POSTGAME COACH COUGHLINI think today we played outstanding defense and that set the tone for everything else that happened in the game. It was wonderful to see it and it has happened over the last two or three weeks of the season. If we can continue to play defense like that, we can make ourselves heard in this tournament. The two fourth down stops were outstanding; the second half we got going on offense and started rushing the ball. I think Brandon Jacobs set the tone physically. The punter did a nice job today and our coverage teams were good although we had some penalties on punt return, which will drive you nuts, but overall we played hard all the way through. Everybody gave it a great effort. It didn't show up until the second half offensively. They are a good football team or they wouldn't be here. We were very pleased to have an opportunity to play at home in front of our fans, it was great to have a home playoff game and have our fans involved as much as they were. Our players greatly appreciate that.
Q: Did Eli Manning know it was third down on the slant pass?
A: Yes, I think he did. It was third and one.
Q: How important and big was the interior rush?
A: Those guys did an outstanding job not only that way but also against the run. You are talking about Canty and that rotation with Rocky Bernard and Linval. Those guys did an outstanding job and when it went to the nickel, you see 91 in the middle and 71 as well. A lot of guys contributed today and did a very good job.
Q: How big were those stops when it was third or fourth and short?
A: The two fourth down stops were just outstanding and both were in the shadow of the goal line as well. That really inspired everybody, to be honest with you. Those plays that our defense made really inspired everybody.
Q: Can you talk about the defensive effort in stopping the Falcons offense?
A: We started with stopping the run and that was not easy with Michael Turner, who is an exceptional back. They are a powerful group and they run the ball extremely well. The guy has over 300 carries this season but we did a good job with that. You are not going to shut them down but we did a good enough job keeping them off balance and forcing them to do other things. For the most part, we were able to contain and control the breakout play which was critical and also kept the clock running. The big play by Hakeem was outstanding. You are talking about a situation where they had done a really good job back and forth with their fronts and coverages. We were able to hit that ball and then split it and that is what happened in the game. Hakeem took off and ran away from everybody, which was good to see.
Q: Was today your most effective day running the ball this season?
A: I think numbers wise it will be, but it was a difficult time getting started. That first half was tough.
Q: What happened on the safety?
A: We had pressure on the edge right in front of the quarterback and we didn't protect him very well. He was trying to escape and get away and unfortunately he let one go and there wasn't anybody in the area. The result was a safety.
Q: How big was Hakeem Nicks today?
A: The catch that he made on the touchdown over the top was an outstanding catch as well. How about Mario, Mario had a big day and he played well. He really worked the sideline and he caught that really nice over the top pass from Eli. I thought he played well today as well. It was also good to get Jake Ballard back in there although he was coming off an injury, to have him play in the game of this nature, with the pressure of the game and perform because he will be another target for us going forward.
Q: Can you talk about playing the Packers again and on the road?
A: I just heard that a second a go and I am sure we will have enough time to talk about that all week. We weren't sure where we were headed but we are headed to Green Bay. We look forward to doing the best we can to prepare for the trip to Lambeau again.
Q: How much confidence do you have knowing how close you played them earlier this season?
A: We did and of course they had a lot of yards and we had a lot of yards. It was a lot of points scored and our defense is hopefully better. When we go back and look at the tape and study what has happened over the last few weeks, hopefully we can do a little bit better job.
Q: What did you say to the guys who were playing in their first playoff game?
A: They were all anxious to play, they were looking forward to it very much. I think it helped us to be at home but we use various themes this week and this one was 'you have to believe.' 'Anything is possible if you believe' and 'keep the dream alive' and of course, they did that today.
Q: Did your heart stop when you saw JPP on the ground?
A: Well Aaron Ross was down right next to him. Anytime you have players on the ground, your first thought is, I hope it is not serious. Fortunately, JPP was able to get up and go and I just saw Aaron Ross and he just counted fingers for me so I hope he will be alright.
Q: How big was that Eli run?
A: That was instrumental when he pulled that down because we were struggling to make a first down. He was able to clear that side of the field, get a first down and give us some momentum. The timing of the play was outstanding.
Q: Can you talk about Eli just making things happen?
A: He has done an outstanding job of that all year. We didn't always have great protection but he was able to maneuver and get some things done, probably not as clean as we would like when we look at the tape but nevertheless.
Q: What do you have to say to the fans who brought so much energy today?
A: I started out by saying that I thought it was great to have a playoff game at home and to have our fans as excited to be involved in the game. The fact that it has made a huge difference and our players really responded well to it and we are excited that the fans feed the players and the players feed the fans. It was nice.
Q: Why was it so important to stick with the run?
A: Balance, you have to have balance and we were able to do that. I was surprised myself when I looked at the stats.
Q: This was the first time in a couple weeks that you guys had a real impact in the run game, what was the difference today?
A: Confidence, man. We feel good about our running game and we stick to it. Like I said, we keep running and keep pressuring. We are more comfortable and we play better ball.
Q: There was a lot of running to the right side. Was there a particular reason for this?
A: It's just what they gave us. Eli reads it perfect, he's so smart and he puts us in the right position and we run away from the safeties and from a lot of the pressure. We were able to cut back a lot and we made a lot of plays today.
Q: When you and Brandon (Jacobs) are running like this, how tough do you feel?
A: We feel as tough as any NFL team in the league.
Q: How do you feel about the way the defense is playing?
A: The defense is really going out there and playing tough, they are making plays on the ball, getting pressure on the ball and playing strong and tough. We (the offense) just try to go out there and play as tough as our defense and like I said, we just keep running and keep going hard.
Q: Are you looking forward to a rematch with Green Bay now?
A: Yeah. I can't wait to get there and play them. We've got to have a good week of practice and go up there and do what we've got to do.
POSTGAME QB ELI MANNING
Can you talk about how the defense held you in the game today?
Definitely. Our defense played outstanding. A good job stopping the run and some fourth and third down stops. Those were huge. They were momentum swings and those situations have been flopped with us in some playoff games and if you don't' convert on fourth down, third down, third-and-short, that is tough to overcome. Our defense did a great job getting those stops and huge plays in the game.
How important was your 14-yard run to change the complexion of the game?
You have to give Atlanta credit. They had a good plan all day. They did a good job stopping the run and getting some pressure and we didn't have a whole lot to go on in the first quarter, but the second quarter we had a good drive. Had the run, had a little scramble, hit Victor Cruz and then Ahmad (Bradshaw) had a big run. So a couple big plays and Hakeem (Nicks) had a great catch in the endzone so that was good to get a touchdown that drive, go into halftime with the lead, and the second half our defense continued to play great. Offensively we started running the ball, we started hitting some big plays. Hakeem Nicks played great, Mario Manningham, all the guys, all the weapons started making some plays and we were moving the ball pretty well.
Coming into this game, did you anticipate Atlanta trying to take Victor Cruz out of the game?
I think we are going to run our offense. We are not trying to force things to a certain guy. If they want to try to take away Victor, that is fine. That is why we have Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. These guys are playmakers. We feel good about whatever the coverage is, whatever your plan is, we are going to have an answer. Running the ball always makes things easy and better and opens things up and slows down the pass rush. If we can continue to do that, that's great. Again, we feel good and I feel good back there saying, 'hey, I'm just reading the coverage, I'm going through my progressions and whoever my read is telling me to throw the ball to, that's where I'm going to try to go.'
When do you decide to run when a play is breaking down?
We had a third down play-action. It was third-and-two right there and I kind of knew right away they had a pretty good coverage. We had all out breaking routes and everybody was playing outside leverage. I did the play-action, I scooted up just trying to find a lane to see if maybe a guy won, and I just saw an opening. I had to get two yards so I just tucked it and ran it right there and got a first down and we hadn't had many, so that was a big play right there.
This was the first playoff game for Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Jake Ballard; did you say anything special to them about that?
No. I didn't say anything special. We just went about our business the same way. Before the game I said, 'hey, let's have fun, these are special moments and just go out there and play your best.' I knew all of them would be great and try not to make a big deal about things. Those guys have been playing fabulous all year and I knew they would be ready to go today.
Does it help your confidence knowing that you played Green Bay tough earlier this year?
We know they are a good team and we played them tough here. We did some good things offensively, scored some points, and our defense is playing great football right now so hopefully they can continue to do that, but we know offensively we are going to have to play strong. We are going to have to play good, we are going to have to go score some points, we can't make mistakes and hopefully get off to a faster start than we did today.
Was it good to have all of your receivers healthy for this game?
Yeah, it is great when you have all of your weapons in place. That is when we are at our best, when we have Hakeem and Victor and Mario and Jake Ballard kind of as our main four receivers and then with Ahmad (Bradshaw) and Brandon (Jacobs) back in the backfield. Those guys are tough, they have great desire, and are playing great football. Hopefully we can keep those guys in the mix. Our offensive line has been playing well so that is what we need to do next week.
Even though you are not a running quarterback, you have a history of making plays with your feet. Do you think that is an underappreciated part of your game?
I don't think anyone is game planning for me to run the ball, but obviously there's a couple situations where you have to do it. If things open up, I am not scared to run it and get a few yards. I think you try to take pride in the quarterback moving the pocket, extending a play to get a receiver downfield. I think our receivers have done a good job when I am scrambling or the timing is off on a play of finding a lane for me. Victor had a big one today on a third down, third-and-long, that got us a first down. Just trying to make good decisions, moving the pocket, and find the open guy.
Is this the best the offense is playing this season?
Yeah, I think it could be. Just a great mix of run and pass and I think guys have a great understanding of what our offense is, what their responsibilities are. If we can get that run game going like we did in that second half, that opens up a lot of windows. For the passing game it makes the safeties come down and get in the mix and we feel with our receivers we will be able to hit some big plays. We just have to keep grinding, keep getting better, and go with a great gameplan next week and know we have to play great football.
Did you know it was third down on the slant just before the half?
I didn't. I don't know if it would have changed anything. I was fooled. I thought we got the first down on the one to Hakeem. That route usually gets the first. I thought he was over the line of scrimmage and kind of by the play call also I was thinking it was third down. I think everybody might have been a little fooled thinking we had the first down right there otherwise we probably would have run the ball or done something just to get the first down.
POSTGAME WR HAKEEM NICKS
*Q: How did it feel to play in your first playoff game? *
A: It felt good to go out there and get the victory. The defense played great, the offense played great, so it is just a good feeling.
Q: What did coach say to you at halftime?
A: He told us to go out there and finish. We know what we are capable of doing. We had to step up on offense and make plays and that is what we did. The running game got going pretty good and everything was clicking.
Q: What did you see on the long touchdown?
A: It was zone coverage and I was actually about to sit but when I saw all the linebackers' zone drop out of there, I just tried to get in Eli's vision. Once I caught the ball, it was just make a play.
Q: What made you do the dirty bird?
A: Antrel Rolle told me to do it.
Q: What do you think about Eli's ability to just make plays?
A: It came out in the time of need, it was third down and he got it. It was clutch.
Q: With so much being said about Victor Cruz, did you feel like you had to prove something?
A: I didn't feel like I had to prove nothing, I just felt like I had to play my game. I know what I am capable of. Victor Cruz is a great addition to our offense and he makes plays when he is called on and the same with all the other guys. We make plays.
Q: What does having a running game do for the offense?
A: We are a very balanced offense. I think we can run the ball when we want to and the offensive line does a great job. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw do a great job getting up and down the field for us and we can throw the ball on the outside as well. It is a pretty balanced offense.
Q: What advice did you get before the game since it was your first playoff game?
A: It wasn't too much said, it was just to go out and play and have fun. It is exciting and the moment doesn't come too often, so when it comes, just take advantage of it.
Q: Can you talk about the touchdown catch in the end zone?
A: It was a little play action off the run fake. It was something we practice during the week and Eli knew he had to get it up over the linebackers with the play action pass. Once he put it up, he put it in a place where only I could catch it and I went up and got it.
**POSTGAME DE Justin Tuck
Describe the defense's effort.**
Probably our best effort so far this year. I think the last three weeks - do or die games for us - we really came out and put things together, but it still feels like we can play better and we probably will have to next week going up to Green Bay.
Besides being healthy, what's been the biggest difference with the play of the defense?
Playing together. I think earlier in the year when we were trying to find our identity and kind of struggling there, a lot of individual stuff was showing up. Now it's just all about team effort and playing together as a team.
Do you think you wore Atlanta down today?
Maybe. They're a physical football team, too, but I feel like we executed better. It just seems like we were in the right places on defense. We didn't get as much pressure on Matt [Ryan] as we wanted to, but enough to rush him a little bit. He didn't have anywhere to throw the ball so our secondary did a great job of taking away their first and second reads. You talk about the talent that they have at wide receiver and tight end, but it all started up front - stopping Michael Turner and just limiting him. I think you can kind of say we did, but it was gradual. That's a physical football team, too.
Can you talk about Canty, Joseph and Bernard?
You have to think about this, the reason why we were able to let loose on the end was because we know those guys were going to hold it down inside. We've always had strong D-tackles. They might never get the credit that we have on the outside, but we've always had a strong presence at D-tackle. That's no different with Linval [Joseph], Rocky [Bernadrd] and Canty. Those guys have played well for us all year. It's nothing flashy, but they're as solid a bunch as anybody else in the league.
You almost blocked the punt.
You had to bring it up. I had forgotten about it. I think Coach Quinn has set some things up that allowed us to use our athleticism on the D-line as far as going in and rushing punts. I had an opportunity there. Everybody was saying that if I wasn't as big as I am now - six years ago I would have made that play. That was what everybody was saying. So I guess I've gotten slower. But yeah, I had an opportunity there. Couldn't get it, but hopefully I have an opportunity next week.
What do you remember from the 2007 playoff game in Green Bay?
Cold. I remember that. Coach Coughlin's face. I remember David Diehl's sweat had frozen on his hair, so he had icicles on his hair. What else? I remember us winning and that's the most important thing. Hopefully we can go back there and do it again. That's a talented football team.
POSTGAME DE JASON PIERRE-PAULThe Falcons offense was really struggling today, they missed some third downs and of course those 4th and 1's…
They can't run the ball on us. There were people trying to run the ball on us and we came out today and said 'You can't run the ball on us,' so that's what we did. We made a statement, 4th and 1, whatever, we are going to continue to play great football.
Did we see something different out of you guys today?
Basically we all came together. We knew it was a playoff game and we knew that if we lose, we're out. So we had to give all our effort and that's what we did.
How confident are you guys going into Green Bay next week?
We are very confident. Last time they came in here and they beat us, which they shouldn't have, and we are just going to go out there and play some great football. It's going to be cold and the atmosphere will be theirs but we're going to be ready to play.
The way the defense is playing now compared to when you played them then, do you think this will be a much better situation?
We know what's at stake and we know it's one and done, like I said. We aren't going to let that happen. We are going to go out there and give all our effort and we are going to walk away with a win.
Are you sure you guys are going to win it?
We should. No?
How sure of it?
We're sure (laughs). I'll see you guys later.
**POSTGAME WR Victor Cruz
What did playing in your first playoff game feel like?**
Exciting, butterflies, nervousness. I'm glad the first one is over so I can finally relax a little bit and with the atmosphere I know what to expect and the next one should be a good one.
What was the mood like in here (Giants locker room) right after you guys came in? And what did Coach Coughlin say to you guys?
It was pretty crazy. Everyone was excited and he (Coach Coughlin) said now we are going up to Green Bay and we understand what mission we have in front of us and we have to take care of that. So, we just have to have another good week of preparation like we did and this next one should be good.
With the way you guys played Green Bay earlier this season, does that give you the feeling that 'We've got this team, this isn't that intimidating.'
I think so, maybe a little bit. We understand how we played them the first time and how we were a few plays away from winning. We just have to be able to do that again and put forth that same effort that we had against them the first time and potentially it will be a different outcome.
Do you think anybody in Green Bay knows how to salsa?
(Laughs) I don't know but I guess we'll find out.
What do you have to say about Eli's performance out there today?
He was amazing. He knew everything that was coming and he just made the right read and also made some really great throws out there today and it was fun to watch.
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