NFL: Coughlin giddy about game with Panthers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 18, 2008

Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. ó With his team riding a two-game losing streak and getting ready to face the Carolina Panthers in a game for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, Tom Coughlin did the unexpected Wednesday.
The no-nonsense 62-year-old coach was almost giddy, at least by Coughlin standards.
Coughlin answered one question with a pair jumping jacks, deflected inquiries about playing in a pressure game and put his own relaxing spin on the Sunday’s biggest game in the conference:
The Super Bowl champions (11-3) are right where they want to be heading into the nationally televised winner-take-all contest against the Panthers (11-3) at Giants Stadium.
“It is terrific,” Coughlin said. “Can you imagine being this time of year, being 11-3 and playing at home for the chance to have a first-round bye and play at home throughout the playoffs? Think about that; just think about it a minute. If you can’t be excited about this, I’m not sure what the heck you can be excited about.”
Coughlin, who can be grumpy at times during his news conferences, set the tone in this one early when he was asked about the possibility of not playing a meaningful game for three weeks if the Giants won Sunday.
Instead of answering the question right away, a smiling Coughlin did two jumping jacks at the lectern. He then said he wasn’t thinking past Sunday.
Defensive end Justin Tuck smiled when asked about his coach’s antics, noting this is a special time of year.
“That’s not the first time we’ve seen him do jumping jacks,” Tuck said. “He loves what he does. Football is something that he is very passionate about. He had no problem showing us that. Everyone knows him as Commander Tom Coughlin. He is a guy who is very passionate about what he does and he has no problem showing it toward us.”
After his press conference, Coughlin told the team that everything is right in front of it. Second-year defensive tackle Jay Alford appreciated the low-key approach.
“Obviously you lose two straight and it’s tough on you,” Alford said. “You kind of have to remind yourself sometimes that hey, we’re still in this thing and we can win this.”
For many Giants veterans, the two-game losing streak and the ensuring criticism seemingly has restored the chip the team carried on its shoulder in the late-season run to the Super Bowl a year ago.
“We’re 11-3 and you guys may think we are the worst 11-3 in the NFL, but we have to think otherwise,” center Shaun O’Hara said. “Whether we won or lost the last two games, we still have to play this game. This game is what matters. Nothing else matters.”
Guard Chris Snee, who like O’Hara was selected to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, said the Giants can’t worry about the problems they have had in losing to Philadelphia and Dallas the past two weeks.
In both games, the offense generated just one meaningless touchdown.
“We have Carolina coming in here and we have a lot at stake,” Snee said. “We are still in position. We are right where we want to be. We have a game at home and chance to lock things up, so there is no room to look back and we have a very tough team coming in.”