Head Coach Tom Coughlin**
Good morning. After a Monday night game, we're excited to get started preparing for the Carolina Panthers, as you well know. You probably know all the stats. The 13-0 Panthers, led by head coach Ron Rivera, Dave Gettleman as the general manager. They are plus-18 and leading the National Football League in turnover margin. They also have scored a league-high 117 points off those turnovers. They're second in the league in rushing. They rush the ball over 50 percent of the time, which makes them the only team in the league that does that. They're 25th in passing. They're first in scoring at 31.6. They're fourth in the green zone, TD areas. And they're led by Cam Newton and Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, Trai Turner etc.
They're third overall on defense—fourth versus the run, fifth versus the pass. Third most sacks in the league at 40. Eighth on third down, ninth in the red zone. They are led by Thomas Davis; Luke Kuechly; Kawann Short, the defensive tackle; and Josh Norman on the outside. They're 13th in punt return at 9.3 with Ted Ginn. Fourteenth, allowing 8.0 in opponent punt returns. Brad Nortman is their strong-legged, right-footed punter with a net of 39.9. And Graham Gano, 62.8 (percent) touchbacks, 26-31 on field goals. So they're a very good football team. They're a very well-rounded football team. They're balanced. They're a very strong defensive team. They run the football. They're ranked highly in time of possession. In Cam Newton, they have a young man that runs the ball and runs the zone read, but also a number of plays that are designed, whether it be the lead, the quarterback draw, quarterback counter. They run the ball very, very well. Newton has seven touchdowns rushing himself.
They're very good at play action. And Cam is very good at if he doesn't like what it looks like, moving in the pocket or moving outside the pocket, gaining more time to be able to throw the ball down the field. They have quick strike capability. Ted Ginn starts at wide receiver and has exceptional speed even now at the ninth year that he's been in the National Football League. As I said, their defensive team, if you really study games in which they have gotten turnovers, they've given their offensive team a huge advantage—the Dallas game being one of those to be able to look at. It's an exciting time for us. We are in the hunt here in the NFC East. This is a very, very good football team, an undefeated football team. We are excited to host them this weekend.
Q: They appear to be a very physical team up front. Can you talk about that challenge and challenging your guys to meet them?
A: Well, they are physical up front. You can attest to that by the numbers not only from the run standpoint, but also from the 40 sacks and the way in which they've played the run. They are physical. They have a good front seven, if you will. Secondary is very much involved in that. And their offensive line has responded very, very well to their style of game, including the tight end. And Jonathan Stewart, they have a guy with a lot of carries, ranked very highly in rushing yardage and carries. It's a very good team and a good test, no doubt.
Q: Is Cam Newton like any other quarterback you've faced this year? Is his skillset and what they do with him so different from what you've faced on a regular basis?
A: On a regular basis, yes. But we saw the option the other night, the zone read the other night. Did not defend that particularly well, but it is something that we will see. And then an extension of that is the various other runs which are designed runs on which he carries the ball.
Q: Can you clean up the missed tackles?
A: We need to. Yeah, that was an obvious the other night. We need to do a better job of that. If you look at this particular team on the defensive side of the ball, they do an excellent job of swarming to the ball carrier and gang tackling, opening field tackling etc.
Q: How can you improve tackling this late in the season?
A: You can improve anything that you make an emphasis and continue to talk about the fundamentals and the basics that are involved in it. Be in the right position, have leverage by virtue of the other people that are coming towards the ball carrier so that he doesn't have all the maneuverability. Sometimes it's important just to make sure that the ball gets turned back inside and you can then assure some type of a physical tackle. But you can improve anything no matter what, as long as you make it very important to you and you drill accordingly.
Q: You've been on this side of it a few times, going against an undefeated team late in the season. Do you expect to see the Panthers going all out?
A: Oh, I do. And I don't know what questions they're being asked down there, I can only imagine, They are in the playoffs. But still, I think they'll play. Obviously they have something to secure.
Q: What is it about Josh Norman that has made him such a difficult guy for those number one receivers?
A: He's having an outstanding year, as is their secondary, because of the pressure exerted up front, to be honest with you. But he's a very, very good cover guy. He's a technician, he gets himself in the right spot at the right time. He does play the ball in the air well. He's quick with his hands. He's physical. He'll time it up to be there as the ball arrives, either knock it out or position himself to make contact from behind and to ensure that the ball is not completed. He's having an outstanding year matched up against the opponent's best receiver the majority of the time, at least until he goes into the slot.
Q: He doesn't go in the slot?
A: He hasn't. He hasn't, but that doesn't mean he can't.
Q: Can you talk about Cooper Taylor and what he is going to have to go against with Cam Newton's ability to fake the handoff and go back and maybe try to bait you that way?
A: Well everybody has to go. We saw the flea-flicker again the other night. There are multiple keys involved any time the ball is going to be thrown, and you have to be very good fundamentally in recognizing that or at least hanging back there until you see exactly what's coming.
Q: Do you anticipate Josh Norman versus Odell Beckham?
Q: And what do you think your chances are?
A: Well, that's another one of those questions, we'll see what happens. But certainly I would think that that would be that matchup and so you're going to have a very, very good defender against a very, very good receiver.
Q: Is moving him to the slot full-time something you'd contemplate since you said Norman doesn't go there?
A: No…no. We'll continue to move him around in multiple spots.
Q: As Paul said, your teams have late in the year faced a few undefeated teams and played well. Is there something about your preparation that's different? Why do you think that is?
A: I don't think there's anything about our preparation that's different. It's obviously the excitement about being involved in a game against a team of this ability and the natural competitive instincts that I would hope everyone at this level has in terms of playing against someone such as this and putting your best foot forward.
Q: Does the word "undefeated" mean more than if the team were 12-1 this week? Is that actually a point of emphasis, that you're seeing an undefeated team?
A: Not sure what you mean. But I would say this afternoon I'm going to introduce this team to our team, and I will tell them they're undefeated and they're very, very aware of it, obviously. But that carries with it a significance as well.
Q: Will Ereck Flowers or Devon Kennard have a chance this week?
A: Kennard, no. Flowers, we hope—it is a short week.
Q: You've obviously seen some great tight ends through the years, Jason Witten comes to mind in terms of the battles you've had. How would you compare Greg Olsen?
A: He's having a heck of a year, Greg Olsen is having a heck of a year. He is the guy that Cam will relate to. He's their number one target. The run after the catch ability, ability in the red zone, all of the above. He seems to be making the big play at the right time for them. He has 18 receptions over 20 yards, which, that's a lot of receptions for a tight end.
Q: Their record aside, is this the best team you've faced this year?
A: This is a very, very good football team.
Q: Cooper Taylor, you were rotating safeties you said, ended up playing three of the five drives in the second half. Was that a merit-based thing for him?
A: You keep saying merit-based. We're going to play three safeties, he's going to get his opportunity to play. You have guys that are involved in special teams as well. When it comes time for them to have a blow, they get a blow. And if it's working out, they may take an extra drive. But they're all three going to play.
Q: Has he impressed you? You cut him a couple of weeks ago.
A: He made two tackles on special teams. He was down at the line of scrimmage and made a nice tackle on a go-screen the other day. So he's improving.
Q: Eli, Player of the Week again. He was vocal last week apparently, he obviously lifted the team Monday night. Do you expect to see that kind of Eli now again this week, perhaps a little more vocal?
A: Well, I don't know about the vocal. There are certain times during the week when he does speak with a gathered group, but they come at basically the same time, whether it be a Friday afternoon or a Saturday morning or whatever it might be. But the way in which he prepared, and again, we'll approach this somewhat the same way—we really don't know much about the Panthers, we didn't know much about the team we played last week. So it's going to take extra time and extra study. He did a very, very good job of that last week. I think he practiced very, very well. And yes, I do expect to do the same.
Q: In watching the tape from Monday night, did you look at anything Odell did and say, "Wow."
A: Say what?
A: I said 'wow' when he was running down the field the other night. I thought it was because of my jumping jacks that he was doing that.
Q: The dragging of the foot on the touchdown was pretty cool?
A: Yeah, it was outstanding.
QB Eli Manning**
Q: Talk about the challenge that's in front of you guys this week facing the Panthers.
A: They're good, they're a good team. Offense is scoring a lot of points, their defense is not letting teams score a lot of points. They've got a lot of good players, good scheme. So we've got to have a great week of preparation, go out there, and find a way to make some plays.
Q: Coming off Monday night's game, you have a career best percentage-wise, how does that help you heading into this game and the last three games of the season?
A: Well, we were able to finish a game. I think that was important. We've done it sometimes, but haven't been able to do it enough. We've been in a lot of close games and we were able to finish the game strong and have a great fourth quarter and make the comeback to get the lead and then hold onto it. That was good, but hey, it's a brand new week. It'll be a new situation and we have to go out there and play great football.
Q: You spread the ball around a lot, three different receivers score touchdowns, but you have that special connection with Odell that continues to keep building. Just talk about that.
A: I think all the guys, all the receivers, tight ends, running backs, everybody played well. I think we're at our best when we spread the ball around and everybody is in the mix and I'm just going through my progressions and my reads. Guys were getting open, a lot of times first or second guys were getting open on the reads and that's good, that's what we need to do. Finally got a couple plays where we got the coverage we wanted and had Odell running the routes, we were able to hit a couple big ones.
Q: You obviously have some experience playing a team that's undefeated this late in the season. Is there anything different when you look up and see a team that hasn't lost yet? Do you change your preparation?
A: No, it doesn't change preparation. A lot of times, you don't look at the record. Obviously, you know what their record is, but you look at the scheme. So we're looking at their scheme, their players, their personnel, what they like to do in certain situations and the best way for us to attack it.
Q: You've got a lot of young guys in this room, is there any chance that seeing 13-0 could be intimidating for some of them?
A: You'll have to ask them. I think for us, we've got a job to do, we've got a game plan to learn, we've got to learn the defense, and just go out there and play our game—that's all we can concern ourselves with.
Q: How difficult are they to prepare for? They've got 16 guys who have recorded a sack.
A: They do a good job. They do a good job bringing pressure, different guys, different looks, showing pressure, bailing out, and not giving tips when they are bringing pressure. So they've got a good scheme, a lot of guys are rushing. So we've just got to make sure we're on the same page and everybody knows their assignments and knows what to do when they're bringing pressure and when they're not bringing pressure.
Q: From what you've seen, is this the best team you've faced this year? Are they as good as their record would indicate, I guess?
A: Yeah, I think so. Just from a team standpoint, their offense is scoring a lot of points. They run the ball well, they throw it, and then their defense is strong. They do a good job, they do a good job against the run. They get teams in third and long, they get a big lead on teams, so the second half they're having to throw it. They get a lot of turnovers on defense, so they've got a lot of good things going for them.
Q: I know you don't play the other quarterback, but do you follow what Cam Newton has done down there and how he has progressed in his career?
A: Sure. You keep up with other quarterbacks, but he's playing at a high level. Obviously throwing a lot of touchdowns, and they run the ball as well. Giving him that mix, he's making a lot of plays.
Q: What have you noticed about Josh Norman, who some people are crowning the best corner in football right now?
A: Josh, he's a good player. He's making plays. He'll follow the best receiver some. He does a good job in their scheme, knowing his assignments. On one-on-one, he's making some plays and breaking up a lot of passes.
Q: It will be an interesting matchup with Odell…
A: Sure, yeah. We'll see what their game plan is and see how they want to try to slow us down. So we'll have to adjust from there.
Q: You're a sports fan…you must be aware as the season's building, "Hey, we're going to have to play these guys and we understand fans are excited about them being undefeated," right?
A: Sure, yeah. You have a team that's undefeated, there's some excitement, and, 'Hey, can they finish the season undefeated? Can they be the team to go to the Super Bowl, be undefeated?' There's all that, but for us, hey, we've got a game plan to learn, we've got a scheme to learn from their part. For us, it's important because it affects our season. We're playing for a playoff spot and we're not really concerned with their situation. It's more our situation that's driving us.
Q: What do you see with Josh Norman when you look out there and how much do you have to watch where he's lined up?
A: Hey, I think again, just learning the scheme, knowing what their coverage is, knowing what his technique will be based on the coverage, and just go about my reads. If it's telling me to go his way, then we'll go his way.
Q: Everybody talks about Cam's enthusiasm for the game, and he has kind of reintroduced dancing in the end zone. You're the same win or lose. He's clearly very enthusiastic about it. What are some of your thoughts about his approach to the game?
A: Hey, whatever works for you, you know? That's all I got.
Q: So you're not polishing up a dance routine?
A: I haven't. I haven't polished it up just yet. It's got more work to do, it's been in progress for 12 years, but still a little rusty. I haven't fine-tuned it quite yet.
Q: Saving it for the next rushing touchdown?
A: Just when it's ready. When it's ready, I'll break it out.
Q: A lot of reps?
A: A lot of time in the offseason and Tuesday's doing it, but it doesn't feel right yet.
Q: Why do you think this offense sort of suits you well? That was probably one of your best games, at least the numbers say that.
A: I think just when guys are playing fast. I thought we had great tempo and guys were winning their routes. We've got to check to some things, when you see certain things, you can kind of get to certain plays that have a chance to be good. Just have good rhythm and good timing. We got into a rhythm early and I thought that was important.
Defensive Tackle Cullen Jenkins**
Q: Is there something different or special about playing a team that has a zero on the other end of their record? You don't do that every year this late in the season.
A: Yeah, you don't see that much and for us, we have to pride ourselves on feeling like we can play and compete with anybody in this league. We have, for the most part. We had a chance to win every game that we've been in at the end, except for the Philadelphia game. For us, we've just have to go in and know that it's going to be a game, it's going to be a physical game, but it's going to be a game that we can also win if we do what we're supposed to do.
Q: You almost beat an undefeated team earlier this season, the Patriots. Does that game sort of give you a little extra confidence going into this?
A: Yeah. Like I say, it's just with everybody we've played, we played well. With everybody, we've competed with everybody, but the thing that we have to do is just finishing the games. We've proved that we can compete with people for three quarters, but what we haven't proved is that we can finish games on a consistent basis.
Q: Is there a strong belief in here that you guys can do that? I'm sure there has to be some teams in the league who look at the Panthers and they probably know that we're not as good as them. It doesn't sound like you guys will go into that game thinking that way.
A: We know the sky is the limit for us. Like I said, we can compete and we can play with anyone, but it's just a matter of finishing. Everybody has to take on the challenge mentally, physically, and we can't make mistakes, and we can't beat ourselves.
Q: What's the key to containing Cam Newton?
A: A lot of keys. The guy has a rocket for an arm, he's athletic, hard to tackle, his running ability. I'd say he's probably the best running quarterback in this league, and you add that with his ability to pass and get the ball down the field, and then with the running game as well. They have a lot of weapons and this will be the toughest offense, most complete offense, that we've played.
Q: Is it something special to go against an undefeated team?
A: Yeah, definitely it is. They're at the top of the league with the way they've been playing, the way they've been able to win games, and every game that they've played, they've looked just as good as the other. For us, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and I believe when coach put the statistics on the board, I think they scored at least 20 points in every game this year. Defensively we have to take that as a challenge and try to keep them from putting those points on the board.