EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: You told the team Monday, a day after the loss in New Orleans, "We're still in first place." After a disappointing game like that, do you believe it's important for you to say to the players, "We're in first place, our goals are still in front of us."
Coughlin: "Sure, absolutely. As difficult as it is, you put it behind you and you've got to keep going. And the way we always say it is, 'The purpose is to not place blame, the purpose is to solve problems, find solutions for problems.' And that's the responsibility everybody is saddled with this week. If you're going to talk about all three levels raising the quality of their game, then you have to talk about solving issues that prevent you from raising the quality of your game. The punt return (which set up the game-winning field goal) - our punt coverage was fine all day.
Finish the game. Knowing when the game is on the line, regardless of whether it's 59 minutes and 24 seconds into the the game, whenever it is, if that play is the play, then you have to be aware, you have to be alert. You have to have some gamesmanship to succeed in this business. The frustrating part is to look at that tape and see the missed opportunities. It's just frustrating as heck."
Q: The defense obviously struggled in New Orleans. What is the process this week for making changes, for getting that unit to play better this week?
Coughlin: "The first thing they have to do is (improve) our communication. Our communication has to be better than it is. Our communication from the secondary, from the linebackers to the secondary, from the safeties to the corners, everything has to improve. It's okay that they (the opposing offense) go fast, they can go fast, it's in the rules.
Again, it's alignment, assignment, technique. Alignment, assignment, technique. But you have to get yourself in a position to be able to get your job done. And when the play is over, it's the next play. You have to go and get lined up for the next play. Is that going to solve everything? No, of course it isn't, but it's going to help. But that's where it starts, right there."
Q: Is it incongruous to you that you've given up more passing yards than any team in the league, but you're tied for the lead in interceptions?
Coughlin: "That tells you one thing: the ball is being thrown at us a lot. I look at the takeaways and I look at the fact that we do count on takeaways, and we do count on defensive and special teams scores. Everybody in the league does. We have a nice sequence going here with what we've done. Let's face it, we're plus-11 (turnover differential). Eight games in and we're plus-11. So we need more of that. But by the same token, the coverage aspect has to be better and tighter. And we can't give up the uncontested pass; we gave up two of them. On the (touchdown) pass to Marques Colston, all he does is run up the field and they throw him the ball. There's nobody around him. That's not going to work."
Q: I know you said you're always looking forward, but is it tough for you after three losses when holding late leads not to play the "what if" game?
Coughlin: "Well, you just saw it. I don't play the 7-1 game, okay (the Giants could be 7-1 had they won all three of those games)? I play the close games that we didn't win. Why didn't we win the games? We play hard, we play scrappy, we have grit, we have resiliency, we bounce back from things, we do all of these things. But the ability to get the close game in hand - we've done it, but we haven't done it to the extent that there's two other ones out there that could have been. That's what bothers me. Nobody, believe me, nobody in the history of sport talks about finish more than we talk about it."
Q: Eli Manning threw six touchdown passes, yet nobody asked you about him after the game. He had one of the great games of his career. When you looked at the tape of Eli's performance, what were you thinking?
Coughlin: "He was terrific. He was terrific. Even at the start of the second half when he throws the ball a mile up in the air for (Odell) Beckham (Jr.) and Beckham catches it, makes a great ball adjustment and catches it. That's really good stuff."
Q: Did he throw the ball about as well as you've seen him?
Coughlin: "Yes, he did."
Q: If Jason Pierre-Paul plays, he should help give you what you need, which is a better pass rush. Do you think his presence can inspire others? It seems everyone is excited about having him back.
Coughlin: "Sure, they are. I think it can. I think his teammates will be excited about having him out there, if, in fact, it happens."
Q: Dwayne Harris was carted off and then he comes back and catches two touchdowns.
Coughlin: "He's a tough hombre. He goes right back out on the field. His other roles are diminishing because of what he's had to do as the third receiver. He's a gunner, he's a very good one. If he's in there on the last play, who knows?"
Q: Last week, you faced the team that was third in the NFL in passing yardage. On Sunday in Tampa, you're going to play the team that is fourth in rushing yardage. And they have the league's fourth-leading rusher (Doug Martin) and an improving young quarterback (Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall choice in this year's NFL Draft).
Coughlin: "Yes, they're an improving team. You have to stop the run. Everything, the play action, all of those good things that they do, it's all based on that. You have to realize, you have the young quarterback, and he's done an outstanding job. But the running game is preventing a lot of issues. His third downs are less, you have less yardage to accomplish the majority of the time. All those things fit the young quarterback."
Q: As you watch the progression from their tapes from the season, did you see him getting better and better?
Coughlin: "You can see him getting better, you can see him in better command of his own team. You certainly see the athleticism and the strength of arm, he's got a really strong arm. But you also see him in better control of himself. Against Carolina, what'd he throw, four picks? Then four games later, they're plus-four. That's how they beat Atlanta; Atlanta had 496 yards and they don't win."
Q: They have a lot of size at receiver, is that a special challenge?
Coughlin: "Well, it is in (Mike) Evans. (Vincent) Jackson may not play, but Evans is certainly a big, strong, fast kid. He can go up over the top of people and take the ball away. It's a threat."
Q: Defensively, they lead the league with nine fumble recoveries. They have forced 17 fumbles, so you have to be very mindful of that.
Coughlin: "Ball security, ball security, it's always that. These teams are so good at it. Many times when you watch this team, they don't even go for the tackle, they go for the ball."
Q: On their special teams, Bobby Rainey has been so good on punt and kickoff returns.
Coughlin: "Punt, kickoff return, punt coverage, they're in the top-five in three categories. But Rainey is very good and he's north-south and he's 212 pounds. He certainly is very, very formidable."
Playmakers on the Buccaneers first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike