EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.**
– The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: It's unusual when you don't practice three days before a game. How did you juggle the schedule with Christmas this week?
Coughlin: "We practiced earlier. We started on Tuesday. Wednesday was a Thursday. Thursday was medical and players were off. Friday is Friday."
Q: Were the coaches here yesterday?
Coughlin: "The coaches were here preparing for what was coming today and clean up, prepare practice, make decisions on the green zone and the red zone, short yardage, goal line; the normal evening menu of assignments for the coaches on a Thursday night."
Q: You have one game remaining, at home vs. Philadelphia. Is it safe to say there's a big difference in your mind between finishing 7-9 and 6-10?
Coughlin: "There certainly is. Every win is critical. Every game is critical. You're constantly trying to challenge your people to play better, to be better, improve themselves, improve your team and that's the theme that's been in existence for the entire year."
Q: What would it mean to you to finish the season with four straight victories? Would it take away some of the sting from what occurred earlier in the season?
Coughlin: "Probably not, but you know what? The important thing is that we always talk about great effort. We always talk about opportunity. We always talk about pride. We always talk about the challenge that the one opponent presents. We always talk about the divisional aspect of it and how important that is, the idea of home and away. The way we played the first time around over there (a 27-0 loss in Philadelphia on Oct. 12), there's not one guy who's still in that locker room that was over there that doesn't remember that feeling. And that was not a good feeling, so there's an awful lot to play for here. I'm not into whether or not it makes you feel any better or not. We've won the last game of the year four straight years; it would be nice to win again. We say that with full respect, knowing full well what the Philadelphia team is capable of. They're a good football team. They've played with the lead, from behind. You talk about Dallas. They're down, 21-0, and they come back. They actually take the lead."
Q: How about the idea of your younger players contributing and developing under winning circumstances? Does that help the development?
Coughlin: "The fact that they're developing is very important, as is the fact that so many of them have contributed to these wins at this point in the season. There has been a lot of improvement there. I always tell the young people, and everybody that will pay attention and listen, that professional football is cumulative. You learn from one week. You apply it to the next week. Things change, the opponent changes, all kinds of different situations and scenarios, but you do have to be able to understand what you have accomplished and what you have learned and apply it in the situation in the next week, because it may be that the opponent will provide you with something that has not been seen and you do have to rely on your fundamentals and your fundamental grasp, for example, of any situation, be it third down, be it short yardage. You've got to be able to adjust."
**Q: Have you tortured yourself with the "What ifs" about the games earlier in the season you could have won?
Coughlin: "I can't afford that. I stay away from that. What good is it going to do? It's not going to change anything. Certainly, I remember certain things that put the elevator on the bottom floor in the basement, but nevertheless I try to stay with where we're going and the next opponent."
Q: With one game left, Eli Manning has his highest career completion percentage, highest passer rating and he's got less than half of the interceptions he had last year. Are you pleased with the season he's had?
Coughlin: "We'll talk about that one later. I thought he was superb last weekend (throwing for 391 yards and three touchdowns in the 37-27 victory in St. Louis), and I'd like to see that continue through this weekend and then we can make our assessment."
**Q: Opposing defenses seem to be focusing on Odell Beckham Jr. legally and illegally. Have you ever had a player
that defenses are so focused on but can't stop?**
Coughlin: "Don't go too far with that one. If they want to, they can put two on him every snap, but then you've got to be good enough to…the whole challenge is the ability for other people to contribute, as Rueben (Randle) did last weekend and (Preston) Parker, for the time he was in there. When you get that kind of distribution, it's difficult, with even as good a player as (Beckham) is. You have to balance your defense and your thoughts, and your front and your linebackers and your secondary have all got to be on the same page. It's not easy."
Q: You said earlier this week that Kerry Wynn seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Some players have that, but can it be taught?
Coughlin: "What you teach is responsibility. That's when he's keeping and maintaining his responsibility and the opportunity is there for him to make a play, he's been a guy that's been able to do that. That fumble recovery the other day was really something. That tipped ball interception was something. He's coming. He's finishing the play. He's running to the ball. He also had the wherewithal to secure the ball."
Q: Last week, Daren Bates of the Rams blocked a field goal attempt by leaping over (snapper) Zak DeOssie. Is there any way to defend against a defender jumping over the center on that play?
Coughlin: "Yes, there is - look up and hold the ball. See it coming. Nobody says you've got to snap it. He timed the whole thing up thinking that the center was never going to lift his head up again. You can defend that, just like anything else. If he's going to base it on rhythm and jump on over, then you don't have to snap the ball. Don't let his timing handle it. Now does he have great spring? Yeah, he had outstanding athleticism. You can stop that. You've got to be aware. Either him or somebody else has to tip the center. Plus, like I said, you've got to just maneuver the cadence just a little bit."
Q: In the first game against Philadelphia, the Eagles had a lot of success running the ball. LeSean McCoy had 149 yards rushing. Is the focus this week trying to slow down their rushing attack?
Coughlin: "You have to. That's what they want to do and they do it very well, so you have to spend an awful lot of time on that.
Get to know the Giants' opponent for their Week 17 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles
But they're very much misdirection-oriented and very much perimeter-oriented. They have outstanding big-play potential, without a doubt. (Jeremy) Maclin is having an outstanding year. The tight end (Zach Ertz) made huge contributions in Washington last week. Against Dallas, they go three-and-out, three-and-out and they're down 21-0 and they mount a drive. They mount a long drive and they score and they put themselves back in position. It's a 60-minute game. You would hope that all contributions come, not only their offense in terms of that, but their defense. Their front got after us and there's no other way around it and that's a big challenge for us. But their special teams have great potential. They're another team with two teams in the top 10 (in the NFL rankings) and two teams hovering around 11 and 12, so they rely on them. Their return game is outstanding – their punt return and kickoff return."
Q: Their defense had eight sacks in the first meeting. You have the same offensive linemen in there from the first game…
Coughlin: "(Connor) Barwin has 14.5 sacks (including three vs. the Giants). He has a lot of sacks and he's been very good on third down. I think nine of them are third down sacks. Trent Cole will play us, broken hand, surgery or none. (Vinny) Curry has got nine sacks and doesn't even start. Fletcher Cox is having a year. He has played superbly."
Q: They have six special teams touchdowns.
Coughlin: I remember the first time we played them. It was unbelievable. They had kickoff returns, they had punt returns, they had balls they'd pick up off the ground, they had interceptions. They were way out in front of everybody at that point in time. Of course, that's 10 games ago, but they've scored about every way you can score. Green Bay turned around and did that to them, too. They scored every way you can think of scoring."
Q: Do you have to be cognizant of their big play speed at all times?
Coughlin: "Absolutely. You've got to have people in the right spots. And the rookie kicker (Cody Parkey) has had a great year, except for last week in Washington."