Hours after the overnight flight back from San Francisco, Tom Coughlin still remembers the sound of joy only a Super Bowl-bound team can produce on a charter flight.
"The noise level was very loud as we came onto the plane," Coughlin said on a conference call Monday night. "The [air] stewardesses were cheerleaders, they were decked out in Giants gear as they have done in two or three weeks in a row now. It was a very excited and happy group. The volume was real loud for quite some time until we all settled in and tried to get some sleep."
The Giants will return to work on Tuesday, when they are scheduled to meet before having an off day on Wednesday and then practicing Thursday through Saturday.
Coughlin said it won't be hard getting his team to focus on the New England Patriots and the task of winning a second Super Bowl in five seasons. Coughlin has been a coach at some level since 1969 and this group of Giants is as focused as any team he has been a part of.
"On Saturday night, they were locked in as well as any team that I have ever been associated with," Coughlin said of the Giants on the eve of the NFC Championship Game. "You could hear a pin drop in the meeting room. I walk around and listen to the meetings, you can literally feel and sense the focus and concentration.
"That was what was so impressive to me, the way that our guys kept that feeling on the sidelines, that encouragement, that the next series would be the series that would be the [decisive] one," he added. "The proof is in the way in which the turnover was created and the outstanding run -- we didn't have that many runs that were good -- but we did have some good ones there [on the final drive]. Those were all dramatic moments."
During the course of winning five do-or-die games in a row, the Giants have also formed an unshakable bond and confidence. They feel that no matter who the opponent is or what the circumstances are, they will find a way to pull out the win.
Even when the Giants and Niners were in a slugfest with both defenses unwilling to budge, the Giants felt it was only a matter of time before they made a play that would turn the game. That came in two fumble recoveries on punts after Niners returner Kyle Williams had a punt bounce off his knee in the fourth quarter and another forced out of his hands in overtime by Jacquian Williams. Devin Thomas recovered both fumbles deep in Niners territory and the Giants converted the two costly turnovers into 10 points, including the game-winning field goal in overtime.
"What I really felt was that somehow, someway, someone, who was not normally someone in the limelight, would make a play that would help us win," Coughlin said. "And we had two of them."
The Giants have had a feeling for weeks now that they were a Super Bowl team. And each week, they continue to get better in almost every phase of the game.
On Sunday, they won their toughest and most physical game of the season and it was a complete team effort as offense, defense and special teams all played well at once.
"There are some teams that didn't get in the playoffs and have the talent and if they could have found that one little switch to turn on, they could have been in the same situation we're in," defensive end Justin Tuck said during his weekly appearance on WFAN radio. "It's all about the team that figures it out."
Besides all the similarities this Super Bowl run has to the 2007 squad that won Super Bowl XLII, the Giants also look a lot like last season's Green Bay team that clicked in the final two weeks of the regular season before winning it all.
"They're kind of similar to how we were this year," Tuck said. "The injuries they had, a lot of injuries we had. Going into the game against us there [in 2010], they didn't know if they were going to make the playoffs but once they figured it out, I told Aaron Rodgers, after they beat us, 'Go win a Super Bowl,' because I felt it, I felt like that team was starting to click like Super Bowl teams do.
"We're starting to get that way and we have been that way the last couple weeks and it's magical to watch," Tuck continued. "You don't have the words to explain."
Coughlin feels exactly what Tuck is talking about. That is why he has had a bounce in his step for weeks now.
The head coach is enjoying this ride but he also understands that the last game of the season is likely going to be the toughest. And that is saying a lot considering the opponents the Giants have faced this season on their brutal schedule and the overtime bout they won in San Francisco.
"The New England Patriots have won 10 games in a row, they are an outstanding football team," Coughlin said of the Patriots, who lost to the Giants 24-20 on Nov. 6. "Our game, came in seems like an awful long time ago in early November. We will certainly look back at that and study real hard all of those games from that point on. Statistically we will have time to study and we know what we will find when we do study, a very good and talented football team that has put together really an outstanding string of wins."