The Giants visit the Saints on Monday night and a loss puts them a full game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East.
The Giants desperately need a win in New Orleans as the Packers head into the Meadowlands next week. And the Giants are at risk of digging a hole too deep to climb out of during the stretch in the NFC East.
Sean Payton issued his final injury report on the Saints, and at his media briefing on Saturday said the NFL was a quarterback-driven league and that it is important for a team to have stability as his team prepares for its Monday Night Football Game against the Giants.
Pqayton said defensive tackle Turk McBride (ankle) was out, and that linebacker Jon Vilma (knee) would be a game--time decision on his availability. Vilma has missed the last several games and it's likely Payton will keep him on the sideline for another week or two because Jo-Lonn Dunbar is filling in admirably for Vilma.
“Let me go through our final report here in regards to our players. DE Turk McBride (left ankle) did not practice; he’ll be out for this game. Jon Vilma (left knee) did not practice; he’ll be questionable. DE Cameron Jordan (right hand) was full; he’s probable. CB Patrick Robinson (stomach) was full; he’s probable. It’s just those four players. We’ll see where Jon’s at on game day. We have a lot of time between now and Monday night.”
Are the Giants better than other teams at dictating a slow game pace?
“There are some things that go into how a specific team can control a game. One thing is they’re good on third down. When you’re able to possess the football, then you can gain control to some degree or play maybe as you want to. Usually that ties with a running game and it ties with good defense. Their pressure and their ability to get after the passer is exceptional. Offensively you have to be mindful of that and you have to really make sure on first and second down you’re getting your positive yards. When you get into those third-and-eights or nines or tens, I think that plays to certainly the advantage of any team you’re playing, but definitely the team we’re playing this week. You’d like to think each week that you’re going to be able to have that control of a game and play it the way you see fit, and yet you’re always mindful of how the game is actually going and you have to be flexible enough to recognize that and adjust and quickly get that communicated to your players. Having the chance to play this game at home is significant, especially when we play at home on prime time in night games. Our fan base and that stadium is a big plus and it’s something that has served us well. It will be a factor in this game Monday night. There will be a lot of excitement about it. It’s an important game for both teams. When you’re playing games in late November and December that are significant, it’s exciting.”
Can you talk about why this team plays really well in prime time games at home?
“I think there’s the actual noise element that makes it so challenging to deal with in regards to the snap count and in regards to rushing the passer in the passing situations. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you talk about a home-field advantage. I think we have a real educated fan base and they understand when to be loud. This is a game when we’re going to need their best stuff too. We’re going to have to play exceptionally well to win this type of game. We’re going to have to be outstanding in regards to our crowd support. It’s hard to put an exact worth to what that does, but there’s a total when a game finishes that whether it’s an offsides, whether it’s late getting off a ball on third-and-eight and we get pressure as opposed to the quarterback being able to find his time for the third receiver. It’s tough to specifically say here’s exactly what the fans scored, but we know that it’s substantial.”
Did you ever find yourself conflicting with the offense in New York when you coached the Giants since it’s not the typical offense we know you like?
“If you went back really and studied the tradition, I’ve talked with Bill Parcells about that, and his first Super Bowl team was pretty explosive offensively. Coach Coughlin was a member of that team as an assistant coach, but they obviously had very good quarterback play. They were strong on the offensive line. They were explosive at receiver. It really came to fruition when you saw that win that they had out in California against Denver for that first Super Bowl. Shortly thereafter, their next Super Bowl win was with (Jeff) Hostetler when Phil Simms was hurt, and one of Bill’s strengths was understanding the team he had at that time. Ottis Anderson was running the football well and they had an outstanding defense. Both Super Bowl seasons they were outstanding defensively. That kind of took on a shape of its own. More recently with Tom and Eli Manning with the Super Bowl win over New England, I think there is that perception that it’s been a place that’s had great tradition. The elements in the old Giants Stadium were significant in throwing the football later in the year with the wind being a big factor along with the cold weather. I think when you look statistically at their big plays down the field with Eli throwing and their big receivers going up and making plays above their head, I think you sometimes grow to have a perception of what historically has been a way that an organization has won. The one common denominator has been real good defense. I think it’s varied over the years as to what they’ve been offensively.”
Eli Manning right now has the most consecutive starts for an NFL quarterback. What does it mean for a franchise when you draft a guy who is able to play every Sunday?
“A lot is talked about when we use that term stability. I think stability exists not when you just have the same person in place, but when you feel like you have someone who’s outstanding in place and you can continue to build a team around in other spots. I think in New York that’s the case. When you draft a quarterback and then you find out that his development and his production has matched what you hoped it would be when you selected him or when you signed him, i.e. Drew Brees in free agency. That’s when you begin to maybe use that term stability. Not only do we have that continuity or the same player back, but we have production and we feel like it’s something that can help us win championships. That’s significant. I think it’s a quarterback-driven league. I think that you’re trying to surround that player in your program with all the other different elements that can help you win a championship. When you have the quarterback that you know can win a championship, that’s a big part of your personnel equation in regards to getting to where you want to go.”
What’s it like knowing you have a quarterback like Drew Brees on draft day and you know he’ll be there, whereas other teams are looking for quarterbacks?
“We’re in the procurement of talent business. That’s essential and vital to the long-term health of your team, not just the short-term. Each year there are times when you go sign a player more on a short-term basis in free agency that can help add a presence to your team and you have a vision for what you’re looking for with that player. When it comes to young players in the draft, I think that each year when we put up our board, on the right hand of our board we put up every team and we put up what we think are those team’s specific needs because that’s valuable information as the draft begins and you’re looking at teams ahead of you that might want to select the same player or maybe not. Clearly everyone in our league places a significant value on the signal-caller and we’re no different. That’s an important element to winning football games. When it comes to draft strategy what’s important is at least your research and knowledge of what your peers want to do. There’s no certainty to that, but it’s what you think they want to do in regards to their need. That helps when you go through the process.”
Do you circle games in which you’re playing former teams you’ve coached for?
“Someone from New York asked me a similar question like that earlier in the week. It seems like a long time ago that I coached there. It was probably the most important stop for me as an assistant coach in my early career. I had just spent two years with Philadelphia in 1997 and ’98, and then I had that opportunity in ’99 to go to New York. What’s significant about it is there’s a rich tradition there of not only good football teams, but also an organization that has been looked upon by us in the league as one of the flagship teams and one of the flagship organizations. Just having the chance to work with so many of the people that are currently in the building and a number of people that are no longer with that team, it was a huge step for me spending four years there and having a chance to work with the late Mr. Tisch and the late Mr. Mara. Those were special opportunities that don’t come around very often for young coaches. In that setting in an area that obviously has a lot of media coverage to build a reputation and be a part of some very good football teams and more importantly some very good people is something that I’ve never taken for granted. Leaving for that opportunity in Dallas, I always looked back at those years as some that were for me years of me being very grateful and humble for spending four years there with the Giants and recognizing that’s a special place and it has been over the years and to have had a chance to go to Dallas, another place that has had great tradition, to some degree if you eventually have a chance to become a head coach you’re a little bit of a product of the people that were involved along the way – the real good coaches, the real good personnel people in the organizations that you’ve worked. I’ve been real fortunate that way. When it comes to big games and getting ready to play big games, I think we’re very unbiased as to who it is and more really focused on it’s a good football team and it’s a team that’s well coached. I’ve said this a number of times, whether it’s a Bill Belichick or a Tom Coughlin, these guys are special coaches. These are guys that have had success not just on a short-term basis, but over the long haul. I think that’s important to the history of our game and it’s certainly as a young coach, you look at it as a tremendous challenge. We know coming into this game that this is a team that’s hungry and will be ready to play. we’re going to have to have that same mindset and have to match that same intensity and have that same hunger coming off a bye.”
Do you think the Dan Marino record is important to Drew Brees?
“I think he answered it best last week. The very first word out of Drew’s mouth was winning football games. I think if that were to come while we were winning football games, then that would be a great achievement and accomplishment and one that is really more of a team accomplishment rather than an individual accomplishment. I think all those other things that come from winning games, whether it’s Pro Bowl nominations or records, I think the special thing about the locker room that we have is that every one of the players would say it still starts with us being successful winning. It really transcends any individual feat for all of us and that’s what you’re really hoping to get when you build a program that the one element of winning football games, whether it’s 6 to 3 or 36 to 33, it does not matter as long as you win the game and have a good season and give yourself a chance to play for championships. If it’s not the case, then you’re missing the beat a little bit. I think all of us feel that way.”
How important is the stability of the coaching staff to the team?
“I think it goes right up the food chain. Ownership has been consistent, the General Manager and the people in our personnel side of what we do and the coaching staff right through the roster, these are ingredients that history has told us are important, not essential, but important to having that staying power that you look for as a team. How to you place a certain value on any one part of that? It’s hard to do and yet the sum total of it all is what’s most important - be it the staff, your coaching staff, the General Manager, your owner, your quarterback, your middle linebacker – those are the things you look to put in place so that every season you’re looking forward to an opportunity to win a championship.”
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams joined Sean Payton and Pete Carmichael in Friday's final media briefing and offered that Giants quarterback Eli Manning was playing very, very well.
Williams also said that his defenses want to turn seven points into three points when an opponent is in the red zone because that will keep you in games as long as Drew Brees is your quarterback. He also said confidence is contagious.
Williams' pre-Giants comments:
Eli Manning is an experienced quarterback, but he does seem to make an odd play. Do you tell your defense to be on the lookout for that to capitalize on that?
“The big thing with Eli is that I think he’s playing very, very well. I think he’s having a very good season. He leads the National Football League in the most number of deep shots. He leads the National Football League in deep completions. They’re able to get big chunk plays because you do have an experienced quarterback. Their offensive coordinator (Kevin Gilbride) and I are very good friends. We started together at the Houston Oilers in 1990. He was my offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills. I’ve gone against him in Pittsburgh. I’ve gone against him in Jacksonville. I’ve gone against him at the Giants. I know him inside out. I close my eyes with the offense and I see Jimmy Smith running that route, Keenan McCardell from Jacksonville running this route as you see Victor Cruz and (Hakeem) Nicks and (Mario) Manningham all doing those same things, so Eli has done a very good job in being able to get the ball in the playmaker’s hands. What we need to try to do is minimize his shots, limit those explosive plays and do as well as we can by keeping them on the line of scrimmage. I think they’re a very, very well-coached team. I have a lot of respect for Tom Coughlin for a lot of years. There were a lot of years I was in Tennessee and he was in Jacksonville and then when I was at the Redskins in the division and him with the Giants. He asked me to talk about going down there to interview with him at that time and I ended up going to the Redskins, so this is a well-coached team, a very good quarterback, a top echelon quarterback in the league. We’re going to have to play very good and one of our better games on defense”
When you look at the red zone defense are you more concerned with the percentage or the number of possessions that have been in the red zone?
“If you take a look at it, we’ve always been a pretty good red zone team wherever I’ve been. This year and I never like to make an excuse, (but with) not as many reps in training camp and the offseason as you’d like, we’ve given up too many touchdowns down there. That’s where we’ve done a good job in the past, minimize the penetrations, don’t let very many opportunities go down there. Once they’re down there, kicking a field goal is okay. Rushing a field goal and getting after those…we have some good field goal rush guys on our team. That’s what you have to do. We went through a stretch there where we would have a breakdown there or we would be unaware of something happening there, ball hit us and we drop it. The last couple of weeks, we’ve really done a better job down there. We really have to continue, when teams get down there, we have to make them kick field goals and if you make them do that, you’re going to be in games with Drew Brees. I guarantee you that if you can take the seven and turn them into threes, you’re always going to be in the games.”
How do you think the fact that there running backs are a little depleted will affect their game plan?
“They’re going to do the same thing. I close my eyes and see year after year after year a different person in that spot and they’re going to do what they understand how to do, going about things, have a lot of respect for the backs that they do have. They maximize the skills. That’s the one thing about a Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride team. They’re going to take the things that a particular athlete does, fit them into their deal, but then maximize those things and only ask them to do certain things. If this running back is that type of way, he’ll run that type of run. If this running back is versed in some of those other things than they’ll run a different style of run. But it’s all within their system. Hopefully we can recognize that. It’s kind of like here come’s a fastball, here comes a changeup, here comes a curveball. Each time around a running back comes into a game it’s a little different style. We do that here. Sean (Payton) does a great job here of maximizing what Pierre (Thomas) does, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory and Darren Sproles. You have to recognize that too, because there are certain things you don’t have to play, you don’t have to defense when a certain guy’s in there. Can you process that and jump on the things they are going to do then you have a better chance of playing defense when you can recognize those things and they don’t catch you off guard.”
You have some new guys and some injuries you’ve fought. How can a big play like in Atlanta, jumpstart things?
“Confidence is contagious. In that respect, our guys have done a really good job in a lot of situations throughout the course of the year. We let one get out of the gate earlier in the year in the same identical situation at Saint Louis and I wasn’t very happy about that particular play. They have not liked my approach to talking about that play. I was real proud about what we saw and how we saw the play they were getting ready to build in a real crucial time of the game and you know that play that we end up on the fourth down play would not have had a chance if Jo-Lonn Dunbar hadn’t made such a good play on third down. Those back-to-back plays were huge plays and gave a chance for the offense to get the ball back and win it in overtime. It’s never just one play, but you’d always point to what is the most signifcant play. Those were significant plays in overtime. The fact that we played and turned them away twice in overtime, very few times do you see a chance in overtime to send them back out there the second or third time. Typically somebody’s going to get in field goal range to win the game. We had to get them off the field two times. Hopefully that’s contagious and hopefully we continue to improve on that.”
Is Jo-Lonn getting talked about enough for the job he’s done in replacing Jonathan?
“I don’t’ know from out there, because I really don’t pay attention to what’s out there. You keep a secret and let it stay here as long as possible. We’ve had a lot of respect for him since I’ve gotten here. It didn’t’ take me very long to figure out how sharp and smart he was. Joe Vitt and I have kind of made a career of it all the years we’ve been in the league of smart, tough guys. As I said before, we all have warts. I have warts, you have warts, we all do. Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s sharp. He is tough as nails and he won’t back down from a fight on the line of scrimmage, down the field or whatever. We’re really proud of what he’s been able to do and not miss a beat in that respect of changing the style of defense we want to play, because we want versatile players. Joe Vitt does a really good job as you watch and see. We’re not patterned here and built here just because the next guy on the depth chart goes in. We play so many packages in linebacker defenses, all those linebackers are cross-trained. Jon Vilma may be the only one that plays one linebacker positions. The rest of them have to be able to play all three or four of the linebacker positions we have. We’re able to play a lot of different things because we have smart, tough guys. Jo-Lonn’s one of them.”
Does it help that now he’s playing what he calls his natural position?
“Yes, it has helped him and to his credit, never complained once, maybe when we were playing him in a tough position. He’s had to play the strongside linebacker for the first couple years I’ve been here. In fact the last preseason game in ’09 and I tease him all the time is that if we to give him the Heisman, we would have given him the Heisman after that preseason game, because he had 18 or 19 tackles in that last preseason game against the Dolphins. He just played lights out. He said if you play me at my natural position, I can do that all the time. It’s kind of the give and take back and forth with him, but he’s never once complained about where he plays. He understands his role. He understands where he fits into it. Jon Vilma’s our defense captain. He’s our Drew Brees on our side of the ball. Jo-Lonn will fit in anywhere and now he fits in there because JV hasn’t been able to answer.”
I notice receivers have never seemed to have a lot of big games against you. Is that a point of emphasis?
“It is a point of emphasis. It is a point of emphasis. We make this game way too complicated. My father who is still living, I’ll have a voice mail after every game. He’ll be talking about several things and thinks he knows everything and that he knows a lot about secondary even though he doesn’t. What he does though is that if you don’t let the ball go over your head in a hurry you’ll be in every single game. Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve tried to repair or rebuild defenses is I’ve attacked the secondary first. When I got here, the secondary was struggling. You change the people, improve the people or backup and we play as you watch us play it all the guys like Gruden razz me on film, you see us play inordinately deep to prevent the big play from going over the top. If you don’t’ let the ball go over the top it will be a slugfest down to the wire, but these teams that let the ball go over the head in a hurry, let one dynamic receiver beat them over the top over and over again, you have to be kidding me. Why not put two, three guys on him. If we have to put two or three guys on him somebody else has to stand by themselves so we can change what you want to do. What the Giants do a good job of is they keep it spread out and they do a good job of self-scouting. They move the ball around to lots of different people. A veteran quarterback knows it’s harder for defenses to zero in on one guy when he can spread it around. Drew does it here as well as anybody in ball. You ask a question to Pete (Carmichael Jr.) a while ago about Devery (Henderson) and (Robert) Meachem. When they were on a tear, all of a sudden defenses are very aware of those guys, so Drew sees that. Drew sees the coverage taking that person away in that position and what he’ll do is for the next two or three weeks is get you to move back here, he’ll feed the guy over here and it won’t be very long before that guy is running by you again. Drew can manipulate that. Eli is good enough to manipulate that same thing. Right now if you take a look at the stats, they’ve attempted more deep balls than anyone in the league and completed more deep balls than anyone in the league. We have to do a good job of that. We have to do a good job of minimizing those shots down the field.”
Also, here is the Q&A with New Orleans Saints coach Pete Carmichael:
What were some things you saw in the Eagles-Giants game that appealed to you that you have to attack in this game?
“The first thing is you have to account for their defensive line. They’re not specialty guys. These are guys that are good at both rushing the passer and defending the run. Their linebackers are physical, their safeties are physical, and the corners have good ball skills. They’re going to challenge us. We just have to be ready to play our best game.”
What do you guys have to do to prevent turnovers in this game?
“Obviously we have to do a good job of protecting the quarterback and then make good decisions with the football. They do a good job up at the line of tipping the balls and their corners have great ball skills so we have to be accurate with the throws.”
Do you think it’s interesting that Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson haven’t been as much of factors as they were early in the season?
“No, I think it’s kind of been the flow of how the game has gone. We still consider them a big part of this offense. They’ve done a great job blocking in the run game for us. Their time will come.”
by Ed Staton