Re: being the underdog
It's nice to be the underdog. You get to fly under the radar a little bit. Have some extra motivation. Everybody's always talking about respect—how can we attain it individually and as a team. As the underdog, that plays heavily into your gameplan and your motivation for the week.
Is it nice to have a second season?
Of course it is. This game is about getting to the playoffs. However we got here, we're here. We're not sorry about it. We did some bad things along the way, but we did some good things last weekend. That needs to carry over if we expect to carry on.
Do you see something in this club right now?
I think it's the same thing we've always seen in this team. It's a resiliency. We fight hard, no matter what's going on. Sometimes it doesn't play out that way because we make mistakes and get discouraged. I think we play hard and that's the most important thing.
What did you notice about the flow of the playcalling?
Kevin is not only great at telling us what we do wrong, but telling us what we do well. And he took a lot of input from us on Saturday night. Particularly on the run game, when I would see things or recognize things. Our line would see things. We could suggest things to him and he'd come back to the play or adjust it in whatever way we need to, and it was real productive for us. Obviously it was, and it was intergral in helping us win.
How long did it take you to get over last year's playoff loss?
All year really. All off-season. It was the driving force to come back strong this season. Now we're here again. It's funny after the game last year, after the game to Carolina, it was tough to think about going an entire year or season to get back to this point again, and here we are with another opportunity, and hopefully we can take advantage of it.
What things need to change leading up to this playoff game?
It's a different level of play. You go from preseason to the regular season and it is the big jump. The jump is even higher as you go from the regular season to the playoffs. So much is at stake because you realize that there are no more. If you lose, you come home, pack your bags and you're done. So there needs to be better urgency and better attention to what it takes to win.
Every game is a new opportunity for you to extend your career. Are you looking forward to continue playing?
Of course. I hope I keep expanding on my career and having career days on my last game. That would be nice. Especially the rivalry that Philadelphia has always presented us. Being on the road and being in the playoffs, there's tons of incentive to be extra motivated for this weekend.
What's the difference in Eli between the games he plays well and the games where he has a harder time?
I'm not sure what the difference is. But when we support around him better, we get wins. It's hard being a quarterback in this league, especially when you struggle, because then they start coming after you. We expected Washington to come after us, but we handled it early and they got away from it. But we know that Philly's going to come after us, as they always have in the history of our rivalry. And we need to do the best we can to support Eli so that he can get an opportunity to make plays.
They're going to be focused on shutting you down.
That's going to give us opportunities to throw the ball downfield. Plaxico and Tim Carter have to rise to another level. And I think they're capable of doing that. It's exciting for those guys. Obviously the run game has been our strength. Last week it was. We expect eight, nine guys in the box, but we're going to try to be successful anyway.
Did you ever think 234 yards in a game like that was possible?
It just happens when good things are working. A lot of people have alluded to the fact that the Redskins were poor tacklers. But if you look at the tape, we were better at executing. The first touchdown run, Bob Whitfield blocked two guys. Finn blocked it as good as he can. Snee came to the hole as clean as possible. On the first 55-yard run we schemed it on the sidelines and handled the blitz that they brought. I made one guy miss and it was a shot to the end zone. Plaxico beat me down field to block the remaining guy in the end zone. So it wasn't that they were tackling poor. I think people are trying to take credit away from our effort. It was us playing to a higher level. Above the x's and o's and making the big plays that we need to win. And that's what we hadn't done the previous six or seven weeks.
Re: Philadelphia's defense
Jim Johnson is very aware of our strengths and weaknesses. They've played us two times a year, every year. But we know them intimately as well. It's like a chess match. Just clash all the pieces together and see what happens.
Are you impressed by Philadelphia's win streak?
I am. It's a credit to Andy Reid with some of the injury turmoil that they had going on there. People would assume that they would falter, but they rose to occasion. That's a testament to everyone in that organization. Starting from the head coach on down.
Do you expect that their game plan will be to stack the box to try and stop you?
Probably. That's what they've said. But you can't ever know until the actual first few series and you get to diagnose a little bit what their plan is. But that's what we expect. Especially after what we did last week in the run game.
Your last two trips to the playoffs have resulted in losses. Does that stick with you at all?
Of course it does. It forces you to think about the importance of every snap and when that game changing play is going to come. You can't have complacency at all when the second season starts. And I think we all have to be aware of that.
Re: the eagles blitz
They're going to blitz. They may not blitz, but force us into more one on one situations and see if we make plays. We don't know exactly, but we'll find out. We're excited for the challenge.
Can Eli handle that?
Eli can handle anything. It's just a matter of us protecting him and keeping him confident, so he's not getting hit and not feeling pressure.
Does the last game with Philly still stick with you?
No. I think we had a shot. We kept it close. We had a chance to win it in the fourth quarter, we just didn't come through and they made the play that changed the game, that won the game. It was a great opportunity, we just had some bad plays and some turnovers last game. We have to eliminate those things and play good football.
What have you learned from your struggles this season?
You've got to play the whole season. This game, it's easy to turn things around. It can fall for you as quickly as it goes well. We struggled, but we found a way to hang in there and win some big games and make it into the playoffs. Now everything gets washed away. It doesn't matter what your record is now, or what's happened. It is a new season and we've got to find ways to win games.
What's the biggest thing you need to change? Is it closing out games?
Yeah, I think so. I think a lot of opportunities—we've had chances to win, we just haven't played our best football in the fourth quarter. When we had a lead, we couldn't hold on to it. We couldn't make up enough ground. So a lot of these games are going to come down to the fourth quarter and that's when we've got to make the big plays. We've got to have the big stops, we've got to get the turnovers, we've got to get the touchdowns. We were able to do that versus Washington. Get some key touchdowns in the fourth quarter. We got a key stop by our defense at the end. We've got to find ways to keep fighting and keep yourself in the game. Play smart football and just make the plays in the fourth quarter to win the games.
Re: the philly blitz
We have to see what their game plan's going to be. The two times that we have played them, they've blitzed us pretty good. The deal with that, is there's going to be sometimes where they're going to get some sacks, get to the quarterback. That also gives us an opportunity for some big plays. We've hit some big plays on them in the past. That's going to be our mentality. They're going to bring it. We've got to do a good job blocking it up, get the ball down the field.
They've done a good job of stopping Tiki. Do you think you have to run the ball effectively?
Definitely. We're going to have to establish the run game. That helps you get into better second and third down situations. If you get stuck in third and long versus Philadelphia, it's going to be a long day. They can do all their blitzes. They can disguise and get into their packages where you have to throw some hots and short stuff. But if you get into third and threes, third and twos, it limits what they do. If they do blitz, you can just get the ball out of your hands quick and get first downs. So that's going to be our gameplan. To have good first and second down production, whether it's running the ball or throwing it. So hopefully we can get Tiki started and run the ball well.
Can this team go out and play smart football and not turn the ball over?
I think so. I think we've had some good games where we haven't turned the ball over really. Against Philly last time we had four turnovers. Two of them were off tipped balls. Two interceptions. That's called football. Hopefully we get some breaks. We want to try to secure the ball and play smart. We have to play our best football if we expect to win this game.
What's your mental state when you hear that they think they can rattle you by blitzing you?
It's fine. If teams want to blitz, it puts our receivers one on one and we feel that we've got the best matchup. You just got to know your protections. Everyone up front has to do a great job of protecting and giving us time to hit some plays down the field. The first game they blitzed us and did a good job for a while and then we finally hit some big plays on it. The last game, we had some chances, they blitzed and they had a couple of big plays. We've got to eliminate that and make sure if they do come with a blitz, the best thing they get is a throw away or a sack. Not get turnovers or mistakes.
What's your mental state?
It's fine. Like I said, it gives us a good opportunity for one on one coverage and some big plays.
Are you embracing the underdog role?
It's fine. It doesn't matter if we're favored or the underdog or what the situation is. It's all going to be settled on Sunday and we're looking forward to the opportunity.
What did you learn from the playoff loss last year?
You've just got to get to the point where if things start off bad or start off slow, you can't try to force things. You can't try to make things happen. That's when mistakes happen. We were still in the game in the third quarter. We hadn't done anything offensively, but we hadn't made any mistakes. We were only down ten points. Then you get frustrated, you've got to start making plays. That's when bad things start happening. You've got to stay within yourself, within the game plan. Play smart football. Hopefully you catch a break somewhere and get things going.
How many times did you go back and watch that Carolina game?
I watched it a few times last off-season. Just checked it out to see what went wrong, what happened. You definitely learn from every game you play.
How did the change in playcalling translate to you in the game on Saturday?
I think we had a good game plan. Washington was coming with some different blitzes and stuff. We just kind of went to a more effective passing game. Add more guys in there where it didn't matter where their blitz was coming from, we should be protected. We had a lot of single high coverage where we could hit some passes. I thought coach did a good job of preparing us and also the guys executed the game plan really well. We stuck with what was working well, hit some big plays and Tiki had some big runs for the win.
Q: Do you look forward to a second chance after last year's playoff game?
A: Just getting to the playoffs is an honor. We're not really concerned about last year. We know playing Philadelphia for the third time is probably going to be a harder game than the first two, because it's the playoffs and with the added adrenalin and knowing the game is going to be a lot faster. We know each other very well. Probably the team that is the most physical and doesn't make mistakes is gong to win this football game.
Q: Why have you personally had success against Philadelphia (both 100-yard games this season were against the Eagles)?
A: It's just the way they play. They confuse you as a receiver and they try to give the quarterback different looks and bait him into making throws. You just have to trust yourself, run your routes at full speed and make the plays. Everybody knows they're a pressure football team. We made some plays into their pressure and that's something we need to continue doing.
Re: Games vs. Eagles
A: It's always a physical game. A lot of trash-talking. There's always a lot of hard hitting. We don't like each other. I noticed that my first time last year playing against those guys. It's one of those games that each team gets jacked up for. Both cities don't like each other. Our fans don't like their fans and their fans definitely don't like ours. It's just one of those games…it puts a smile on the face of all the fans.
Q: Re: Playing in Lincoln Financial Field
A: It's probably the toughest arena to play in. I've played in some difficult places. That's probably one of the top two or three places to go out and play and get a win. Their crowd gets into it. As a receiver you have to look in at the ball to come off the line and their defense thrives on knowing their corners can get quick jams off you based on the crowed noise, knowing you have to look at the ball and not look at the defense. They feed off of that.
Q: On losing six of the last eight games.
A: We're 0-0, so I don't know what losing streak you're talking about. It's a different season.
Q: How different are the Eagles with Jeff Garcia playing quarterback?
A: They're more balanced now, so I think that takes a lot of the pressure off of him, because they're running the ball so well. He's not asked to make all the plays. But because the running game is working so well, their play action and their bootlegs and things such as those are working a lot better because teams have to try to really defend the run.
Q: How can you suddenly come together when you haven't played well?
A: We have to. We have no choice. It's not a thing where you can say if it doesn't come together this week, we come back and regroup next week. Now you either step up or you go home. You can really see what somebody's made of in a game like this.
Q: Is your preparation different for this game?
A: It's going to be one of those games where they know what we do and we know what they do. It's man on man. Let's step up and see who's going to play.
Q: The Eagles are a 7-point favorite. Are they the better team right now?
A: I think anything you say right now is just speculation. They have a better record than us, but I think it's all about who shows up on Sunday.
Re: Different records in the second half of the season?
A: I think that's more of a mental thing. If that helps them and gives them an edge, then fine. But I don't think it's anything we're focused on. Q: How does everyone come together for Sunday's game?
A: I think that's what the playoffs do to you. We're here and we're not going to apologize for being in the playoffs to anybody. Now we understand where we are. Our past doesn't matter now.
Q: How exciting is Giants-Eagles?
A: It's always exciting. Last year we had to go down there to win the division. And of course, they won the division this year. You throw all of those components into this game and the fact that it's a playoff game, it doesn't get any bigger and better than this.
Q: How important is it for Manning to step up?
A: It's more important for all of us to step up. It's not on Eli, it's not just on Tiki. It's on us as a team. That's the mentality we have to have. We can't just back and say, ‘Go get ‘em Tiki', or ‘Go get ‘em Eli.' We've got to all do our jobs.