60-minute clinical trial.
And at the end, either Gary Kubiak or Tom Coughlin becomes a 2011 Nobel Prize front-runner.
Anyone switching to NBC last weekend saw Coughlin’s Giants at their havoc- wreaking, ball-stopping best in the swamps of Jersey, battering Jay Cutler and Chicago understudy Todd Collins to the New Meadowlands turf no fewer than 10 times in a 17-3 rout.
Cutler, Collins and the rest of the Bears were snuffed to the tune of just 110 total yards and six first downs overall – including 51 passing yards and only one play beyond 20 yards – as New York leveled its record at 2-2 and remained viable atop a muddled NFC East.
“I have never seen or been a part of anything like this,” said Giants linebacker Jonathan Goff, who recorded 10 tackles and a half-sack. “The line did a great job and we all did a great job of playing together. It was scheme and execution and we put it all together. We played as one.”
On the other coast, the Texans were making do with replacement parts.
Houston escaped the silver and black hole of Oakland with a 31-24 triumph, in which it got 127 rush yards from Steve Slaton/Derrick Ward and saw six players not named Andre Johnson catch at least one pass from Matt Schaub in the absence of the balky-ankled All-Pro receiver.
Even tardy feature back Arian Foster ended up with 131 yards on the ground and another 56 on three catches after emerging from Kubiak’s don’t-be-late-for-a- position-meeting-during-the-week doghouse.
He scored twice and joined Emmitt Smith and Billy Sims as the only players in league history to have at least 500 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards through the first four games of a season.
The Texans lead the league in rushing (172.0 yards per game), are second in total offense (415.5 yards per game) and scored 30 or more points in each of their three wins.
Johnson is expected back this weekend but was listed on Wednesday’s injury report. He originally hurt the ankle two weekends ago and aggravated it in a loss to Dallas on Sept. 26.
Also back in the fold, albeit on the other side, is reigning AFC defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing, who returned Monday after an offseason suspension for violation of the league’s PED policy.
Houston has been gashed for a league-worst 408 yards per game through four weeks.
“That’s a huge boost because he’s one of our leaders out there,” said Texans rookie Troy Nolan, who started in place of injured safety Eugene Wilson and picked off two Oakland passes. “So when he comes around it’s going to be another step up [for us]. It’s going to be a boost on our team.”
Texans coach Gary Kubiak is not ready to guarantee that, however.
Kubiak said that both Johnson and wide receiver Jacobs Jones will be “game-time decisions.”
" He [Johnson] was limited for practice, but he did practice and see how he comes out of it," Kubiak said. "It was very encouraging as we work toward the weekend.”
Given how well the New York Giants pass defense has fared the past two weeks, they’re probably not losing too much sleep wondering whether or not Andre Johnson will play Sunday when the Giants travel to Houston to take on the Houston Texans. Johnson missed the Texans’ game last Sunday with an ankle injury, and has been limited in practice this week. On Thursday, the star wide receiver practiced with a brace on. After practice Johnson told the media that he was ‘planning on playing’
“I plan on playing, but at the same time, if it was up to me, I would have tried to play last Sunday,” Johnson said after Thursday’s practice. “Coach Kubiak is in charge of all of that. I’m not sure if they’ll have me work out or not before the game. … I just plan on playing. I’ll find out more as the week goes on.”
If the Giants pass rush can continue disrupting the timing and rhythm of opposing quarterbacks, it may not matter who plays on the outside for the Texans. But if Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has time to throw and his favorite target available, the Giants’ pass defense will get its toughest test since facing Payton Manning and the Colts back in Week 2.
“It’s a frustrating situation for myself and I’m sure for the powers that be,” Bulluck told reporters. “I wasn’t brought here to rehab all season, so I need to hurry up and speed up my recovery.”
Just getting the recovery going, period, would be progress at this point. Tom Coughlin and Bulluck said the team is trying a new, unspecified treatment after previous strategies didn’t work.
“It hasn’t gotten worse, but it hasn’t gotten better,” Bulluck said. “I just gotta make sure I stay on top of everything, with my toe, with my football studies, with my knee. It’s just a lot. It’s early in the season.”
All Coughlin would say about Bulluck is “we’ll see if we can get him for next week.”
Bulluck, the Giants starting strong-side linebacker, would have played extensively this week against Houston. The Texans feature the NFL’s leading rusher, Arian Foster, and former Giant running back Derrick Ward.
“Sintim will play a lot. Yes, he’s going to play a lot in this football game,” Fewell said. “he’s put in an excellent week of practice. We’ve liked the way he’s focused and the way he’s taken on the challenge of, hey I’m going to step up and do my part. So we’ve just got to wait until Sunday to see if he can fulfill that role.”
Following a 2008 season in which he and Brandon Jacobs became only the fourth duo of running backs to each rush for 1,000 yards in a season, Ward signed with the Buccaneers as a free agent.
The Giants had shown interest in bringing back Ward only at a price much lower than the four-year, $17 million deal — with $6 million guaranteed — Tampa offered.
Ward never saw the last three years of that deal, as he was cut by the Bucs at the end of August after one disappointing season in which he rushed for only 409 yards and scored just three touchdowns for a 3-13 team.
“It was tough to see him that way because he’s a great back and he’s been through a lot of trials and tribulations lately,” Jacobs said of Ward’s season in Tampa. “He’s going to come through it. He just has to hang in there and show people he can still play football.”
Ward, who signed a veteran-minimum deal with Houston four days after Tampa cut him, did just that this past week against the Raiders when he rushed 12 times for 80 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown after breaking a pair of tackles. It was his best game since he rushed for 215 yards in the Giants’ overtime victory over the Panthers in Week 16 two seasons ago.
Giants fans remember Ward fondly, and appreciate what he did in New York. They just don’t want to see him do it against them. Have success, but against somebody else. Please!
Phillips apparently has an issue with his surgically-repaired knee. Remember, Phillips missed all but two games last season after being diagnosed with patellofemorral arthritis. He had micro-fracture surgery in an effort to manage the issue, and his career was considered in doubt.
This, of course, is an issue that will have to be monitored. More to come when details are available
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