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Quotes from the Giants Locker Room

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Tom Coughlin

Opening Remarks:Good evening, NFC East champions. That is a great thing to hear and I won't get tired of hearing that over and over again. To be in a position where you are playing for this opportunity in the last three weeks of the season and to be able to determine your own destiny and to play good solid football. There were some times tonight where there was some nerve wracking, in particular the third quarter. We straightened it around and finished the game the way we wanted to finish it, finish the season the way we wanted to finish it and create an opportunity for ourselves to be in the playoffs and everything goes forward from here. Very, very exciting time for all of us and I congratulate the ownership, coaches and the players for an exceptional job. Dallas came in here with the same kind of goals and the same kind of objectives that we had. We were plus-two tonight (in turnovers) and a bunch of big plays from Victor Cruz. We took good care of the ball and had the plus-two, we didn't turn it over. We had Greg Jones save one for us and did an outstanding job in the middle of the field in the first half. Just a very solid game and Eli came through big time. They were doing a good job of rushing the passer and they did a good job stopping the run for a while. They are a good team, they are a good offensive team with a lot of skill players. In this division, to be able to be the NFC East champions is a very rewarding thing but as we stated from day one, we wanted to win the division so we could have the direct route into the playoffs and that is what has happened.

Q: How big were the plays by Victor Cruz?A: He just keeps doing it and thank God he does. I am cheering for him, doing cartwheels on the sidelines as he is running by. That was just trying to make a first down, to be honest with you. He was on the short end of the ball and where the ball was going to be directed and somehow he got outside and down the sideline and got us in the end zone and got us started. It was a really profitable first half for us as a result of him getting us started. The play he makes at the end of the game where he jumps over the top of the defender, the defender is in great shape. He is in outstanding position but the ball is thrown up high and Eli does a great job of avoiding the rush and throws the ball up and Cruz comes down with the ball. It was just a heck of a game and heck of a season by the kid.

Q: Why did you defer after winning the toss?A: I told the coaches when we came in, if it was pouring rain, it was a good chance that I would defer. There was the speculation about Romo's hand, which wasn't very accurate, and we thought that if it was going to be rainy and wet, he has to be under the center and maybe we can create something for ourselves. It didn't work that way but that was the thinking.

Q: What did you get from Osi today?A: An outstanding game with outstanding effort. Here is a guy who hasn't played in quite some time and comes back and gives us a big lift. He plays very hard and is another outstanding player to add to the pass rush combinations that we have. I was really pleased with the way Osi came back and practiced this week and then played in the game tonight.

Q: How good was the defense tonight?A: It has been really great to see the way the defense has played the last couple weeks and that has given everyone a nice boost and a nice way of confidence. Special teams has put a lot more emphasis on our guys tackling better on teams and they have done a good job of that as well. The defense played well and gives us a chance to play some Giants football.

Q: Can you comment on the breaks that you got today?A: Breaks? Don't give me any breaks, we earned everything we got. Greg Jones jumped on the ball. Am I happy to see it? Yes, I am. I am happy to see the blue shirt with the ball.

Q: Have you had a chance to reflect on what this season has meant to you?A: No, not really because it is not a time for reflection. It is a time for looking forward and I am real happy tonight and I guess we play Atlanta Sunday at 1 so we are going to be getting ready for that one.

Q: Why did you call that timeout late in the first half?A: It was a dumb play by me and I out-smarted myself. I was trying to create another play but as it stood, it was a dumb play and thank God they didn't get any points out of it.

Q: Is this the best season Eli has had?A:  He has had a lot of good seasons; we will wait and see and talk about that one.

Q: Are you playing your best football right now?A: I hope so and there are areas that we can get better. I like to see the defense coming along, I wish we were rushing the ball a little bit better. We did go over the 100-yard mark which means we had a lot of snaps and I think we were 50 percent on third down as well. Hopefully, we are playing our best and there is always room for improvement. We are going to have to be at our very best versus Atlanta.

Q: What does it mean to end the game on a second-effort sack by Justin Tuck?A: It is indicative of the way we came into the game and the focus that the players had and the knowledge of the circumstances that we were in. We knew that it was going to be a game that we were going to play from the heart and try to be the most physical team and give great effort and I think we did.

Q: How much does it mean to have Tuck and Osi getting healthier?A: To be able to put those combinations together and feature those guys and the outstanding pass rushers that they are, it is going to give us a real good shot in the arm. We have had outstanding play out of Tollefson, Canty has given us a good shot and Jacquian Williams has done a good job when we rushed him and he got one tonight. The more that we can come into the game with weapons, you can't double everybody. Tonight, we were making a lot of headway and then all of a sudden we broke out again.  

Q: Can you talk about the way your team responded the last two weeks?A: As I said earlier, the knowledge of the circumstance that we are in and the ability to say to ourselves that this is ours for the taking. As I told you, when I walked into the team meeting before the Jets game, I simply said if we win two games, we are in the playoffs. That is basically the way we have approached it and I think the players have recognized that. It is one thing to be recognized for your toughness and the respect that goes along with that but also to go out and play well in big games, I like to see the fact that our guys rallied around and did that.

Q: It has to be gratifying to see your team respond in that fashion?A: That is exactly what I said and thank you for recapping.

QB ELI MANNING

Q: Your thoughts on Cruz's salsa dance?

A: I love it. I love it.  If that means he's scoring touchdowns, then that's a good thing for the Giants.  I don't mind touchdown dances and he does it at the right times – on big plays and so hopefully we get a few more in the playoffs.

Q: Tell me what you saw on that 44-yard pass to him on 3rd down.A: It was just a third down.  We hadn't been real good on third downs in the third and fourth quarters so it was a big play of the game right there.  I was really thinking of going to Manningham on the right sideline, but got some pressure upfront and couldn't make the throw so I wheeled around and saw him down the middle of the field and knew the safety wouldn't be a problem.  I underthrew it a little bit; I wish I would've gotten more out there, but the corner, with the back to me there's a good chance you're going to get pass interference or reason to come down with the catch.  I didn't think it was a risky throw to be intercepted, and Victor does a great job of going up there and being strong and making the play.  So it was a huge play at that point in the game.

Q: Without one to single out, where would you be without Victor's emergence?

A: You know, it's tough to say.  He has come up big and filling that role, whether playing the outside receiver really in that spot position.  Last year, when we lost Steve Smith to injury, we really struggled not having to work the middle of the field who has a feel for his surroundings – when to stop; and we've put a lot on him but he has done a great job doing that all season.  He had another big one across the middle – big play – late in the fourth quarter, to get us down in field goal range, so he has been a great emergence and a surprise guy.  You know, I didn't know a whole lot about him, didn't get to play at all last year, so I'm really happy for him and the way he's worked and has kept a level head and come in and made plays for us.

Q: A lot of players can run and jump – what distinguishes him?

A: I think for Victor it's just that he has a football sense – understanding when he's open, when to sit in windows, when to break into the next window; we give him a lot of leeway on getting open and he's earned the right to have those options to what he can do because he senses what the coverage is, where the defenders are, and he just does a great job at getting open.

Q: Eli, what do you know about the team that you didn't know three weeks ago?A: I knew we were going to fight and keep playing until the very end.  We've been pretty good about handling ups and downs and it was going to come down to the finish.  Something Coach Coughlin has stressed all year and has kind of been one of our mottos or one of the things that he's talked about throughout the year is finishing the fourth quarter – finishing games and ending games and taking advantage of finishing the season strong.  We got off to another strong start of the season, kind of late half we didn't play as well as we needed to.  We had some tough games, but we needed to win two games to make it into the playoffs – beat the Jets, beat the Cowboys.  We were able to do that and play big in the fourth quarter of both of those games to seal the win.

Q: How is it going into the playoffs and winning the division after the ups and downs?A: We have been through a lot, definitely some ups and downs, but to keep our poise, to keep our confidence, the guys that stick together, not to turn on each other or have doubts, our coaches being confident in us, and we came together and knew what we had to do to win the NFC East and we got it accomplished.

Q: How does the way the team has come together late compare to 2007?

A: I think we're just going to try not to compare right now.  We have a lot of guys on this team who weren't here in '07 and don't know so this is a whole new year and a whole new situation and we have to enjoy this, enjoy this victory tonight, but come tomorrow, we'll look at some things and start to make some corrections, but we'll get ready for Atlanta and start preparing for them and see if we can make a run through the playoffs.

Q: How good do you feel about your chances?A: I feel like we're doing some good things.  I feel like our defense is playing outstanding, I feel like our offense, we've got guys back healthy – our two running backs are running well, three receivers, Travis Beckum getting in the mix, hopefully get Jake Ballard back, but I feel like guys have a good feel for what's going on.  The offensive line is playing well, so we're playing smart football, we're not making many mistakes, and we're going to put ourselves in situations and we have the big play potential with our players.  We're capable of making the big plays and trying to be consistent all the way through and we're doing a better job of doing that.

WR Victor Cruz

Q: Talk about your touchdown catch and the 44-yarderA: The touchdown one was just a simple out route. It's usually a play we call on third and one or two. I was able to get out. I caught it and when I turned up field I saw Hakeem giving me a great block. I saw the sideline wide open, so I continued up the sideline. I was looking at myself on the Jumbotron making sure they weren't too close. I just continued up the sideline right to a touchdown. And the 44-yarder? It was basically me going up the seam and I saw the safety go opposite of where I was going. I just continued up the seam and when I turned around Eli was shaking off some defenders. He just eased one over to me and I kind of made a play on the ball.

Q: Growing up here, what does all this feel like?

A: It's amazing. Growing up here, you've seen the great run in 2007 and all the not-so-great runs. Just to be a part of this history and a part of this program is amazing for me. To make the playoffs is an exciting feeling. I'm glad I was a part of it. All the credit goes to my teammates and my coaching staff for believing in me.

Q: How do you describe your skill?A: I guess it is just God-given ability. When I get the ball in my hands I try to make the most out of every play. I try to make the maximum yardage I can get every time I touch the ball. God's blessed me with some ability to do some good things and to be able jump and run and run good routes. It's a testament to God.

Q: A lot of people can jump and run.A: I guess so. I think it's more of being in the right place at the right time and using the ability to out-jump the defender or to run around them.

Q: What did you think was a realistic goal for you for this season?A: A realistic goal was just to get a catch in a real game that mattered, in a real game that counted. Due to some unfortunate injuries, I was able to come in and play a significant role. It's been an amazing ride. It's been a rollercoaster for me. I'm excited that we're here, we won our division, and we're going to the playoffs.

Q: At what point in the season did you know that you could be the wide receiver that your stats say you are?A: I wasn't really looking at the numbers and I wasn't really looking at statistics and all of that. I was just trying to come in every week knowing what I had to do, knowing what the coaching staff inspired throughout the week, and knowing what I had to do against the defense and just fulfilling that. Every week I've been able to do some significant things and some good things. My goal was just to do my part in order for us to win every game.

Q: Are you really 6'1"?A: With my cleats on. That's how I like to look at it, so yeah.

Q: After the game you stayed out on the field. What was that like?A: It was just surreal. I've come a very long way. I've had a lot of ups and downs in my life. It was just exhilarating to see all of the fans. Essentially, part of this game is that we do it for them. It's for them to be around to keep us in the game. They're a big part of this game as well. I wanted to show them some love and go over there and talk to them a little bit and stuff like that. That's what that was.

Q: You guys are pretty young in the wide receiver position. Do you think you can handle the pressure?A: I think so. I think we had a lot of ups and downs throughout the season. When our team needed us the most, we responded. We've done some good things. We were able to keep a level head going on a four-game skid. We were able to keep our composure and not get crazy or not start a spatting board with each other. I think we're able to compose ourselves. Although we're young, we're very confident. We have old souls, I guess you could say. We'll be okay moving forward.

Q: Did you see Robinson did your dance?A: Yeah, I saw him. I saw him after the game, too. I told him if he wants to do my dance, he's got to be a little more fluid. He's got to take some classes, some courses. I told him it's cool with me.

Q: You sure?A: Positive.

DE JUSTIN TUCKQ: Do you agree with Jacobs – teams shouldn't want to play the Giants right now?A: I think that any team that's in the playoffs wants to play us because they're in the playoffs. Why wouldn't they want to play us? They get the opportunity to beat us just like we get the opportunity to beat them. With that said, I think us playing like we played tonight and we played the last two weeks, it's going to be a tough road to beat us. Obviously playing at home, our crowd was amazing tonight. The 'All In' towels were waving ramped. It was just one of those special nights. It seemed like everything came together tonight.

Q: How did it feel to have Osi back?A: Great. Tremendously great. We have some good pass rushers. But Osi, he's a game changer. He takes a lot of pressure off myself, the whole d-line, the whole defense, knowing that any play he can make one of those game changing plays. He showed tonight why he's done it for so many years. Even when he's not 100 per cent he comes in and it still seems like it's clock work.

Q: What's going through your mind when you see Cruz play?A: Where did we get this guy from? Obviously Eli's had an awesome year, but it just seems like when we need a big play [Cruz] has stepped up and been that guy. I think those two are co-MVPs. Some of the plays he's made this year have been tremendous. It gets to the point now where you look at him, the catch over the middle in the fourth quarter, I'm like, 'Why didn't you score? You do it every other day.' He's just been a tremendous help for this offense and this entire team. It's fun to watch him.

Q: Is it good for a locker room to have a guy like that?A: It's good to have him. It's good of the locker room. It's good for feel. It's good for practice. It's good for the lunchroom. It's good for everything to have a guy like Vic. The thing I like about him, all of the success he's had this year, he hasn't changed not one eyelid. Everything about him is humble, giving everybody else credit. I never ever have seen him do anything out of the ordinary as far as he still practices the same. He still does everything the same. Homegrown guy so I know he's getting a lot of outside influences. To be as young as he is and to come from where he's come from, it shows a lot of maturity in him.

Q: Is the bow you took after sacking Romo symbolic?A: It's just what I do. I think the reason why I started bowing is because that's me thanking people. It's not really me trying to show off or anything. We feed off of the crowd tremendously and when they get loud it just seems like our energy picks up. So honestly it's just me thanking the crowd.

LB Mathias Kiwanuka

Q: Now you have a home playoff game after these past two wins…A: We're ready. This is the situation that we wanted to be in. We went a roundabout way of getting there but we're in the playoffs. The slate is wiped clean and we're ready to go.

Q: Last time the Giants won the Super Bowl this is what happened. They got into the playoffs and then they got hot. With the way you guys are playing defense, what do you think?A: I think we are in the right position and I think we can make a run.

Q: How close did you come to that punt?A: Too close. That one is going to haunt me for awhile but we came out with the win so it's a little bit easier to work on my hand placement. I feel like it either went through my hands or right past it, one or the other but we'll work on that and get the next one.

Q: What did they do differently in the third quarter on offense to help them get back in it?A: We're always looking at them. There were a few wrinkles that they threw in there and they caught us in some defenses that maybe we weren't 100% confident in but as far as the way that we responded, we had Antrel Rolle coming in and getting that pick so that was big. Regardless of what they did, we reacted to it pretty well.

**Safety Antrel Rolle

Q: How satisfying is this victory tonight?**A: It's long overdue. We came out here and we kept it as a team. We had two big games back to back and I think everyone is putting in all their poker chips, we're all in.

Q: How was the preparation for tonight's game?A: I think the preparation was outstanding. I think that our practices were outstanding. We have been playing with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of focus, just a lot of excitement in general. It was going to be back and forth a little bit but we never let off the gas and we never let up and this is the outcome.

Q: Are you surprised with how things went in the first half?A: Not at all. I know that we are a great football team and we just haven't been consistent week in and week out but it's not how you start, it's how you finish and right now we are 2-0 right now the way we look at it. Everyone's from this point on though is 0-0, so may the best man win. We just have to make sure we keep our consistency and stay focused.

Q: Do you think you can make a run to the Super Bowl now?A: We are taking it one game at a time. We had a big one here tonight but it's back to the tables, back to preparation and back to getting our mindset.

Q: You faced Atlanta a couple years ago in the playoffs, what team do you expect to play on Sunday?A: Atlanta is a great team. They are a hard-working team and they are a fighting team. The coaches do a great job as far as their play-calling goes. They do a good job of playing together as a team. We are definitely going to have our hands full but nothing that we're not up to.

Q: Do you feel as if the Giants can do some damage?A: We are very confident in our group. We're not going to speak too much ahead of time, we are just going to go to the tables and make sure everyone is all on deck and make sure we continue what we are doing.

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