EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: As you prepare for the game against Philadelphia on Sunday, do you have to strike a balance this week between having the proper sense of urgency for a game that could well decide the NFC East while at the same time not trying to put too much pressure on yourself because there are games remaining and nothing will be clinched?
Coughlin: "Yes. This is the most important game of the season because it's the next game, but there are three games left and there is a lot of football to be played. Obviously, it's a big game. It's an important game, but nevertheless there is plenty of football left and there is a lot to be decided."
Q: The Eagles have defeated the Giants five times in a row.
Coughlin: "Thanks for reminding me of that."
Q: Is there a psychological hurdle…
Coughlin: "Well, sure there is. Beat them."
Q: Some of the players disagree. Is each game a very distinct entity, or do you look at the group of five?
Coughlin: "I don't look at it that way, but I mean, if you look at the way they've won games, they're winning games in the fourth quarter. And that's exactly what we have to do. And as poorly as we played offensively over there (in the 27-17 loss in Philadelphia on Nov. 21), we did have a lead in the fourth quarter."
Q: You overcame a 16-3 deficit to take a 17-16 lead. But the Eagles are a team that starts fast (seven first possession touchdowns) and they like to take a deep shot early. Do you have to be particularly cognizant of that?
Coughlin: "A: Oh, absolutely. That was the reminder yesterday. Their first quarter point differential is amazing. It's 103-52 (the Eagles' scoring advantage) in the first quarter.
How many points they score in the first quarter versus what the opponents' score is double. So you know how they play. They've scored or made huge plays on the first play of the game in lots of their games."
Q: And those deep shots on the first snap…
Coughlin: "Washington and Dallas, that's for sure – divisional games. So maybe that means we'll get one."
Q: Steve Smith is the 12th Giants player to go on injured reserve this season. As a coach, is that one of the toughest things you deal with, because you never have a team at the end that you had at the beginning and it's always an adjustment of who's available and who's not?
Coughlin: "That happens in this league way too much on every team. What you like, what you want and what you ask for is you like to have your team. But you don't get your team. So you make adjustments and you go from there. I feel badly for the player that puts so much into it and then can't finish the season."
Q: Last week, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw had similar carries and yardage totals. It took you a while to get to this point, but is that what you want to do?
Coughlin: "That's the distribution you like to have – spread even. But you don't stand on the sideline counting. That's not the way it works."
Q: Do you look at it at the end of the game and see how many each has?
Coughlin: "Make sure we're doing it right, yes."
Q: Is Jacobs running as he did those two seasons when he had 1,000 yards? Do you see the same determination and the power and the north-south running that maybe you didn't see last year?
Coughlin: "Good decisions, power runs through some arms, staying on his feet. He even got tripped up on the long run the other day and still kept going probably another 10 or 12 yards."
Q: The Eagles lead the NFL with 22 interceptions and they're tied for second with 30 takeaways (one less than the league-leading Giants). You don't want to be too cautious, but don't you have to be careful and cognizant of it?
Coughlin: "You have to be aware of how they play, who the players are, what their specific M.O. is and how they play. You also have to understand their pressure package. Why are they so effective with their interceptions? They're with pressure. You have to be able to understand that, too."
Q: It might snow Sunday. Speaking specifically about Matt Dodge, I don't know if he's ever played in snow. Is there anything you can do to prepare for the snow?
Coughlin: "Yes, we're going to get one of those snow chutes."
Q: How about a wind tunnel?
Coughlin: "He just has to go play. He goes outside every day and punts. That's probably the best for him – he handles the ball, catches the ball. Zak (DeOssie) and he go outside if we're inside, which once again I'm more concerned about the quality of the practice. That's why you stay inside – focus."
Q: Have you thought at all about practicing in the stadium?
Coughlin: "I went in there once (in the spring), and Domenik Hixon suffered a season-ending knee injury."
Q: "Were you mad at yourself for getting a penalty the other night?
Coughlin: "I was wrong. I was wrong. And if I hurt our team, I would have felt very badly. That's not the role of the sideline to put the team in a bad position, and I was wrong. However, when I see an offensive lineman 15 yards downfield (on a pass) there isn't a player, a coach, an official in the game that isn't aware of the fact that if the timing of a screen is not properly executed, there is going to be somebody downfield. So the quarterback runs all over the place and then throws the ball 15 yards down the field, the only thing is the receiver is standing next to the center. No call. But I was wrong. You're not supposed to be on the field, and that's my job."
Q: You've been asked some Rich Seubert questions lately because he's playing so well at center. Your first year here, 2004, was the season he had to sit out because of the leg injury he suffered in 2003. You didn't know him, he was not a player you brought in, but you kept him on scholarship. What made you keep him here when he couldn't play and you didn't even know him?
Coughlin: "Well, his reputation was that he was one of the toughest guys anybody had ever been around, and he was feisty and he was competitive and he was just the kind of personality that you could tell was great in the locker room and great on the field with the other guys. The way that he had performed in coming out of nowhere and earning a job at this level and the ability that he had shown was simply – the investment was going to be extremely worthwhile and you bet on the fact that the makeup of the young man and if there was a way, he was going to make it. And he did. But the people that were here – Ernie Accorsi and the group that was here – they were strongly in Richie's corner."
Q: And as you got to know him…
Coughlin: "He was just like a fixture. He was in the training room more than the trainers. He brought coffee for crying out loud. All winter, all offseason, and he wanted so much to be a part of everything, but just obviously he couldn't."
Q: As you got to know him, you got to see those qualities that they were all talking about?
Coughlin: "Didn't take long. And all the fights that I had to break up with him – his first spring with us, I mean, Richie, come on. I've been down this road before."
Q: The Eagles' offense is ranked number one in the NFL. What, in your mind, sets that group apart? Is it the speed from the quarterback to the receivers to the running back?
Coughlin: "Talent. You didn't even throw the tight end (Brent Celek) in. Last year he was one of their leading receivers. No, they're a very good team. They're fast. They're big, physical up front. They don't ask them to do a lot more than to protect the passer, run the zone schemes, do that kind of stuff. They're very formation-oriented. They utilize DeSean Jackson about every way you can think of in terms of reverses and runs and deep balls and go screens and all that stuff. And Michael Vick has added another dimension to them because what he does is he buys time for everybody to get downfield farther and then he throws it as far as he can throw it. And he has a couple guys that are pretty good at showing up where the ball comes down."
Q: Defensively, they lost (middle linebacker) Stewart Bradley, but they have a lot of people that make contributions.
Coughlin: "They lost (rookie defensive end Brandon) Graham, too, but they've got people that are contributing and playing and they always do. They've got an aggressive defensive team and an aggressive defensive style. That's the way they play. That's the way they've always played. Their special teams are fast, and they run well and they do have good return people."