EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: The Giants did a lot of good things in the victory over Chicago the other night. The goal of every coach is to get your team to play consistently well. There seems like there's so much parity in the league now, with only one undefeated team remaining. Is it tougher to get your team to play consistently well week after week because teams are so evenly matched?
Coughlin: "I don't know about tougher, but I know that's what the goal is. I mean that's what you're trying to do. To be a good football team you really have to be a team that does not beat yourself. You have to eliminate those circumstances that take place that put the win in jeopardy - the fumbles, the penalties, the things that prevent you from making the plays necessary to win. Sustaining the drives, putting the ball in the end zone - all of the above."
Q: Turnovers continue to be a problem. You've always taken pride in having teams with low turnover totals. In this week's NFL statistics, the Giants are tied with Arizona and Carolina for the most turnovers in the league. What do you think when you see that?
Coughlin: "It makes me sick to my stomach, to be honest. It does, because it's against everything we preach. We emphasize over and over and over - it's the very first fundamental drill we do every week - we turn the ball over on the defensive side and we protect the ball on the offensive side. So we continue to work on that."
Q: When a player – in this case, Ahmad Bradshaw – has fumbling issues, how do you deal with it? Are you threatening? Are you encouraging?
Coughlin: "You're analyzing. You're seeing why it happens, when it happens, and under what circumstances it happens. The other day he relaxed. He broke free. He checked one direction. Before he even could continue to assess where the defenders were, he had relaxed. His arm came off of his side, and the defender came and just stripped the ball. I just try to tell people that in this league you're always in traffic. There are always people around you. You have to learn, really learn, to make it second nature to instinctively hold that ball in a position where no one gets a free shot at the ball because it's extended from your side."
Q: Do you also want that second arm coming up?
Coughlin: "In traffic you do, yes. In traffic you do, but not necessarily in the open field. But anytime there's traffic to be contended with, you do have to, because in this league now, today more than ever, some people aren't even waiting for the second tackler. Some people will go for the ball with the first tackler, and we see that happening over and over and over. People are very good at getting after the ball. Chicago is exceptional at it. You can tell it's drilled."
Q: You have talked frequently about the importance of continuity and chemistry on the offensive line. You had to move some players around in practice this week. Does it concern you because it can alter the chemistry or do you feel better knowing you have the flexibility?
Coughlin: "That's a two-edged sword. On the one hand, you do prepare for flexibility. You start in training camp with any number of guys snapping the ball. I mean that's just something that you have to be able to do. Would you like to be able to settle on a group and play? Yes, absolutely, but unfortunately you do what you have to do."
Q:After Matt Dodge dropped the ball and then got off the punt the other night, a few players – Osi Umenyiora, Terrell Thomas - slapped him on the shoulder pads and encouraged him. There seems to be a lot of that. Do you like to see that?
A: "That's exactly what I like to see. I like to see the offense and the defense and the special teams all interacting, everyone paying attention to the game on the field, everyone encouraging and lifting up people as they come to the sideline, everyone taking true joy when someone makes an outstanding play - being involved. Being involved to the extent where you're paying attention to what's going on."
Q: I think some people have been surprised by your patience with Dodge. Have you been surprised by your patience with Dodge?
Coughlin: "In many ways, yes. But the problem with coming into the season with a rookie punter who you know is a very talented guy is you also know there are inconsistencies. That is difficult, most difficult to live with. However, I thought there were some plays in the second half the other night that warranted it."
Q: The Giants are ninth in the NFL in passing yards, but you still have some drops and overthrows. Do you think the passing game is not producing as well as it could?
Coughlin: "We could be better than we are. We're better than we were the other night. We had, I guess, one tipped ball up in the air, but there are balls that should be caught here that are not being caught. And quite frankly, I don't understand why they're not being caught. Some of our most dependable guys have drops. So this can't happen. We've got to understand how important every play is and people, as their number one responsibility, must be taking care of the ball - when the ball comes your way, you've got to catch it and cover it up and advance the ball so that we can stay in some kind of rhythm."
Q: You found out late last Friday afternoon that Mathias Kiwanuka wouldn't play because of a neck injury. What was the process of deciding how to compensate for his absence? Did you immediately go to Perry Fewell? Do you have to have a series of meetings to decide what you're going to do? Did you have to do more on the field Saturday morning because suddenly you don't have this player you're counting on?
Coughlin: "You start out with communication. You need to make people aware of what the circumstance is. When he was ruled out, the number one thing was to make sure that the defensive coaches were aware and that they did have time to do whatever was necessary with the personnel packages that were prepared for the game, whether it be inserting someone else, whether it be trimming, whether it be not utilizing that particular package altogether. So it's communication. It's adjustments, and then it is making sure that on Saturday morning you cover the things that you need to cover to compensate for the loss of a player."
Q: This week you play the Houston Texans, who are ranked second in the NFL in total yards and first in rushing yards. Do you think those kinds of numbers when presented to the defensive players get their attention?
Coughlin: "There isn't any question about that. Last week it was the number one rush defense in the Chicago Bears. This week it's the number one rush offense. So there isn't any question as you begin to understand and if you really study and you watch how people put themselves in position to win, even last week against the Raiders when they ran it, threw the play action pass, didn't have a sack, didn't have a turnover. They had 11 sacks coming into the game, and had none coming out of it. You understand how to win. You study what Dallas did. You even study the remarkable comeback that they had in overtaking Washington in a game which Washington had a pretty good lead. So there's balance. There's definitely balance in this football team, but they do an outstanding job running the ball."
Q: (Linebacker) Brian Cushing returns after a four-game suspension. Does that make them a bit of a mystery defensively?
Coughlin: "Cushing was involved in all the tape we study in the offseason. Certainly he's a plus, a big plus for their team coming back, but they're a team that's number two against the rush and that's had their trouble with the pass. But lurking, you've got Mario Williams and (Antonio) Smith and some of the pressure that they can bring from the secondary and from the linebacker corps - I mean they've got outstanding personnel to cause problems."
Q: Last week you faced Julius Peppers. This week it's Williams. How similar are they?
Coughlin: "They're both extremely good football players, obviously, in their own right. They each have their own individual assets, but they both demand tremendous attention."