What is your sense of where the team is right now. You have won three games in a row. But are your feelings more, “We’re winning and if we can eliminate our mistakes, we’re going to get on a roll,” or “We’re fortunate to win and if we don’t stop making mistakes, it’s going to catch up to us?”
“We make no excuses for winning. You win because you obviously do some things good enough to win. Have we eliminated all of the issues? Have we stopped becoming our worst enemy? That’s what our hope is. I keep saying that we’re going to try to eliminate the colossal special teams play. Well, we haven’t done that. Every week, and unfortunately the punt team twice at the end of the game decides to make some kind of a colossal error that almost puts us in jeopardy. That having been said, it’s hard to knock the four-minute drive at the end of the game (the 24-20 victory over Oakland last week) and the defense giving up 213 yards. And the blocked punt (which the Giants scored on). You always have some things that you do well. You just have to do more things well, because we’re going to be playing teams that are not going to make errors. You’re going to have to be the team that does not beat itself, first, and then go on to beat these better teams.”
I’ve asked you before if you can devote more practice time to special teams and you say it’s difficult to do because of the schedule. But are you tempted to try to do that, because special teams have had recurring problems?
“But it’s a different problem every time. It’s not the same problem, so you can’t rob Peter to pay Paul. You’ve got to have the same amount of time invested in each phase of special teams each week. You can’t deny one and think that just because you improved on punt protection that you have solved your other issues. No, we have kickoff coverage issues, we have kickoff return issues. Who wants to start a game fumbling on the opening kickoff (as the Giants did last week against Oakland)? How do you do that? Tell me, how do you do that? I don’t care if you take it and run down the field like this (holds both arms tight against his chest), don’t do that. We have a 10-minute special teams jog-thru. The first period (in practice) is a 10-minute special teams period. The in-practice period is seven-minutes. You’re approaching a half an hour a day of special teams. They’ve got to get it. I’m not talking about coaching, either, I’m talking about the people that are playing.”
The NFC East got much more bunched up in the last week. Is it to the point where you have addressed that with the players?
“They’re well aware, but I’ve always informed the team on Friday of the divisional schedule. So for them to know who’s playing, that’s it. But we don’t dwell on it. We have to take care of ourselves.”
Eli Manning threw another interception that was returned for a touchdown. We’ve all seen the great Eli, we’re all waiting for that to come back. When he’s not playing his best, do you - I don’t know if fine line’s the right term - want him to be more careful, you don’t want him making these throws, but at the same time you don’t want to take away what makes him great. Are you walking the tightrope, because you need you to eliminate the mistakes but you don’t want to take away his aggressiveness?
“That’s exactly right. You can’t take the ball out of his hands. We need the balance, we have to get this part of it going and we have to be secure with what we are doing. It’s unfortunate that took place there. We did have a 90-yard drive. The first half was very poor field position for us last week, very poor. And the two-minute situation you’re talking about was very poor field position coming out from nowhere.
“The unfortunate thing was, for whatever reason, the interception occurred after a big play, a play that had gotten us out a way, which I thought was going to be tantamount to moving the ball. Were there things that maybe we could have been done to help that? Could I have taken a timeout there after a 25-yard play? Yes, I could have. You can second-guess all you want. We’ve been very, very good - Eli’s been the best in the league over the ball in the two-minute drill and the momentum was there. It’s unfortunate whether the coverage was misread or whatever, but there was pressure and the ball, he ended up trying to get rid of the ball probably; it was most unfortunate that he hit the guy (Tracy Porter) right in the hands.”
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“Which is hard to believe.”
You’re down a little on the 30-yard passes. Also with the big plays, you haven’t had the big run, your longest run is 18 yards. When you think of big plays, do you also think of runs? Does that make a difference?
“The big play runs are not 20-yard runs, they’re 10 and 15. That’s what you have to be aware of. I used to call it 15, I think the league calls it 10. That’s what you end up dealing with and there’s no question about it. It’s difficult to get those runs. I just watched (Green Bay’s Eddie) Lacy go against the Bears, 56 yards or so and get tackled at the one. Those are rare, they are. People on defense can really run and make a play whether they make a mistake or not, they seem to be able to get to the ball. Would I like to have more? Yes. Are you encouraged by watching Andre Brown last week and seeing that speed? Yes, surely.”
“I think each. There are other effects. If it’s a long drive, you’re also mixing in the run and you must be doing something well with the run, that could be a factor. However, if the big play occurs and your skill allows you to do that, then I’m certain that they scratch their head trying to figure out, ‘Okay, what are we going to do about this guy?’ You’re constantly causing problems, the long drives take time off the clock and let your defense rest and I’ve always been a big fan of that.”
Last week Keith Rivers had his best game of the season.
“He practiced well, too.”
It seems each game someone new stands out on defense and sometimes it’s someone who played very little in previous games. Are you doing more matching up according to who you’re playing that week?
“We do that every week. Every week it’s personnel according to who you play. You play the Eagles and you obviously know because their base set is three wide receivers, so your personnel combinations are based off that.”
But it seems like every week you’ve got a new guy on defense stepping up.
"Well, Antrel (Rolle) has been there every week. He’s got three game balls in a row and has played well. And (Justin) Tuck’s played pretty solid.”
What’s behind the improvement in the pass rush the last two weeks?
“To be honest with you, the secondary’s been involved in it, too. You’ve had multiple people, you’ve had linebackers, you’ve had a secondary, you’ve had a front. I thought JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) and Tuck both played better last week and so did Cullen Jenkins, he probably played his best game.”
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“I’ve seen him.”
I’m sure the players know this, but do you have to say, “You can’t take this player you’ve never heard of lightly.” You can talk about Steve Matthews (whose only career start was for Coughlin’s Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997 in a rout of the Giants).
“Here’s what we started the week out with. The Philadelphia Eagles coming off of a seven-touchdown performance out in Oakland, came into Lambeau and played the Green Bay Packers. The Eagles had 415 yards total offense, the Packers had 396 with a third-string quarterback who had no idea he was going to play. And he was 24 for 39 (passing). Now he did throw two picks, but nevertheless that was quite a performance for a guy that didn’t even think he was going to play. What we do is we lean on that, and then, of course, they’ve rushed the ball so well for the last two weeks. Against the Bears, they had 150 yards rushing. We’re trying to take care of our team.”
Nobody knows (Packers defensive coordinator) Dom Capers better than you. What defines his defense? When you think of a Dom Capers defense what comes to mind?
“The first thing you think of is his background. He comes from the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a defensive coordinator with the great defensive teams of the Steelers in the 1990s. So what do you think of right away? You think of a zone blitz, you think about pressure from a five-man front, the odd front, you think about multiple personnel combinations on third down, you think about secondary blitzes, which he has a lot, you think about a pressure package which he brings. You think about the amount of detail that he goes about. He’s worked for me, so I know how he goes about his business, but yes, you think about pressure packages and you think about multiple personnel combinations, the intent of which is to keep you guessing on how you’re going to have to protect and so on and so forth.”
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