EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Coughlin Corner, Giants.com's exclusive weekly interview with head coach Tom Coughlin:
Q: This season, you've been in every game but one, which several players have mentioned this week. This week, you play the 13-0 Carolina Panthers. If you beat them, can it change the perception of how the team feels about itself?
Coughlin: "Well, I'm sure it can going forward, no doubt. But it keeps us in the hunt, that's what the most important thing is. I get it where everybody wants to focus on their 13-0. I want to focus on our chance to win the division, that's where I'm coming from. And to beat a team of this stature, at this time of year, to give you the kind of momentum you need going down the stretch here, would be outstanding."
Q: You did finish the game Monday night in Miami after you talked about doing just that so often. Can that success help you the next time you're in that situation?
Coughlin: "It can give you the confidence that you need in those situations and allow you to handle them in a positive way. And the big thing about it is, our defense got the ball back for us twice there. And offensively we didn't convert one time, and with four minutes to go, we did. But it was good to be in that type of situation where they didn't drive the ball, either. We had two third-down stops in that fourth quarter, late in the fourth quarter."
Q: The third down play coming out of the two-minute warning that clinched the game – did you believe the best decision was to be aggressive and clinch the game right there?
Coughlin: "In a four-minute offense, you realize that you are going to have to make a play with the pass to keep the ball in your hands. In this season, we've run it on third down and not made it, had to punt the ball. There's always risk, but you know what? We hit a nice second-and-eight for 12 yards to (Dwayne) Harris and he caught it, put it away, and covered it up. And the play to Odell (Beckham Jr.), he made a great move coming off the line of scrimmage to really push the corner off of him, and he really did a nice job finishing that. Eli (Manning) put the ball low, which he was going to do, and Odell made a heck of a catch to have his hands under that ball, which wasn't that high off the ground. But that was the play that you were looking for right there, because you knew you could kneel (after that)."
Q: Both Manning and Beckham said you hadn't practiced the play on which they hooked up for an 84-yard touchdown. Manning looked at the tape and said, "If they're in quarters (coverage), let's try this." Does he do that a lot?
Coughlin: "To say a lot - he puts together his thoughts for the week, based on whatever the daily take-on responsibility is. For example, he's got his first and second down thoughts, his third down thoughts, his green zone thoughts, his two-minute thoughts, he puts those together. And the fact we hadn't practiced that particular move - we've practiced the sluggo move, the slant-go move. They practice that all the time, really since training camp. But that particular aspect of it at that time may not have been repped, but it was talked about when he talked about it, then it was talked about by the guys upstairs, because I could hear them talking about it - when the right spot was going to be, and that was a nice spot."
Q: In the press box, we could see it open up. Did you see it from the sideline?
Coughlin: "Yes, yes. And then he just laid it in there nice, too, perfect. Kept him on pace."
Q: A lot has been written this week about the matchup between Beckham and (Carolina cornerback) Josh Norman, who is widely considered one of the best corners in the league.
Coughlin: "He's having one heck of a year. He's had an outstanding year and, of course, they benefit from the pass rush. They are a real tight coverage team that's very close to a lot of balls in terms of knocking balls out and tipping balls away from receivers. They're slapping the ball out of the receiver's hands when they catch it. They've done a good job of that all year. I mean, they're plus-18 (turnover differential)."
Q: From what you know about Beckham in your two years with him, does he relish this kind of challenge?
Coughlin: "Absolutely. A competitive challenge is always something that motivates him, drives him."
Q: I would assume you would prefer a higher average per rush than the 2.9 yards you had the other night, but to run it 32 times, did you like that?
Coughlin: "I did, I did. I liked the fact that you saw the results throwing it 31 times versus throwing it 46 times or whatever. I did like the fact we got that number up there. Obviously, I would have liked to have broken the 100-yard barrier (the Giants ran for 92 yards) and had the per-carry average higher. But the fact that we were doing that, we also won time of possession, which we haven't won that many times this year because of no-huddle and what have you."
Q: Ereck Flowers is proving himself to be exceptionally tough, playing through his ankle injury. Have you had a young player like that before in your career?
Coughlin: "Not like that. He's had injuries that have taken guys three weeks and he practices the next day. He is a tough, tough kid. He wants to play and he wants to do his part, and God bless him for it."
Q: Were you frustrated by the tackling in Miami?
Coughlin: "Yes, because we were not a good tackling team last week. I was asked if you can improve and yes, you can improve, you better be able to improve. You have fundamentals that you fall back on, but basically it's getting your feet in position. Get in position and make the play and do it as a team. If you can be in position to pin the ball carrier, the receiver, whoever it might be, the quarterback in, then you've got a chance to hit him from all kinds of angles and you're not going to suffer that missed tackle. So too many one-on-ones there and not enough team surrounding the ball carrier."
Q: Cooper Taylor is a guy that was cut earlier this year, he was brought back on the practice squad, and now he's one of your three safeties. Are you impressed with his perseverance and not giving up?
Coughlin: "He's done a nice job of that. He made two special teams tackles and made some tackles at the line of scrimmage. And the one I really thought was great was when he broke through the blockers for the wide receiver screen and made that tackle on (Jarvis) Landry for no gain or minus-two yards, whatever it was. That was a good play."
Q: What prompted you to fill your need at defensive tackle with Barry Cofield, who last played here in 2010?
Coughlin: "He's a veteran football player that's in excellent shape that has done a great job post-surgery from the year before. And we worked him out a few weeks earlier and we know him to be a very smart player. He's tough, he's physical, he's played the nose, he's played the three technique, he can play a lot of positions. Quite frankly, he's gotten into the science of good health. He's not quite as heavy, but he looks to be very strong."
Q: You got run over again on the sideline the other night (by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie). Did you know right away it was not as serious as when you were hurt in 2011?
Coughlin: "I'll tell you what happened and how it happens. I'm five yards off the field for God's sake. Here come the three guys at me and you know there's no place to go. It's one of those things that hits you, 'Oh my goodness, here we go again.' But do I look forward to that? No, absolutely not. But you know what? I could see the pattern coming and I could see the receivers, I could see the defenders coming. I usually get the heck out of the way. We were on the wire down there because our (wireless) headsets were out and nothing was functioning, so we had to go to the wire. Well, the wire is restrictive, plus you have somebody standing there holding the damn thing behind you. It wasn't as easy for me to escape as I've become accustomed to. So there it is. Plus, they kept going full speed five yards off the field. I've not seen that one, either. 'There's the boundary, fellas, can you slow down a little bit?'"
Q: All your years on a sideline, have you developed kind of a sixth sense about when you need to get out of the way? And sometimes, does it happen so quickly there's nothing you can do?
Coughlin: "That's the third time I've been hit. I got hit when I was at Boston College and I got hit at the Jets game out here. You do. For example, and I'm the great one to warn people, when either team is punting, watch out because the gunners will get you every time. You have to be very careful of that. I try to get everybody back. But most of the time, I'm very, very aware. This thing came from the opposite side of the field, and all of a sudden, they were there and there's no place to go. It's like the Jets thing, those two, ballcarrier and defender, were out of bounds for probably 10 yards when I got hit. They were still going full speed out of bounds for 10 yards. Fellas."
Q: The Panthers have forced 33 turnovers, about 2½ a game. Do you continually remind your players this week to take care of the ball?
Coughlin: "Oh, it's a big, big factor. They lead the league in points off turnovers. They also lead the league in drives (started) in plus-territory, which is about 25, and they've scored 18 times off of it - 10 touchdowns and eight field goals off the ball being in plus-territory. You can't make that mistake. And then you've got the other one to point out is, of course, the New Orleans game in New Orleans, where New Orleans is up 14 on them. And they've scored off on a fumble return, and then they took the ball away again and missed an easy, chip-shot field goal. At the end of the quarter, it's 14-0 (New Orleans).
That's a pretty good edge they had. (Carolina rallied to win, 41-38). Then you can also go to the Green Bay game. Green Bay is down, 37-17, they roar back, they score, it's 37-29. (Cam) Newton throws a pick on, I think, the first play of the series. The next shot on the film, there's Green Bay on the 20-yard line. They have to score and go for two to tie the game (they lost the ball on downs). But they were down, 27-7, 37-14 - they were down by a significant number of points. So you've got to keep believing in that, too. And you have to realize what you're playing against. They're a good defense and they fly around, and they cause problems. Nothing looks easy, you know what I mean? It looks hard."
Q: They have outstanding players on all three levels of their defense. They've got Kawann Short, who has nine sacks, up front, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis at linebacker, and a strong secondary. It just seems like from front to back they're very strong.
Coughlin: "They are. Those two inside linebackers, they're as good as you see now, those two guys. And Short is playing out of his mind. And the one corner, Norman, is playing lights out."
Q: Their top running back, Jonathan Stewart, won't play. Do you expect them to keep doing what they've done?
Coughlin: "No question, they just keep right on going. They could put (Mike) Tolbert in at running back and do the same thing. And you'll see (Fozzy) Whittaker play."
Q: Is Cam Newton unique in what he can do?
Coughlin: "He's very unique. He's very poised, he's very confident, obviously. And the run game, they don't have just the zone-read, they design runs for him - the draws, the quarterback sweeps, the counters - they're all designed for him. So he is very unique in that regard, and he has a cannon for an arm. He has 20 touchdown passes in the green zone. It's amazing, he has no interceptions in the green zone."
Q: No interceptions?
Coughlin: "None. Let's get a bunch, that's my point."
Playmakers on the Panthers first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike