Head Coach Tom Coughlin
After a most difficult evening and a difficult morning you have to look at the tape in all three phases again and to walk in here and remind all of you that the team that finished those last eight minutes was also the team that played the first 52. The first 52 were played pretty darn well. The last eight were not played well. There are plenty of sins to be distributed. The sin that I'm going to throw in is that it's my decision whether or not we put the hands team out there. You can go either way on the strategy of it with seven and a half minutes and all three timeouts, but I do know this team very well and the guy is an excellent onsides placement kicker. He kicked the ball perfectly – eleven yards exactly. We decided not to put the hands team out there, but rather to make our people aware of it. We were aware of it, we didn't react very well and had we reacted well with the way in which we were aligned, we still may not have been able to do anything about it. The ball was kicked that well. That's my call and if there was anything – hindsight is 20/20 and you guys are very good at it – but the situation that I would say, rather than strategy, would have just been momentum, just to stop the momentum. I think that after a team scores in two plays, goes 65 yards, we miss a tackle, the guy runs into the end zone, it's still 31-17 so there is plenty of work that has to be done and we're chipping away at the time, not as fast as you would like to, but the sense of the momentum of the play and draining some of that versus our decision to have some decent field position to work with offensively to try to do something about it. The other issues are quite obvious. We had the ball, we had a seven-point lead, we were in position – one time we were in position with second and eight at our 38-yard line, within eight yards of a potential field goal that puts you up 10 and we had the penalty that set us back, didn't convert in that situation and then the other obvious fact that in 16 plays Philadelphia scored 21 points and the quarterback ran for 96 yards and we didn't do a whole lot about that, one of which was a third and ten from the minus-12, but we had a pressure on, we let him outside of the pressure, which was supposed to be outside in, and he converted it into a 33-yard run. The other thing that is kind of frustrating is that in those runs of his I don't think that anybody hit him. He ran out of bounds once, he dove forward a couple of times and with 8:17 to go, it was 31-10 and it changed very, very rapidly. We were all frustrated by it, we're all angry, we're all miserable, but as I told our team today, I'm proud of the way they prepared, I'm proud of the way we came back in this past week and went to work. We were very excited, we were focused. We did a nice job of preparation, took advantage of some things in the first half to build ourselves a nice lead. Throughout the start of the third quarter the lead looked good, there wasn't a lot going on and then we had the Manningham fumble and I think with the Manningham fumble they scored and thought, '24-10, perhaps.' Had we been able to answer or do something about it right away with our offensive team, it might have given us a little bit bigger margin or a little bit bigger cushion. There are so many things in this game that are frustrating, one of which is we had a legitimate chance to block their first field goal and had a guy free right in front of the kicker and did not get that done, so we had a number of opportunities, there are no excuses, we had plenty of chances. I lose the games, the players win them. Everybody can blame me. You can line up at the corner and blame me, that's fine, I can handle it, but the fact of the matter is that right now what is important for our football team is to regroup, to stay positive – you're going to have your day today and then after today we've got to throw this off and move forward because this is a very, very important week and a very, very important game for our team – a chance to go to Green Bay and win a game against a very good football team.
Q: How surprised were you that Eli wanted to address the team this morning? How significant is that?
A: I think any time Eli – we don't have many of those kinds of sessions. I wasn't surprised at all that he asked if it was okay if he did it. Not at all. I was pleased that he would do that and from what I understand he did the majority, if not all, of the talking. It wasn't very long. It was very concise from what I understand and was very positive. It was about how we all win, we all lose, we're in it together, we've got an awful lot at stake, there are many, many teams in this league that would like to be in the position that we're in and we've got to have a great week. We've got to have a great week of preparation, which is exactly what I told the team. We need a great week of preparation, a great week of practice, nobody feeling sorry for themselves, move forward, understand the circumstances that we're in and give ourselves the best chance that we possibly can have to go and win.
Q: You've been in a spot like this before and have usually come out of it. What do you attribute that to?
A: I think this is a mentally tough group, I think that we're all sincere – and I know I am – in the approach that we take. A few years ago I walked in after a bad loss, a bad loss at home when we had to win somewhere along the line to get in the playoffs and just said, Hey, we messed that one up, there's not a whole lot we can do about yesterday. What we can do is have something to do with right now and hopefully that will contribute to what's going to happen in the future, so let's get about our business.
Q: Now you have to do it on the road.
A: Well, we've been on the road before and in this league, you're half and half, so the circumstances are such. We had the script well, well designed for yesterday and I think that our fans were very appreciative that that game was played here and the opportunity that we had. We didn't get it done, we didn't finish. That's exactly what we talked about at halftime: We have to go finish. The game is two halves, it's not just one, and we've got to go finish the thing and do it in the right way, the right fashion. We had a talking going into the game about how well Philadelphia had come out of the blocks in the first quarter and how many times they had finished the game – even in Chicago, Chicago was up 31-13 and I believe the final score was 31-24, so they made a run right there. They make a run at a lot of people and you've got to hold the run off. Even as far down as that last possession when they were driving for the 31-31 score, for me, what I was trying to tell our defensive coaches was that we're one turnover away from the game being over. It's under two minutes, there's no way they can stop it, so we were well aware of what we were in for. We were surprised – I was surprised – at the way in which they got it done. We had been filling the gaps, we had been punishing the quarterback, we had been getting after him, for example in the one drive I'm talking about at the minus-12, they throw two incomplete passes and it's third and 10. You're going to have to punt the ball there. They're not going to go for it on fourth and 10. We were in perfect shape, we just did not finish.
Q: Did you talk to Dodge today?
A: I did. You've got to move on. That's over. You can't do anything about it. I said that you've got to figure out how to do the things that I ask you to do and he is no more to blame than me or anybody else.
Q: Are you still committed to him? Do you have faith that if it came down to this again that he could get it done?
A: I think so, yes he would. He's a young guy and he's forced to do this under fire and all of the things that can happen in the course of a 16-game schedule and a rookie – any rookie, but in this case a rookie punter – it's not easy, but he's going to have to learn from it.
Q: Any discussion about bringing in another punter tomorrow?
A: Not really. We didn't have much discussion about that. We had some things that we talked about, but we went down as we always do, Jerry (Reese) and I go over the game and that was one facet of it, but no more than any other facet of it. As I said, there were plenty of opportunities to win the game.
Q: Is it still keeping his confidence up or is it tough love?
A: Well, that's been told. He understands it. You've seen him walking around this morning. You're asking me questions about a young guy – you can see it in his eyes.
Q: What can you see in his eyes?
A: That's for you to figure out.
Q: How do you move forward? What did you do last night?
A: What did I do? I sat in a room with the lights out for about two and a half hours. It's not funny. It's not the way it's supposed to be.
A: Yeah. Sure I did. What was I going to do? Join in on what festivities? What time of the year?
Q: In a situation like this, to make sure the team is mentally where it needs to be, do you just talk to the team or talk to guys individually since people regroup differently?
A: Well, you've got to do both. You've got to slide in and out of the individual meetings, you've got to say what's appropriate. Like we always do, there is no avoiding the facts. The team expects that, but they also know and I hope that from my standpoint there is going to be encouragement, because, as I said, we're all in it together.
Q: Does it make it easier to know that if you win you're in?
A: Well, quite frankly, once the introduction statements were made today, that was the point. The point is, okay, that was yesterday. We screwed up, it's over, look at what is here now. These are the facts of life: there are two games remaining, you win this weekend and we're in the playoffs. That's what the goal was in the first place. You can't do anything about it unless you can get in.
Q: How many losses have you had where you've gone and sat in the dark?
A: A few, unfortunately. Sometimes the Christmas lights weren't on.
Q: Is this the worst one that you can remember?
A: I'd say it's the worst one that I want to remember.
Q: Do you tell everyone to keep in mind that you could potentially see them again and that you've played them pretty well?
Q: When did you know that it was win and you're in?
A: I had the research going this morning and I had our people report to me before I came downstairs.
Q: You said you told your kickoff team to be aware of the onside kick, but all five guys retreated.
A: You asked me that last night. I did look at it on tape. It was probably the worst indicator that we had of all the kickoff returns of the day. We stayed longer in the majority of the other ones than we did after having been warned what was going to happen. But, again, one was a young guy and one was a veteran guy and the thing about it is that once we took the couple of steps, we didn't do a whole lot about coming back.
Q: The guys said that some of them got caught off guard because the Eagles only had 10 men on the field.
A: Yeah, that should not have been any kind of distraction, but it looked like they were looking. It was well disguised.
Q: Would you be more demonstrative to alert that next time?
A: We were yelling – we were yelling from the sidelines and the response was coming from the field.
Q: Do you talk to anyone after a tough loss? What do you do?
A: My wife ignores me and I don't have a dog.
Q: What is your process for moving forward?
A: Phony facial expressions, lousy jokes, that kind of stuff.
Q: Does it bother you that people are seeing you angry with Matt Dodge, but the players say you weren't like that in the locker room. Why?
A: No. Because at that point in time, the sense of what was needed was that to vent – what good is that going to do? All that is is for me. Okay, I feel better now. That's not the message that you want. You do have to regroup and we are very much aware of the circumstances. We did say that we have to go win two games. Naturally I was mad at Matt because I did not want to see the game end like that. There are 14 seconds left. Punt the ball out of bounds.
Q: Did D.J. Ware have an angle over there on the one?
A: I'm not sure that he did. He was going sideways trying to eat up whatever clock there was too. We had three guys running down the field in front of him and one arguable block on the side knocked three over. It was bowling – three guys went down right in front of him.
Q: How is Dave Tollefson?
A: He's got an MCL.
Q: Why not put the hands team out there?
A: Because I felt that it could have gone either way and I didn't want to sacrifice the field position. I've said that before and I'll say it again. That is the call that I made. I wanted to see the ball, I wanted the offense to have an opportunity to have decent field position in order to – when you put a hands team out there and the ball is kicked deep, let's face it, there's not much of a blocking pattern to be taken advantage of.
Q: Was Tollefson the only injury?
A: The only one I can report right now.
Q: Is there a move with Bomar?
A: Evidently Minnesota has made a move to bring Rhett to Minnesota. No one has ever been contacted here that I know of, but from what I understand, it is underway.
Q: Is that expected for you to be contacted?
A: Well, the agent or somebody – somebody ought to let you know.
QB Eli Manning
Q: Has the shock worn off at all?
A: It feels like a loss. For 52 minutes, we played good football. There are still mistakes we could've fixed. The two turnovers gave them 10 points earlier in the game, but the last eight minutes we didn't play well enough. We were going down and we're at the 38-yard line on a second-and-five being close to field goal range on our second to last drive with three or four minutes left in the game and had a chance to end the game there. We jump offsides and don't convert on third down, so those are opportunities that you can't throw away. When you get late into December and you're playing in big games, every mistake is costly. Every little one seems to be magnified, so we have to eliminate some of those.
Q: Do you take some solace in the fact that this team is still in the playoff hunt?
A: Yeah, definitely. We're still in a good position. We're in a position a lot of other people would like to be in. Whether we won last week or not, we're still going to have to go out and win again in Green Bay and that's still our goal. We have to have a great week of preparation and focus and make sure we continue to do things well and find a way to get a win against a good team.
Q: Draw any parallels to 2007 at all?
A: Yeah, of course. You can always draw parallels. When things are going bad so far this season, we've responded well. When we were 1-2, and we responded well with a win streak. We lose two more and everybody is on our back, we responded well winning three more. We lost one here, it's a tough one, but we have to get back. We can't hang our head. We don't have time to moan about it. This is kind of the day to watch the film, man up for our own mistakes, see what went wrong, and put it behind us and get ready for Green Bay.
Q: Emotionally, how do you get over a loss like that?
A: I think you just get back to work. I think you just man up for mistakes and you take responsibility. You put it behind you and look forward to the situation and say "Hey, we have another big game" and that's fun. This is fun, this is good times. You try to look at the positives from yesterday. For 52 minutes, both sides of the ball played great football. We did a lot of good things and we let it slip away, but hey, we're still a good team, we have good players, and we have to make sure we keep that mindset in our preparation and everything going on to make sure we stay at our best.
Q: Did Coughlin reinforce that in your meeting today?
A: Yeah, he did. He said we did a lot of good things but mistakes cost us. Hey, we have to win that game.
Q: What about him makes him a good coach to have in a time like this?
A: I think Coach did a good job today. He could've come in and screamed and yelled and called out people and called out plays, but he talked about the positive side of things and said we did play some good football there. The same team that played terrible football for eight minutes played great football for 52 minutes. Under the circumstances we have with next week, we have to get our focus on Green Bay.
Q: You might expect him to go nuts with a loss like that but he's patient and positive it seems:
A: As a coach, you have to have a sense of the game, the feel of the players. When sometimes the players are down and wounded, you don't want to go in kicking them again. We have to make sure our spirits are high. There were a lot of good things and make sure we get everybody focused and prepared and excited about our opportunity instead of down about it.
Q: What do you say to the critics who blame the rookie punter Dodge or the defense?
A: You just say that you win as a team and you lose as a team. Everybody has their responsibilities, and offensively our responsibility was when the game was within seven – we were up 21, next time we got the ball they were down seven - we had to go get points on the board and end the game. Go up by ten and make it tough for Philadelphia. We had a good drive going. The first play we hit Manningham for a first down. We're running the ball pretty well. Second-and-five from the 38, that's right where you want to be, you jump offsides and then we run it for two yards and then miss an assignment on a third-and-eight. You can't have negative plays right there. That's when you're doing things well, and you want your guys to step up to the situation. We only had two penalties all day but they were costly ones.
Q: What did you say to the team today?
A: Just team stuff. Just talking about the situation we're in and now is the time not to get down and get in a panic. There were a lot of things about our current situation, and we just have to keep excelling and getting better.
Q: Did you stay away from the highlights last night?
A: I watched some other games, the Green Bay game, and everything was on mute. That's the way I do it now. I don't listen to the games, I just watch from the distance. I had some friends in town and family. I watched a little of it. It was just a little reminder, and then try to block it out again for a little bit.
Q: Did you decide to talk to the team this morning?
A: Yeah, just this morning after seeing some guys and talking. I just wanted to have a little team meeting. I didn't know if anybody else was going to talk, but I wanted to say a few words. I went up to coach and asked if I could beat (him) to the punch a little bit and address the team before (he) came in.
Q: Do you think this team could still do some special things, even if it's on the road in the playoffs?
A: I like the way we've responded when our backs have been up against the wall this year. We had two cases earlier in the season where we lost a few and responded well with win streaks. That's what you like to see, a team that can get hot. We know we're capable of that and we just have to go do it.
P Matt Dodge
Q: Who did you hear from? Did Jeff Feagles call you?
A: No. A lot of people from back home, just 'Keep your head up.' I mean, I'm a pretty resilient guy. It's the kind of the thing, you put the human element in sports, stuff happens sometimes. And as much as I wanted to hit that out of bounds and give us a chance in overtime, it just didn't work out. I mean, he actually bobbled the punt and then picked it up and just did what he's done so many times.
Q: Have you watched or avoided SportsCenter?
A: Didn't watch any of that.
Q: Where is your confidence right now?
A: It's good. I'm still here obviously. I came in and my locker was still here. So that was good. I'm a confident guy, regardless. Football doesn't define me. I know it's my job and everything, and I didn't get it done. But I still walked out with my head high. I had family here, loving on me, and I actually had my pastor from back home here last night. So it was good. I had a lot of support.
Q: What did it mean to have your folks with you?
A: It was good. We did our Christmas last night. At first I didn't want to do it, but I got it done.
Q: I want to make sure I understand correctly. Yesterday one of the explanations was that it was a high snap, and that physically it would have been difficult to get the ball out of bounds. Is that correct, and if so, after watching the film could you have done something differently?
A: Yeah. I mean, I caught the ball. It wasn't like I had to jump and run around. I caught it cleanly and just sometimes when it's high, I guess, in that situation, they're bringing a lot of pressure. So I just really tried to get it off and lost some technique. Yeah, it was unfortunate how it worked out. But no, the snap, no, it was fine.
Q: I think most people realize far more things went wrong. Obviously a lot of heat is on you though.
A: Remember the last play, yeah.
Safety Antrel Rolle
Q: Are you confused about how you can play so well for 52 minutes but so poorly for eight?
A: No, I'm not confused. We saw it on film. Some things just happen. We're a better defense than that, and I put the blame entirely on defense. I don't put it on Dodge and I don't put it on anyone else. I damn sure don't put it on the coaches. They don't go out there and play the game for us, they don't. At the same time, we're a defense who takes pride on if we're up and our offense gives us 31 points – you can't ask for anything better than that. If we're up, and if they score, they're going to win. That's the way we look at it.
Q: How do you balance on what happened yesterday with what you want to happen the rest of the season?
A: The way we balance that is we're still right where we need to be. All we need to do is get in the playoffs, that's it. Everything else after that will take care of itself. I'm the prime example of that. Coming from Arizona, we went to the playoffs at 9-7. No one gave us a chance and no one gave us an opportunity. We lost the Super Bowl by a split second. All we need to do is get in, and we will get in and we will look forward to when that time comes.
Q: In 2007 this team got to a Super Bowl the same way with the wild card:
A: It is possible, and there is nothing that's impossible while playing this game. We understand that and we understand that if we put ourselves into this hole, we understand that we're going to have to fight extremely hard to get ourselves out of it. We're a fighting team and all we need is us. When I say us, I mean coaches, players, the organization, our fans, and that's it. We're going to take it from the top from there.
Q: A lot of the heat has been unfairly placed on Matt Dodge. Have you talked to him at all?
A: Nah, I haven't had a chance to speak with Matt yet. I've said and I'll say time and time again, it should have never come down to Matt having to kick the ball out of bounds. He's a young guy, he's a rookie with a ton of pressure on him. Matt knows we hold him accountable, and he's done a good job for us. Also, there are times when he's done a bad job, as well as everyone else who has been on this team. That blame is not going to go on him, and I'll do my best to make sure that it doesn't go on him. I've said it before that the blame goes on the defense. Our offense put up 31 points and we didn't hold them as a defense. That's the bottom line. Coach Coughlin can sit here and say that he put the blame on himself but I don't buy that stuff. I don't buy it. We're all men out there on the field and we'll take responsibility for ourselves because Coach Coughlin does not play the game for us.
Q: You still have faith in Matt that he'd come through in a big spot if needed?
A: Absolutely. In order for you to get to the top, you have to hit the bottom first. We hit the bottom last night and I know he felt like Ray Finkle last night, but it's not on that. We're going to keep his head high because we know we're going to need him going on the back stretch and make sure that he understands that. I'm sure he understands that, and I'm sure in a situation like that next time he'll do a better job.
Q: Is this team going to make the playoffs?
A: I don't think. I know it. I don't think it, I know it.
A: Because that's what going to happen.
Q: So is that going to happen this weekend?
A: I know it's going to happen this weekend.
Q: You have no doubt this team will bounce back from this?
A: I have no doubt. If I said it's going to happen, it's going to happen.
Q: When do you stop thinking about yesterday and focusing on the remaining games?
A: Today. We went and saw the film, we understand what things went wrong, and it's either fight or flight. We ain't running, we are here and we're here to stay for the long haul and we're going to give it everything we got. If everything we got is not good enough, so be it. I definitely believe it is.
Q: What was Eli's message to the team?
A: Eli was Eli. He's a team leader, veteran, upstanding guy. Everything he said struck home and everyone could relate to exactly what he was saying. We're in this hole and it's not quite a hole because we still control ourselves. All we have to do is go out and win. We win and we're in. He just told us to put it behind us, we know what went wrong, and let's just keep fighting. Sometimes it's best to have your back against the wall and right now we have our back against the wall so we're just going to come out swinging.