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The Coughlin Corner: AFC matchup in Buffalo

Posted Oct 4, 2015

The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com’s exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin

Q: What would it do for the team’s confidence and psychology if you are able to get to 2-2 after a 0-2 start?

Coughlin: “Obviously, it keeps us in the hunt. It would be a great thing to build on. You hope to not be disrupted once you start to get going. But the key thing is, we have to keep improving and playing better. That’s the whole key. Some things are being done well, and some things aren’t being done well. But the fact of the matter is, in our league, 75 percent of the games are decided in the fourth quarter. They either end up with a two-minute drill on offense or a two-minute drill on defense, and we’ve got to get better in those areas to expect to be able to finish these games against very good people we’re playing.”

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Q: You’ve been pretty candid about the need to finish better and about the need to rush the ball better. Do they go hand-in-hand? Particularly last week, you had the four-minute drill and had a chance to close out a game. Do they go together?

Coughlin: “They do. But the other message that I’m trying to tell people, people that think they know football, you’re going to have to look hard. It’s very rare when somebody just puts it on the ground and finishes, very rare. At some point you have to throw the ball to keep the ball. When you do that, you’re obviously trying to do something as safe as you can, but you do have to throw it and you’ve got to catch it. And you have to put it into play. We threw the ball on third-and-10. That was me. You make a first down there, it’s two minutes, you kneel, and the game is over. They don’t ever touch the ball again. It’s always a part of the psychology or the thinking involved.”

Q: You have to make the play there.

Coughlin: “You have to make the play. Well, you don’t want to be third-and-10. How about two runs make two yards, at least? I mean, come on. We had an opportunity for that, too. I didn’t think at the end of the game we were sticking it up in there the way we should have.”

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Q: Each of the last two weeks you’ve won the coin toss and deferred. Have you changed your philosophy at all on that?

Coughlin: “The percentages two weeks ago (against Atlanta) were overwhelmingly in favor of deferring at home. The percentage was 65 percent, I think, of people who deferred at home and won the weekend before. I told my team, perhaps it was an anomaly. I told my staff it will come back. Most of the time, it’s 48-52 percent, something like that. Well, it did come back, but I still deferred. And the reason I deferred is that it made great sense for us. If you remember, we had 17 unanswered points before and after the half we scored in a game that we should have won. But, theoretically, if you could plot it to score before the half and to have the ball coming out at the half, that’s what you want.”

Q: Do you think when you defer and you stop the opposition and force them to punt with that first possession that’s almost as big as taking the ball and getting a touchdown?

Coughlin: “No, but it nevertheless reinforces why you do it. That’s what the whole idea is, stop them, get the ball back. A lot of times it isn’t great field position, but you’ve got the ball back. So now it’s just like taking the kickoff and you’re hoping you have an opportunity to return after the half.”

Q: You’ve always preached the importance of turnovers, but the past two years you had negative differentials. This year, you’re plus-five. Has the light gone on? Are they getting the message?

Coughlin: “Well, they always get the message. It’s the ability to go out on the field and act it out by significance. So what it is we’ve got? I’ll tell you exactly what it is, we were talking about it today. Off of six takeaways, we have 31 points, 5.2 points per takeaway. That’s huge. And we’re second in the league with that.

“We’ve put the ball on the ground and got it back. Buffalo has been plus-three in (each of) their two wins and minus-one in their loss. They threw three picks and New England fumbled twice, they stripped (Tom) Brady at the right time of the game. (Defensive end Jerry) Hughes got Brady, knocked the ball out. Gave them the football at the middle of the field. To continue to take care of the ball is very significant as we look at taking the ball away and converting it into points.”

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Q: You’re second in the league stopping the run, but 32nd against the pass. Do you think because you’re doing such a good job stopping the run, they’re going to pass?

Coughlin: “Buffalo? No, they’re going to run the ball. They’re going to run. They want to run, they want to play action pass, they want to move the quarterback, they want to bootleg. They started the game last week with two bootlegs for good plays. That’s what they want to do. They’re going to try and pound it. What they do is they pop up and throw the deep ball, he (quarterback Tyrod Taylor) is good at the deep ball. If it’s a rhythmic throw, he’s right on the money. That’s where they balance it off. And their third downs aren’t bad. They had a pretty good game last week third down-wise (converting seven of 13 opportunities).”

Q: In your coaching career, have you had a player like Nikita Whitlock, who you can play at both fullback and defensive tackle?

Coughlin: “No.”

Q: How is he able, at 240 pounds, to go against offensive linemen that outweigh him by 80 pounds?

Coughlin: “He doesn’t come down the middle. He’s got to get on the edge. He’s a dynamo. He gets on the edge and he causes problems that way. And he’s very energized. He continues to come.”

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Q: What prompted you to put him in there at defensive tackle?

Coughlin: “Because he played defensive line in college, that’s what he was. And then when he got to the pro game, he obviously made his mark on special teams. We brought him here, I don’t even know if he was a fullback before he came here, but that was the position suited for him, I thought. We kept him up in camp with rushing the passer, that kind of thing. We have a few plays for him every game.”

Q: A guy like that who can do so many things, he saves you a roster spot.

Coughlin: “Valuable guy. That was the intent. That is the reason he is here.”

Q: Several of the players were noticeably disappointed yesterday when Victor Cruz had to leave practice. Do you think that will affect them going forward?

Coughlin: “I hope not. We’ve played an awful lot of games without him. It’s not what you want to have happen. And it’s a great lesson for everybody. I was asked before practice on Wednesday, ‘How many snaps will he get in the game?’ My response was, let’s see him practice first. 

“Monday, he was running around out there catching the ball not at 100 percent speed but at 80-85. On Wednesday, he runs three routes against air; nobody was on him, nobody pushing on him, nobody banging around, nothing.”

Q: You alluded to Tyrod Taylor. He never started in four years in Baltimore, now he’s running Buffalo’s offense very efficiently. What do you see in him that has enabled him to be so effective?

Coughlin: “He’s a good player, he’s a good athlete. He’s done a very good job. He’s part of that rushing game that they have that’s number one in the league. He pulls it down and runs or he runs the option, and he’s good at it. He’s got a strong arm. He’s been accurate, 74 percent, that’s not bad.”

Q: Is their defensive front as good as you’ll see this year?

Coughlin: “I think so. They’re very good, they have a nice combination. They have guys that have played a while and guys that have been in there for a little bit and are tasting it. They are a team that has led the league in sacks two years in a row. So, yeah, they’re good.”