Opening Remarks:Good afternoon. We met with our team today and the thing that I told the team was out of all the things that we did and a lot were very, very good, the thing that I was most pleased with was the effort. I think we really flew around to the ball on defense. We had many people to the ball and did know that the run was something that we would have to make as a priority. We had to shut the run down and we did a good job with that and the score helped a little bit there. We held them to 49 yards rushing and we held them to 14 points. We only had three penalties and we did not have a turnover, those were the things that were most impressive to me as I looked at the tape and I studied the statistics from yesterday's game. I think of the three penalties, two of them were unnecessary and special teams penalties. If we can do something about that and control that, we had two outstanding plays to get the ball back when the ball was on the ground. Jones getting the ball back and Eli getting the ball back were huge plays in the game. The special teams play was especially critical because of where the ball was located. Eli's play was significant because we were close and close to the green zone or at the edge of the green zone and we didn't give the ball away there either. Those were huge plays in the game and the combined effort throughout the game. I think one of the things that I would say was emblematic of what I am talking about was Tuck's play at the end of the game where he chased the quarterback in one direction, the quarterback evaded him and he turned and sprinted with the score 31-14 and made an all-out effort to get to the quarterback and make the sack. He knocked the ball out and we recovered the ball and that's how we were able to end the game in the formation we like the most. We are excited about that. We talked about how important this time of the year is. We are in the playoffs and you really have a good handle on what the opponent is seeing in your play. In fact, for example our first week in the playoffs with Atlanta, we really need to do a good job of studying them because we have not played them in a while and we need to do a really good job in a short amount of time of being informed about this outstanding Atlanta Falcon team.
Q: What do you tell the younger players about the playoffs outside of what you have said about the last two games of the season?A: I think we have been in playoff games, we have been in playoff games for the last three weeks. We are battle tested in a lot of ways because we have played some really outstanding football teams all down through the second half of the season. What I told them was the straight up truth, this is the playoffs. There are 12 teams in the playoffs and 20 teams go home, it is a single-elimination tournament and if you win, you go on. If you lose, you go home. It is reality. I think a lot of the young guys have a feeling for that. I really felt that what was very good about our football team was the building throughout the week and the outstanding practices and then the peer pressure. Not only the pressure to perform but to play smart and do the smart thing and I thought that was prevalent everywhere on our team.
Q: Do you think the team established its identity in terms of physical play?A: I hope so, I hope that we have and I think that the resurgence with that part of our game for the last couple weeks has really put the smile on their faces. There is confidence in the three units and all three units need to play together and I think we are starting to see that take place.
Q: Can you talk about Victor Cruz's development?A: I think you look at it in stages and his preseason was okay. The start of the season was about exactly where he fit and that question and then I think he just kind of got an opportunity to play. He got a taste of it and knew that he had a lot to learn but was willing and had the ability and put himself in positions where he could take full advantage of that. He just started to grow and develop. When you look at this last part of the season and the number of plays the young man has made which has given us a spark or put us in position to win games, it is truly amazing. My hat is off to him. He goes on IR and he has no offseason although Eli has been working with him, all he has is the preseason and yet he is able to have the kind of season we have all witnessed.
Q: Do you think Victor is quicker than people realize on film?A: I think that's one of the attributes that he does possess - that and obviously the speed. You hear those terms all of the time – quicker than fast; fast, but not quick; doesn't start fast. This guy starts fast, is fast, is quick, can make people miss, obviously, and runs the ball with some authority once he has it. [Victor] is not easy to tackle.
Q: Was Kiwanuka a point of interest for stopping the run?A: That was really an outstanding game for Kiwi. Penetrated, you saw him run through the back side, make the play on the power right off the bat, first play of the game – did that with some consistency throughout the game. Had some good rushes in the third down package as well. We put a lot of time and emphasis into stopping the run. One of the packages was what you saw right away early in the game with Kiwi. He certainly did respond and play well.
Q: Is he back at the level he was prior to getting hurt last year?A: Based on this past game, which he played very, very well. I know he's playing well based on this particular game right here and I hope to tell you that this is the start of something, that we're going to see the continuation of that kind of play.
Q: Was there an evolution of Antrel's value on the field?A: He certainly played well last night, again. He was a physical presence. He had the interception. I really liked the way he put himself in position for the interception because the quarterback, quite frankly, didn't see him. He was in one area of the coverage and as more time went on he kind of saw the eyes of the quarterback and started moving into the area where Witten was and made an outstanding play there. He tackled well. He had some physical tackles. He's an emotional guy and he wears it on his sleeve. He gives you everything he's got. Watching him develop and play and play wherever we want him to play, whether it will be down, whether it will be back, whether it's back down again like it is right now. He's playing very well.
Q: Has it taken awhile for Antrel to get acclimated to his new team?A: I would think that it takes awhile for someone coming into a program just to figure out what it's all about, who's who. Last year we had 10 wins, didn't get in [to the playoffs]. So there was some frustration. There's been some frustration that has been dealt with pretty well this year as well. Now we're seeing the result of having some patience and continuing to work, which these guys have done. This team has done that. They've worked through many issues throughout the course of the year and come back stronger yet.
Q: Is it important to approach the season as being more of a marathon than a sprint?A: Well, it is a marathon. You can't afford to be too high or too low. Over the course of the season you have to maintain. Sometimes you do, you unfortunately can't help, there's big wins and there's big disappointments. But somehow you have to come back and have some kind of an even keel.
Q: With the ups and downs of the season, what is your approach to getting this team to play its best at this point?A: I hope it's consistency. The approach doesn't change all that much, to be honest with you. It's always focused on ahead regardless of whether there are issues, problems, we lost a game. It's always the work ethic, the team concept. Right at this point of the year, without a doubt you're helped by the circumstance, too. People understand and know what the consequences are of their play. The motivation is incredible. It's a great time of the year. We've come down the stretch. We've had a million questions asked about our ability to finish, so that's always been in the back of our mind. We've talked about it openly. It was our goal at the very beginning of the year and the guys have bought into that, they see it. We have some people here that know how to win, that have done it in a very, very wonderful place not too long ago, that can share with a lot of others about what it takes at this time of the year to put yourself in that position or at least to get into the tournament. That's been the main stick.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to give Hynoski the ball more?A: Well he's shown from the very get-go he has good hands. So he is, many times, the third level of the particular play action pass. If it comes to that, as you read the progression from the top-down, he's running free, he gets the ball. He got the ball last night more than he had, but we do believe that he has good hands and we're very confident that if you throw it to him he'll catch it. And he's shown the ability to get some yards after the catch as well.
Q: How did Osi come out?A: He came out well
Re: making frustration a positiveA: It wasn't [forced] down at all. If anything, it was re-directed. It was made positive. That's what I think you have to continue to do. You have to try to continue to get people to understand how to express their frustration and to convert it into something very positive.
Q: The approach to Ballard this week?A: They're going to run tomorrow, he and Herzlich both, and we'll see.
Q: The players are saying it's a similar confidence to 2007.A: Well, if they're saying that, I hope. I think every team is different. Every year is a different year. I think the guys that are probably saying that are the guys that have experienced it. If they can share that feeling with the other players and the other players can understand what they're talking about, I'm all for it.
Q: Do you need chemistry?A: Absolutely. You have to have that, sure. That's what we keep talking about – team – whatever chemistry is. You're talking team.
Q: Is there a formula for bringing the right personalities here?A: Well there's a formula for everything that is done. It's very sophisticated, the way in which people are evaluated and the feeling that, 'Yes, the need is there. Is this the kind of person that we want wearing the New York Giant uniform?' There is a definite, definite formula to it.
DE Justin TuckQ: What do you tell the younger players who have not been to the playoffs?
A: I don't tell them anything. Some of the guys in here I want to be naïve. It is important for them to understand that it is going to be a crazy environment and the intensity of the game is going to be higher than what they have seen or maybe not because we have played two kind of playoff games already this year, the must-win games. The intensity is going to be high and just bring your 'A' game because you don't have any do-overs. It is win or go home and it is a special time and you won't understand it until you play in it. That is what the vets told me my first time and it was pretty accurate.
Q: Have you had a chance to look back at everything this team has been through this season?
A: That is what the offseason is for. We just watched the Dallas tape and that is the only looking back I feel like doing right now. It is all about moving forward and all of our attention and energy is focused on learning about this Atlanta Falcons team and preparing to play a great game against a team we don't even know yet.
Q: Do you feel battle tested?
A: Absolutely, being battle tested is good and bad. It is good because you have played the best teams and you know how you stack up against them. You have taken guys' best shots but you are also battered and bruised from playing some of those great teams, too. This is exactly where we need to be right now and obviously we have a lot of work to do. It seems like we are progressing every day and every week. That is all you can ask for from a team, just get better every week and it gives you that shot to keep playing. That is all we can ask for.
Q: How does this team compare to 2007?
A: Any given Sunday and that is what I can take from it. I don't think we were favored in any game that we played in that playoff run and nobody ever gave us a shot. Once you get in the playoffs, any team can win, any team can get hot, any team in these playoffs can beat any team in these playoffs. That being said, '07 just proved that for us and it is confirmation that if we go out there and take it one play at a time and play one game at a time, we can beat anybody in these playoffs. With that being said, the 2007 team had their own identity; their own moments and hopefully this 2011 team can have their identity and their moments. We are not the same team that we were in '07, I am not going to say that we are. We have a lot of similarities and we can do a lot of the things that we did in '07. Hopefully we can get on that run.
Q: What is the identity of this team?
A: Right now, I don't know. It just seems like it differs every week. One game the defense plays great and stops the run. We held a team that has been averaging 25 points to 14, the intensity was there and some games we outscore people. Then in some games our defense shows up so I don't know what our identity is and as long as we keep progressing like we have the last two weeks, I think we will but I just know it is going to be something good.
**WR Victor Cruz
Q: What do you know and have seen from the Atlanta Falcons this season?**A: I haven't watched much of them and I am going to go home and pop some film in and get a good feel for them. I know that they have given up some yardage in the passing game and stuff like that. We know their explosive offense and we have to come in ready to play.
Q: What have teams done differently to you now that they didn't do at the start of the season?A: I think it is just having some more people in my face. There was a few times this Cowboys game where DeMarcus Ware would come out in coverage and get a hand on me to try to throw me off of my route. It is a little bit of that and some double coverage here and there but not too much. They are just trying to send some different looks my way.
Q: What is the idea in this locker room and is it to win the Super Bowl?A: That has to be the goal because you play this game to win the Super Bowl. The first step is obviously winning the division and the second step is getting into the playoffs and we have done that so far. I feel like we are hitting our stride at the perfect time and we should be able to make a run for it.
Q: How much will you relying on the veterans in the playoffs?A: We have to rely on them and understand that these guys have been around and have played in a few playoff games, some guys played in and won a Super Bowl so just having those guys around to speak to and understand what the atmosphere is going to be like, what you are facing, and understand what it is going to be like as opposed to not knowing. I am definitely going to be in those guys' ears this week.
Q: Has Eli talked about '07 and what that experience was like?A: Not really, no. We hear about it here and there and Coach Coughlin talks about it here and there but it is a new year and another start, another playoffs and that is what we are focused on right now.
**S Antrel Rolle
Q: Did you think the season would end like this?**A: I don't have a crystal ball but I do know the caliber of guys that we have in this unit and the hard work that we put into this. Things may not always go into our favor but it is not how you start, it is how you finish. We have had two outstanding last games, playoff intending games for us and we are making a run towards it.
Q: Do you feel like this team is battle tested?A: Absolutely, I feel like we have played the best of the best opponents throughout this season. We haven't always played up to our standards in most of those games and we had a lot of ups and downs. We haven't played consistently under any circumstances but the record is 0-0-0 at this point. I think right now, coming off the Jets win and this win, I think we have an identity. I think we all know that we are all on one accord and if we play and focus on what we need to do at hand, the sky is the limit for us. Every game is not going to be a blow out, when you go out there and put a full 60 minutes together and come out on top, that is all you can ask for.
Q: How does it feel to see this team play up to its standards?A: It feels great, it all comes from having everybody all in and us being all on deck. The games are won throughout the week in practice and we just go out there on Sunday and put a stamp on it.
Q: What is the team's identity?A: To go out there and play a full 60 minutes and when I say an identity, I am really speaking for the defense. I think offensively, they have been pretty much holding us down and playing pretty consistent. As far as the defense, we really didn't know what our identity was and now I think we have the best of the best guys on the field. We are intact and no matter what, we are playing for each other. There is no selfish ball out there, everyone is taking care of their assignments and their own job. Whomever eats at the end of the day is going to eat and as long as we are victorious at the end of the day, that is all that matters.
Q: Does it give you added confidence to know that you took the two best teams in the conference down to the wire?A: Those games don't mean anything at the moment. Every week presents a different challenge and we are not really focusing on that right now, we are really focusing on the Atlanta Falcons, a great organization and an outstanding football team. We are looking forward to the matchup.
LB MATHIAS KIWANUKA
Q: How big were the last two games and the tests that you got from them?
A: You have that experience to draw off of and right now everybody's confidence is high so we are ready to go.
Q: Are you battle tested?
A: That is very accurate. Some of those battles we put ourselves in and we probably should not have been in those must-win games but we were in them and came out with the win.
Q: What do you see from Matt Ryan?
A: He is fearless, you can't assume that if you have tight coverage he won't fit the ball in because he can make every throw. He's a prototypical quarterback and he has the confidence to get it in there so it is going to be tough. As long as we are in the right spots and as long as we do what the defense asks us to do, we will come out with the win.
Q: What do you say to the younger players about the playoffs?
A: There is really no way to explain it, it is an unbelievable experience. It is not that far away, we are only a few from the championship game, so the opportunity is there we just have to get it. We have to take it week by week and try to explain to them how intense it is going to be as the playoffs go on. We have to focus on this first game and not anything else.
Q: What does it take to get there?
A: It takes a lot, no one player is at 100 percent. It is a tough game and everybody gets nicked up and everybody gets bumped and bruised. It is all about who is going to give that max effort because you know you may have an ankle and the guy across from you may have a knee. Regardless of the injury, one of you is going to go harder and one of you is going to get the victory.
Q: Can you rattle Ryan?
A: Absolutely, there is one way you can rattle a quarterback, if you hit them in the face a few times and that makes their job a lot harder. If you shut down the run and make them one dimensional. If you put them in situations where they have to throw the ball, especially with that front that we have, you can.
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