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Playoff Edition: Coughlin's Corner - Falcons

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Q: You're back in the playoffs after a two-year absence. Do you treat it like a normal week or do you emphasize to the players that this is a special time of year?

Coughlin: "No, I like the different feel. I like the idea that this is something special. This is the second season. There are only 12 teams involved in the tournament. So I like it to be upbeat, uptick, I like it to be an exciting week. I like the guys to be excited and emotional. I like to see a real energetic practice. I like the sense that this is what, in fact, you play 16 games for – to get to this point and be able to play, hopefully, many more games - four more, anyway."

Q: In 2007, we heard the phrase many times at this time of year that you need to be at your best when your best is needed. Have you discussed that this week?

Coughlin: "Well, we've been doing that for two weeks. That's exactly what we've done. We've already been in the playoffs. We've been in a playoff situation for actually three weeks. With the loss to Washington, it was an elimination tournament right there. So that's been an important part of it, but it's just been one part of it."

Q: Two teams you had in Jacksonville (1996 and 1997) won their last two games heading into the playoffs. You won the last two games entering this playoff season. You've had success either way, but does it make a difference going in with a little momentum?

Coughlin: "I think each year is different. I don't think there's any way to just categorize it. You definitely would like to be winning, but it's whatever the objective of the 16th game was and, in our case, it was a must-win. And what has happened over a two-week period here right at the end of the season is our defense has played better, and that has definitely helped the overall sense of confidence that occurs in our locker room."

Q: The most noticeable improvement in the defense was the 11 sacks in two games after getting 11 in the previous seven games…

Coughlin: "And also stopping the run. We stopped the run the other day against a very good run team (Dallas), and we basically controlled the run in the 15th game against a team (the Jets) that makes their living by running the ball. So I think that's the key thing, as well. You've got to stop the run first. And then you get after the quarterback, that's what happens. If you can create the long yardage situations, then you've got an opportunity to rush the passer."

Q: You said yesterday that this team is battle-tested. How does that manifest itself? Is it confidence when the game is on the line?

Coughlin: "That, plus the difficulty of the games. We've played against nothing but difficult, difficult opposition going way, way back. So it's a team that's faced this kind of opposition. I don't know if that's the right way to put it, but our team has been involved in vital games, games that must be won against very good football teams, and through the course of the second half of the season, game-in and game-out against teams that many of whom are in the playoffs. So that's what we mean by that. We've played against very, very good opponents, and we have that experience going forward."

Q: You have 14 players on the current roster who were in uniform for Super Bowl XLII. Is experience more important at this time of the year? Do you rely on it more?

Coughlin: "You like to have the reference for your young players of guys that have done it, been in it, guys that are sensing the excitement of it, guys that when things are similar can relate directly to as they speak with their teammates."

Q: You have a lot of important contributors like Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul that have no playoff experience. How do you get across to them that this is different than the regular season?

Coughlin: "You explain it all to them. Single elimination, which I've said we've been doing that for a bunch of weeks. But the idea of the quality of play, what is meant by each game that you play, how each team that's in the playoffs seems to find a way, that all of a sudden all the hurts are put behind people and they realize the idea of getting to the playoffs, of how difficult it is, how it is not something that just naturally comes your way. You have to really work hard to earn that opportunity. So with that comes the knowledge and responsibility of preparing better than you've ever prepared before, playing with great effort, of being physical, being as physical as you possibly can. You know this time of year, the way games are won you can't turn the ball over. All the things we stress all the time, but now they become an extra emphasis."

Q: The cliché is that you have to run the ball at this time of year. Obviously, you haven't run the ball as well as you would have liked. But do you think that's still true or is winning more dependent on quarterback play around the league?

Coughlin: "I can't speak for other teams. You can look at the statistics. You've got a guy (Drew Brees) that threw for 5,500 yards. You've got a lot of people broaching 5,000 yards, to be honest with you. But I still believe that you have to have balance. In order to take advantage of all the opportunities that you present for yourself, you've got to have balance. You've got to be able to run it. You've got to be able to give some benefit to your offensive linemen for being able to run the football, and you have to be able to – when you have those critical possessions in the green zone – you've got to be able to execute the run as well as the pass. And you've got to keep the defense off balance in terms of what your plan is, what you're trying to accomplish here. So I do believe in that, I believe also that mentality helps your defensive team because they have to stop the run."

Q: You did reach 100 yards in four of the last five games. Have you seen an improvement in the run game?

Coughlin: "I've seen a persistence, that's what I've seen. I've seen a persistence. I've seen – they're not all pretty and they're not all successful, but it's 'Stay with it, stay with it, stay with it.' And what has happened that has allowed us to do that is how the defense has played. The defense has played better, and it's allowed us to do that."

Q: Atlanta's Michael Turner rushed for 1,340 yards this season. How important will it be to stop him on Sunday?

Coughlin: "Can't let him get going, can't let him get started. He is tough, he is tough. He's low to the ground and his shoulders are square. He's got size. He's got pop. He's got big legs. Your big people have to try to do a great job of keeping him in front of them and taking some of the sting off of his runs so that the people in the next row or the back row can help get him down."

Q: Defensively, the Falcons are not terribly big, but they're quick.

Coughlin: "They're quick, they're explosive, they're powerful, they're fast. They run to the ball well, and their linebackers are fast. Their front is fast. They have a premier pass rusher in (John) Abraham. Their corners play well, real well. At strong safety, they have a hitter in (William) Moore."

Q: I don't think there's a player quite like Eric Weems, who returns punts and kickoffs and is also one of their leading special teams tacklers.

Coughlin: "That's right. He's a gunner on special teams. He tackles on special teams. He runs the punts back. He runs the kicks back. All of a sudden, you look he's got a special play on offense. He plays receiver. He is something."

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