Q: After two straight losses, what is the mindset of your team right now?
A: We’re looking to win a football game, no more, no less. We have great respect for the New York Giants, the defending World Champions. I have great respect for Tom Coughlin and his body of work. Obviously after last year’s Super Bowl, I think he secured his place in the Hall of Fame. This is a good football team that we’re getting ready to play. The defense has taken the ball away 30 times. It’s a football team that’s protected their quarterback very well. It’s a football team that, in their wins, has rushed the ball extremely well. We’re certainly aware of the fact that the last two times we played were in our building. They’re looking forward to getting us to drink their water and play on their turf in front of their crowd. This is going to be a big challenge for us. It’s one game at a time and I’m not smart enough and I’m not good enough to look past one game. We had a good practice today. We’ll continue to prepare the rest of the week and play the game on Sunday.
Q: Is it simple to say that you have to win-out to get to the playoffs?
A: I’m not saying that. Again, what’s more important to me right now is that if we win-out, we have a winning record. That’s important. The mindset that we’ve had here since 2006 is that we can control our own destiny. I can’t control what anybody else does, wins and losses. What we can control is how we prepare for this game. That’s all we’re getting ready for now, the New York Giants. If we think we can walk past the New York Giants, the defending World Champions, and expect to beat anybody else, we’re out of our minds. This is going to take every bit of preparation that we have, with total concentration and dedication to the task at hand.
Q: Drew Brees has played well in the last few meetings vs. the Giants, what have been the keys to success?
A: I think the common thread is when Drew, or anyone, plays well, the protection is good, the routes are run crisp; you have the ability to run the ball so that your play-action packages are working. The quarterback has a sense of confidence that he’s accurate with the ball; the receivers are making the catches. Those are some of the things from the last couple games.
Q: With him struggling the past couple games, have those been the major problems?
A: Drew is going to play better; he’s going to work his butt off to play better. It doesn’t start; it doesn’t end with Drew Brees. We have to protect better, we have to run the ball better, we have to play better defense, we have to have more three-and-outs on defense, we have to get our return game going, we have to play better in the fourth quarter. There’s a long laundry list of things that we have to do better before we put Drew Brees’ name in there.
Q: What insight has Steve Spagnuolo been able to give you about
A: I think this: I’ve seen enough film on Eli and seen enough Giant offense, and of course Spags (Steve Spagnuolo) knows him very well, I think he’s rare, man. He’s one of those guys that can throw off his back foot, and really not have to feel the pressure in the pocket or the pressure especially from the inside rushers from guard to guard at all. He’s got the ability to throw off his back foot, accurately, and at the last second, turn his shoulders and not absorb a hit. I mean, I don’t know anybody that does that better than he does right now. I don’t know of a quarterback in the National Football League right now that’s really as accurate as he is. He’s got all the throws in his arm: he’s got the deep-out, he’s got the go’s, he’s got the deep-in’s, he’s got the touch with backs coming out of the backfield. He knows this offense; he’s on the same page with Kevin (Gilbride, Offensive Coordinator) all the time. He’s a great two-minute quarterback. I think right now he’s leading the league in two-minute points before the half. Listen, this guy is a franchise quarterback and a two-time Super Bowl winner for a reason.
Q: How much have you wanted to be able to talk to Sean Payton during this season?
A: It’s been difficult. It’s been very difficult. Number one, he’s my friend, first. Number two, he’s my head coach, second. Nothing has taken the place of my relationship with him. It’s like a giant hole in my chest. I think we both kind of look at the calendar and see that there’s four weeks left in the regular season, and he’s due to come back here at the conclusion of the playoffs, but it’s been extremely difficult. I can’t even imagine what he’s going through. I did it for seven weeks and it was hard on me. What he’s going through right now, I can’t imagine.
Q: What do you expect to see from the Giants?
A: It’s well documented and chronicled. One of the coaches that you do not want to play in the National Football League is Tom Coughlin coming off of a loss. He does an outstanding job of preparing his football team. He does an outstanding job of making sure they’re not making the same mistake twice. He does a great job of making sure their football team doesn’t beat themselves. He does a great job of stressing turnovers and protecting the football. So listen. They’re looking forward to us playing in their building in front of their crowd in front of a new stadium. They’re the defending world champs. Tom Coughlin is a Hall of Fame football coach and all of these things are just facts. You can say I’m being nice. They’re just facts. So we better have our 'A' game or it’s not going to be competitive.
Q: Your take on the Giants’ pass rush and what you’ve seen from them.
A: I think they’re about the most consistent pass rush over the long haul over the last four or five years. Tuck is playing at a high level. Joseph can push the pocket inside.
Q: Have you gotten any guarantees that Tagliabue is not going to make a ruling before the game and make some decision?
A: I have not. I’m speaking on my behalf and that probably wouldn’t be something that would be shared with me. I have not heard that. I don’t know that. The kind of man, the kind of commissioner Paul Tagliabue was and the man he is, I would be shocked if something came this week. I think he truly understands what a work week is like. I think any decision that comes from his office would probably come at the conclusion of this game probably on the player’s day off on Tuesday.
Q: How much has the 10 days to prepare for the Giants helped you?
A: It’s helped our coaches some. We worked through the weekend, but on a short week we played extremely physical football game against San Francisco on a short week. Played a divisional opponent, which is also physical, on a Thursday night. We’ve had to give our players some time off. We brought our players back in on Friday. We had a run. We had a lift. We had a film session and then we gave our players off the weekend. Our coaches worked through it. It helped some, but you've got to be careful now. The more film you look at, you can potentially confuse a player. It doesn’t matter how much a coach knows. It really matters how much a coach can teach and then what a player can comprehend. So we’re back to a normal workweek starting this morning. We worked first and second down today and we’ll see what happens.
Q: Do you think that you guys are not as good in a place like New Jersey?
A: Well, I don’t know that. We’ve won big games on the road before. We’ve played in bad weather games. We’ve played in the snow in Cincinnati two years ago. I know that we lost a heartbreaker to Seattle in a playoff game and it was a bad weather game. We beat the Raiders three weeks ago in Oakland. To me it’s always about preparation. You go in there being a properly prepared football team and you’re ready physically, mentally and emotionally. Let the whistle blow and lets see who the best team is but it’s all going to be about preparation and you can’t really worry about things you can’t control like the weather and the elements. You prepare for them as best you can but right now we’re prepared for the Giants and we’ll see what the weather is.
Q: It was 70 degrees yesterday.
A: I saw a little bit of the Monday Night game and it looked like it was an August game day. The Monday night before everybody had ski masks on in Philadelphia when they were playing Carolina.
Q: Are you seeing improvement in your defense?
A: Absolutely. I don’t know how much film you guys have watched or how much statistically you follow us, but for the last four weeks we played pretty damn good defense. Last week was probably one of our best defensive performances of the year. Spags has done a great job of keeping this team together. Spags has done a great job of keeping the morale of our defense at a high level. He’s done an outstanding job of being patient teaching this defense and I think it’s starting to show now. Our defense has played very, very well. We’ve had some real good goal line stands. I think everybody knows when you get a Jim Johnson-Steve Spagnuolo defense, there’s some nuances to it and some verbiage to it and there’s some communication in the game that you've got to get squared away. Patience is going to be a virtue and has been and it’s starting to pay some dividends now.