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.