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The Coughlin Corner: Getting set to face the champs


Q: You're playing the undefeated, defending champion Patriots this week. Do you sense a certain buzz with the players this week?

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Coughlin: "There better be. Certainly there is. It's a tremendous challenge and an opportunity. Let's face it, you've got the world champions, you've got a team that is 8-0, you better be at your best."

Q: Do you believe that certain games are a measuring stick or barometer games that help you gauge where your team is, and is this one of them because of the opponent?

Coughlin: "I suppose everyone wants to say that it is. And obviously, when you're playing a team that's this good, it is a measuring stick for you. But again, there are a lot of games to be played, and what my goal and what we're trying to do here is to try to get better every week, to try to get a little bit better every week, so that we can be at our best when you're talking about the stretch. That's the main thing for me. Certainly, we have to keep winning. We're too close to the margin, we've created that for ourselves. The idea is to somehow, someway start to put some wins together. That's what has to happen if you're going to end up having a say in what this is all about."

Q: I would imagine during the course of any season there are some opponents that you prepare for and you almost have to sell to the players, "This is a good team, they do these things well, don't take this team lightly." This week, was it simply putting on the tape and saying, "These are the New England Patriots?"

Coughlin: "No, you have to take every team, you have to break them down, you have to analyze their strengths, you have to analyze where you think there is some vulnerability, and your team has to understand both. You have to understand what errors you can't make because of the circumstances, and yet you have to understand what you think you might be able to exploit, and you have to be able to be as effective at that. So it's always that game, that's what you play, that competitive instinct, if you will, that desire to try to expose and try to figure out what would be best for your team based against a team that, quite frankly, has so many plusses, so many things they're doing well."

Q: Eli Manning so often plays well in big games. Aside from his ability, what allows him to rise to these occasions? His demeanor, his preparation, his confidence?

Coughlin: "He's a great competitor. And he prepares week in and week out exactly the same. He puts the same amount of effort into it every week. And, yet, he's done this long enough to know the quality of the competition and know in his own mind exactly what has to be done in order to give his team a chance to win."

Q: Jason Pierre-Paul had a terrible fireworks accident, he worked hard to get back, he was ridiculed publicly. He's returned to play and faced the media several times. Are you proud of JPP? Are you proud of what he's done, and how he has come back?

Coughlin: "I'm proud of the way that he has come back, but I'm really just as proud of the young man and the way he's handled himself having come back. He's very humble. He has basically said exactly what I'm sure he feels deep inside, he's very grateful to the Giants for staying by his side throughout this, which was a traumatic, traumatic experience for him and his family. I'm not standing next to him at these press conferences, but it does come to me, his demeanor, his attitude, how grateful he is to the ownership and so on and so forth. And I am most respectful of the way he's handled that part of it."

Q: Jonathan Hankins is a guy who obviously doesn't get a lot of publicity, but he seems to be your kind of player – he comes to work every day, works hard, and has a great demeanor. I would imagine his season-ending injury is tough for you professionally and personally.

Coughlin: "Very much so. He's a guy you count on. You just counted on him being in there plugging up the middle, stopping anybody that thought they could come in there. But again, our game today seems to be about that. It's people who can't perform, so now you build a resiliency to that. You feel very badly for the young man and for his family, etcetera. All the goals that he had set for himself, if you listen to his story, it's a great story. But here we are, so now these other people at his position, they have to go, they've got to do the job for us."

Q: It seems you've settled on using several running backs in a game. When you did that last week in Tampa, you had a fresh Rashad Jennings for the final drive. Is that one of the goals of doing it that way?

Coughlin: "Well, in the ultimate it is, yes. If you tracked their play time, it's modest, so they should be fresh in the fourth quarter. It was between him and Andre Williams when they did rush the ball. They rushed with power, and we gained over 100 yards rushing, which was a good thing. I would have liked to have knelt down, made that last first down. But the idea of utilization of what their skillset and how they can be best used to help us win, yes."

Q: Sticking with running backs, did you watch Shane Vereen catch 11 passes in the Super Bowl and think to yourself, "He'd look good in our backfield?"

Coughlin: "Yeah, I watched a little bit of tape of him throughout the year, and he kept popping up. That was some performance."

Q: Are you intrigued that it seems like every team is deferring at the coin toss. It's become the thing to do around the league now. Did you see it coming?

Coughlin: "It's percentages. That's all it is, percentages. You study the percentages, you see that just as we did last weekend, and it's happened a couple times since we've deferred, if you can score at the end of the first half and score at the start of the second half - of course, in New Orleans it didn't make the difference, but it certainly made up the difference (the Giants scored late in the second quarter and early in the third to erase a 14-point deficit). So it's just playing the percentages with regard to that. You're always leery of who the opponent is. But it's trying to give yourself, in every way possible, the best chance to win, and the percentages do indicate that you do that, that you take the ball in the third quarter."

Q: You studied Tom Brady preparing for two Super Bowls. As you looked at him this week, is he the same quarterback?

Coughlin: "I feel that way. If you look at his numbers, they're outstanding. He's executing at an extremely high level, and he's leading his team. And he's also a very tough leader, because they've had their problems up front, and he's taken the brunt of it. He still performs and performs and performs. So you tip your hat to him."

Q: You were asked about defending Rob Gronkowski, but Julian Edelman is also having a big year.

Coughlin: "Edelman is having a huge year. He's the ninth targeted player in the National Football League. He's a heck of a competitor. He utilizes everything he's got. He's a tough guy, too. He's tough. He's not big, but he's tough."

Q: Defensively, Chandler Jones is leading the league in sacks, and they have the two outstanding linebackers in Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower. What do you see as the strength of their defense?

Coughlin: "They are strong at the linebacker position, they are. They're much stronger up front; they've done that over again. (Rob) Ninkovich on one side, Jones on the other side, and they're big-bodied inside. (Alan) Branch has played well for them, takes up a lot of room, a lot of space and can move and run. So they've shored that up, and their linebackers are big linebackers. They're not what you see today. A lot of teams you play are in that 230 range or high 220's. (Collins and Hightower) are big, strong kids and they come across that way."

Q: Everyone knows Stephen Gostkowski is a tremendous kicker, but Matthew Slater has been to the Pro Bowl four consecutive years as a coverage specialist. Is he a weapon for them as a coverage specialist?

Coughlin: "A huge weapon, a huge weapon. He, along with others on that special teams unit, they spark their team. And their team thrives on those kinds of plays, and they celebrate for one another when they do make good plays. And Slater has made a lot of them."

Playmakers on Patriot's first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike

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