As lopsided as the last two weeks have been for the Giants, Tom Coughlin has repeatedly praised one component of his team heading into the regular-season finale -- special teams.
It’s a relative nod, of course, coming off consecutive losses by a combined score of 67-14, but a head coach has to start somewhere. It was also important enough for him to mention in every press conference this week, including his postgame remarks in Baltimore where the Giants limited return specialist – and recently-named Pro Bowler -- Jacoby Jones.
The other two phases, however, haven’t created a spark as of late.
“I think, to be honest with you, we haven’t made any really significant plays and people rally around those kinds of things as well,” Coughlin said Thursday. “There’s little parts of each game in the beginning where if something good would have happened, who knows? For example, how do you explain special teams playing as well as they played and the other two phases as poorly? That’s a very good question.”
It’s also a broader question that Coughlin will delve into over the offseason with his staff, including special teams coordinator Tom Quinn, who was asked about the head coach singling out his unit as a bright spot.
“Kickoff return, we left some yardage out there, which we needed against a really good coverage team (in Baltimore),” Quinn, a perfectionist, said. “That was a little disappointing. We missed a couple reads and didn’t finish off some blocks. I thought punt competed; punt return, I’m not happy with that. (Domenik) Hixon had a couple opportunities…he had one 10-yard return, the other one was only two. That affected us.”
Quinn went on to speak about the mentality of a special-teamer trying to make a name for himself.
“I think it’s got to be,” he said. “Anytime you’re on the bottom of the roster, you’ll be fighting for a job, fighting for a paycheck. You better be motivated. We always have to deal with that as far as who we get to deal with. You hope they’re motivated and if not, you’ll find someone else that is.”
In the meantime, still holding a ray of postseason hope, the Giants have to take care of their own business against the Eagles.
For Quinn, that includes the No. 7 punt return outfit, led by Damaris Johnson, who had a 98-yard touchdown in Dallas at the beginning of the month. On the flipside, the Giants will try to take advantage of the Eagles’ coverage teams, giving up 13.6 yards per punt (30th) and 24.6 on kickoff (22nd).