EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: You always say that every game is important. There's been a lot of outside chatter about the team this week and the necessity of winning Sunday's game against Chicago to avoid a 1-3 start. How do you get your players to play with a sense of urgency without feeling the pressure of what they're hearing?
Coughlin: "You can't avoid what people are saying. You have to realize again that the only pressure that's important is the pressure you place upon yourself. Realizing the situation that we're in, there isn't any doubt about it. We need to win a football game. There are a lot of things to take from last week's game (a 29-10 loss to Tennessee) that are encouraging. However, there were just as many things which were negative. So I think we have to overcome that part of it, and I say again as I indicated at the end of the game, you have to first keep from beating yourself before you can go forth to beat the opponent."
Q: You said each of the last two weeks that you practiced well. You prepared well. You did a lot of good things in the game, but not enough to win. How frustrating is it to you when you prepare well and you think you're going to play well but then you don't play as well as you anticipated?
Coughlin: "When you prepare well and you practice well, you have every right to believe and expect under the type of relationship that you have among your team, which is based on trust, that that is going to carry over and transition over into the game. The unfortunate thing about our game the other day was that whereas again, there were so many things that were done well and for such a long period of time. I mean our run defense against arguably the best runner in the league (Chris Johnson) - until late in the fourth quarter, he was averaging two-something yards a carry. So there were some positives. However, it's a team game. And as we keep talking about it, all three phrases have got to contribute to each other's opportunity to win. You cannot have an area where one particular aspect doesn't do their job."
Q: When you are practicing well and then you're not playing well, do you change anything?
Coughlin: "We don't really, no. Persistence is the key. Repetition, persistence, the pounding away of the value of focus and concentration and proper preparation; trying to develop the individual player as well at the group protocol for preparation, which I don't want to disrupt - by having played three games - any kind of change in our normal routine, which quite frankly, a great many of them are just getting used to."
Q: You hinted that you may put some starters on special teams. Is that something that you've done before in your career?
Coughlin: "Yes we have. But again, when you develop your 53, you have certain individuals, who, because of the nature of their game and perhaps they're not designated a starter, is they have to perform on (special) teams. That's not going to change. The roster is basically your roster, but we have done this and we might be able to rotate players who are starters onto one or two other teams for example. But don't forget, the individual and the position he plays and the type of player that he is has to accommodate the particular need of that special teams unit. And it doesn't always match up."
Q: But when you do put some starters on special teams, are you sending a message that says, "I'm going to do anything I have to do to get this right?"
Coughlin: "I think that's the message. The message is that, as presented to our team, is that - I have asked our veteran players to initiate more interest, pressure, peer pressure - whatever you want to call it - on the players that are performing on our special teams units. I do feel like we definitely can be better. We do need a sense of urgency on teams. We do need a feeling of 'I've got to make a tackle. It's not somebody else's job. It's my job. I've got to go make the play.' Just running down the field in the lane, not being involved, not reacting properly coming from the backside, for example, on kickoff returns, squeezing the lanes down - that's not acceptable."
Q: I know the whole turnover thing drives you crazy. You set the record with only 13 in 2008, the total rose to 31 last year and now you're on pace for 53 this season. Can you put your finger on what happened?
Coughlin: "We have far and away too many tipped ball interceptions. I mean, catch the football. The ball should not surprise the receiver the way it has. Any ball that we can get both hands on we should catch. As I said, I've seen enough tipped ball interceptions to last me a lifetime. I don't want to see any more of those. And then fumbles - the instinct in the heavy traffic runs - there has to be a sense of timing within the framework of the receiver or the runner when he does get into heavy traffic that tells him, 'You know what, there's a lot of people in pursuit here.' The ball must be secured because as you study, Chicago does a good job of getting the ball out. They got it out the other night in a critical situation at midfield when Green Bay was driving for the win. So I just think that has to happen for us, too. The knowledge of ball security even in heavy traffic, even when we're instinctive about trying to go ahead and get more yardage."
Q: In heavy traffic, you always go back to carrying the ball high and tight.
Coughlin: "Always high and tight. Then the other hand comes across the ball, too. So it is definitely secured. Where you see these balls coming out are the perfect example. The elbow is away from the side or the ball is being loosely swung. Don't think for one minute that people don't study that. They know who the secure ball carriers are and who aren't. They know by nature."
Q: Charles Tillman of the Bears is particularly good at forcing fumbles.
Coughlin: "(Brian) Urlacher is good. Lance Briggs is good. Tillman is good. Any number of them got the ball out the other night."
Q: Because of Shaun O'Hara's injury, Adam Koets is now playing a big role on the team as the starting center. He's a guy who didn't even get a uniform for most of three years and never seemed to complain. He just kept working and now he has an opportunity. You said the other day that he's playing pretty well. He's been pretty anonymous. What can you tell us about him?
Coughlin: "You've got a young man who had the offensive line mentality in terms of having a lot to learn and trying to be pressed into a new position, if you will, a position which we feel like he's been most suited for since he got here. He has played guard. He has played tackle. He's filled in on the wedge on kickoff return. He's played on field goal protection. So he's done all these things in the time that he's been here, but he's also worked diligently through the opportunity and he has one now and our team needs him to play well. The good thing I've said about he and Will Beatty is they got a tremendous amount of snaps in preseason. They got a ton of snaps."
Q: Adam was originally drafted as a tackle. Do you think center is his best position?
Coughlin: "I do. We do."
Q: The Bears haven't run the ball well, but they have a lot of passing yardage. Is this another one of those teams where you look to stop the pass first?
Coughlin: "They're throwing the ball much more than they've run the ball, but they can run the ball and they do have great speed at the running back spot. So they do play two tight ends, two receivers, one running back formation just as much as they - and they do use their four tight ends that are active and they use tight ends as fullbacks and they can run from a lead back principle as well. So you have to prepare for everything, and we're doing that. It's a different situation because it's not an over the ball run-pass decision scheme. I think the play calling comes from the sideline. They run what's called. They don't necessarily audible."
Q: Do they try to confuse you with a lot of motion and shifting?
Coughlin: "Yes. They do a lot of that. They motion. They shift. They do a lot of things to disguise the final formation and then what they do from those final formations. They have some basic principles that they are always going to attack you with first and foremost, and then off of that sprouts other things that they try to accomplish."
Q: Defensively when you look at them, do you look at Urlacher and Briggs first?
Coughlin: "Look at them all. Their front is very good. (Julius) Peppers' addition made them very good. They are a veteran linebacker corps. They're physical. They play a very sound and solid scheme. They count on the pressure of the front to help in terms of their coverage. They basically are going to try to make you drive the ball in any number of plays to complete a drive with a score. So the pressure is on the offensive team to execute and to take care of the ball."
Q: With Devin Hester, Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox, is this as good a return group as you will see?
A: "Yes. It's a very, very good return group. Their kickoff returns between Knox and Manning are very good. Manning had a big return the other night, and their punt returner (Hester) who had a long 62-yard touchdown return but also a 29-yard return before the half that set up a touchdown. Those two plays, or those three plays, were very instrumental in the field position they secured the whole night. Manning's kickoff return was out to what, the 44, so I mean it was significant field position established by their returners."
Q: You have expressed disappointment in your special teams. Is this is a week where they really have to step up?
Coughlin: "Special teams are going to have to, yes. And winning the battle of field position is a big challenge. Our young punter (Matt Dodge) has a big challenge. Our punt protection unit and then coverage unit, our field goal protection unit - Peppers blocked another field goal the other night. When you look at the frustration that Green Bay must have felt after their game with three interceptions, two nullified by penalties, 18 penalties, a blocked field goal, a ball fumbled at midfield with the score tied late in the game which denied them an opportunity for a long field goal, if nothing else."