February 2, 2012
Last time the Giants and the Patriots met in the Super Bowl, the game was decided on two plays. First was the helmet catch by David Tyree off a scramble by Eli Manning, in which he was nearly sacked a couple of times, for a first down.
A blown coverage ended the game as Manning found Plaxico Burress alone, allowing Burress to walk into the end zone. That score ended the Patriots chance at an undefeated season and sent them into a three year playoff funk.
How fitting is it that standing in New England’s way once more is the New York Giants. A chance at redemption for the Patriots against the team that their quest for ruined perfection.
The rematch storyline is being played up even though these teams have different personal on both sides of the ball. Biggest reason for the rematch talk is that principle figures are still in place in Manning, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Tom Coughlin.
New York only has five starters from Super Bowl XLII on offense and two from defense still on the team. New England has three starters on offense and one on defense that played in Super Bowl XLII.
That Super Bowl saw the Giants defensive line getting to Brady on a regular basis. New York had five sacks and multiple quarterback hits. One of the best ways to beat New England is getting pressure on Brady.
The Patriots also got to Manning with three sacks and several hits. Getting pressure on Manning will force him to float passes or force throws but defensive backs must make him pay for those mistakes. Even with pressure, Manning as the ability to make a big play if defenders do not take him to the ground.
These two teams also played in week nine of this season. The Giants defeated the Patriots 24-20 on a touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Jack Ballard with 15 seconds left.
The game was scoreless at the half but New England missed chances to put points on the board. Brady threw an interception on the first play of the second quarter from the Giants 29 yard line that could have set up a long field goal attempt.
Late in the second quarter the Patriots left more points on the field. New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 27 yard field goal that would have given the Patriots the lead at the half.
New England received the ball to start the second half but Brady was once again intercepted near midfield. New York used that pick to drive down the field to take a 3-0 lead.
Keeping score, New England left 10 to six points on the field in the first half due to turnovers and missed field goal, while the Giants used a turnover get three points. Missed scoring chances would come back to haunt the Patriots.
The next Patriots possession saw Brady hit by Michael Boley for a sack/fumble that was recovered by the Giants. New York would cash the fumble in for a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead.
So the Patriots missed a chance to take a 6-0 lead (very least in first half) from miscues and even more miscues put New England in a 10-0 hole in the second half. The whole could have been bigger after Julian Edelman fumbled but Manning was intercepted in the end zone on a drive that should have resulted in three points.
New England would rally but their defense couldn’t stop Manning on his final drive of the game. Manning completed three passes for 48 yards and had one run of 12 yards. Another key play was Patriots safety Sergio Brown pass interference penalty on Victor Cruz that set the Giants up at the New England one yard line.
Amazingly the Patriots only lost this game by four points. New England had four turnovers that the Giants turned into 10 points. New England left points on the field with a two Brady interceptions and a missed field goal.
Keep that in mind as these team meet on the field this Sunday. Winning the turnover battle will be a key to which team wins this game.
Breaking down this game, deserves special attention because it is the Super Bowl. I will break down each group on offense and defense.
Defensively (both teams)
The edge of this unit has to go to New York, when talking about the offensive line. Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Osi Umenyiora can rush from anywhere and all three will be on the field at times.
The Giants will rotate defensive line out when possible to avoid wearing down late in the game. This unit could get into trouble if the Patriots catch them unprepared running a no-huddle offense (making substitutions that lead to players out of place or need to burn timeouts) or running the ball effectively that forces this unit to play the run first (slows pass rush).
Passing downs for the New England offense will be key against the Giants defensive line. In the meeting this year the Giants got three quarterback hits and two sacks (one of which led to a fumble).
New England has one defensive lineman who can take over a game. Patriots nose guard/defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, as the ability to be unblockable in the run game and passing game. Against the Baltimore Ravens, Wilfork was a beast and made play after play stuffing the run.
Wilfork will need help from his defensive line teammates and they must wreak havoc in the Giants back field. The Patriots got eight quarterback hits on Manning but no sacks in their first meeting.
Statistically the Patriots had a little bit better rushing defense than the Giants. New England was ranked 17th in total rush defense and New York was ranked 19th in rush defense. The Patriots gave up 117.1 yards per game (4.6 yards per rush) and the Giants gave up 121.3 yards per game (4.5 yards per rush).
Both these units could be a push. New York and New England put a talented group of linebackers on the field.
The Giants will have Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn, and Mathias Kiwanuka at linebacker but on the field for the Patriots Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Rob Ninkovich (4-3 defense) with Tracy White and Dane Fletcher (3-4 defense).
This game could come down to which linebacker unit fails to make a check out of a defensive front, a missed tackle or blown coverage. In their regular season meeting, the Giants linebackers recovered two fumbles, had one interceptions and one sack. While the Patriots linebackers had one quarterback hit.
Neither secondary for these teams are great. New York ranked 29th against the pass in this past season and New England ranked 31st in pass defense.
Both secondaries had an interception in the week nine matchup. New York gave up 342 passing yards but Brady threw the ball ten more times and completed eight more passes.
New England allowed 250 yards through the air as Manning completed 20 out of this 39 passes. Both quarterbacks had two touchdowns.
Can either of these teams make a stop in the secondary will be a major question that needs to be answered. The Patriots have used wide receiver Julian Edelman to cover at times this season and it nearly bit them in the butt against the Ravens until a missed field goal bailed New England out.
Health has been an issue for New England and caused them to have a bad secondary. Both teams are prone to bad tackling in the secondary. Big games are decided by teams that tackle the best.
Overall the Giants have the better defense. Just on defensive line alone New York can gain an advantage. In their last Super Bowl meeting it was the Giants front seven that dictated to Patriots offensive line.
New England must play better defense than it did against Baltimore late. The Patriots could not get off the field on third down in that game.
New York was burnt by several big plays on defense against the San Francisco 49ers. Those big plays mostly came in the passing game with tight ends and running backs.
The Giants forced four turnovers and the Patriots forced two turnovers in their regular season matchup. In the end it was the four turnovers New York was able to get, allowed them to keep the game close so they could win.
New York has defeated New England twice in their last two matchups. The Patriots failed to score more than two touchdowns in those two losses.
To win this game the Giants must keep the game low scoring. A 24 to 20 point game favors New York. New England needs to score points and get keep stops from their defense in game where their offense scores 27 or more points.
Offensive (both teams):
New England has the edge in offensive line. That is not to say New York has a bad offensive line but the Patriots do a better job protecting Brady from all quarterback hits not just sacks and normally commits very few penalties.
Another advantage is the ability to play Sebastian Vollmer and rookie tackle Nate Solder on the field at the same time. Vollmer has missed the last seven games due to injury but will play in this game.
Solder has filled in well at right tackle but mainly lined up as a tight end to help the running game and pass blocking. New England can use both tackles in this game opens up options in the running game mostly. They can also be used to slow up the Giants pass rush.
New York has a good offensive line but allows pressure on Manning at times. The Giants have six of the eight holding penalties called in the playoffs this year.
Penalties on offense are drive killers that normally force a team to punt. While the Giants didn’t allow sack in the regular season meeting they give up eight hits.
New York allowed five sacks and 12 quarterback hits against the 49ers. By contrast against a very good Ravens defense, New England only allowed three quarterback hits and just one sack.
The Patriots were also able to run for 96 yards against the Ravens and the Giants were able to manage 85 yards against the 49ers. New York has been much better running the ball in the playoffs and it all starts up front.
In the regular season, New York was the worst rushing team in the NFL with just 89.2 yards per game. In three of the last four Super Bowls, the last ranked rush team has made the big game.
Arizona in 2008 and Indianapolis in 2009 both went on to lose the Super Bowl. The Cardinals couldn’t run against the Steelers but the Colts had success against the Saints.
New England had the 20th ranked rushing attack in the regular season averaging 110.3 yard and has up that average by 11 yards to 121 rushing yards per game. The Patriots have also rushed for two touchdowns.
Edge goes to New England at running back as well. The Patriots do not rely on one running back to carry the load but a stable of backs.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk have been staples of the New England running game for years. This postseason, Green-Ellis has run very well and has been a tough/physical runner.
Danny Woodhead is not afraid to run into the middle of the defense and is good catching the ball out of the back field. Two rookies could be the biggest weapons for the Patriots in this game.
Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley were inactive against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Ridley had fumble issues late in the season for New England.
If both Vareen and Ridley are healthy, they can break long runs in the rushing and passing game. Fresh legs by both rookies can turn potential small gains into big gains.
New York rush attack as stated before was the worst in the NFL. Running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw carry the bulk of the load.
Both are big backs with big mouths. When Jacobs and Bradshaw want to run hard, they are tough/physical runners but they do not run hard every game or every down.
Jacobs and Bradshaw has the tendency to run scared or timid and not hit the hole hard. Both are big backs but as big as they are, both back are easy to tackle at times as well.
Both will need to run hard for 60 minutes if New York is going to win this game. Jacobs did so in the first meeting rushing for 72 yards on 18 carries. Bradshaw missed the game due to injury.
Receiver is the biggest advantage the Giants have on offense. New York has a trio of wide outs that can make big plays and take a short pass for a score.
Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks provide Manning with big yards through the air. All three helped New York to the fifth best passing offense in the regular season that averaged 296 yards per game.
In the playoffs, the Giants have 289 yards per game in three games. New York is averaging 8.8 yards per catch in the playoffs.
New England had the second best passing offense in the NFL but it was not their wide receivers that carried the load. Deion Brach and Chad Ochocinco have struggle all season.
Wes Welker is a great slot receiver but he is more of a possession receiver and the Patriots need Branch and Ochocinco must provide a deep threat for Brady and open receiving lanes for Welker.
The Patriots again have the advantage on offense with his unit. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are matchup problems for defenses.
Gronkowski was injured against the Ravens but will play. He provides a deep threat for Brady and is hard to cover in short passing situations. Linebackers are normally too slow to cover him and safeties/corners are normally too small.
Hernandez provides similar problems in coverage and can get deep down the field. New England has used him in the running game as well. Both tight ends can line up on the line or out wide.
They both are a big part of the Patriots offense. If Gronkowski is at least 75% healthy, he can have a major impact on this game. Watch his effectiveness early in the game and after halftime, to see if he can make cuts and shift his body weight.
New York uses their tight ends but the biggest passing threat is their wide outs. Jake Ballard is the main pass catching tight end with Travis Beckham (who has become more of pass catcher) and Bear Pascoe being more run blocking tight ends.
The Giants tight ends are talented but nowhere near as big a part of the offensive game plan as the Patriots tight ends. Still, New England can’t sleep on the Giants tight ends as offensive weapons.
Eli Manning has been great this season but Tom Brady has been doing his thing longer and better. New England gets a slight edge here.
Brady also broke Dan Marino’s passing record for most yards in a season (along with Drew Brees) as he threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns this season. He helped New England hide a bad defense with an offense that averaged 34 points a game this season (32.1 points in postseason).
Brady is without a doubt a future hall of famer, with the chance to win his fourth Super Bowl in five tries. He also has a chance to avenge his lone loss in this game.
Manning has been terrific for the Giants this season. New York has missed the last two postseasons and lost their lone postseason game after winning the Super Bowl.
Playoffs have been feast or famine for Manning. This season he has thrown for 4,933 yards with 29 touchdowns. The Giants scored 24.6 points per game with Manning at the helm in the regular season (27 points in the postseason).
Watch both teams offensive line early. The team that hits the other in the mouth early and often has a big advantage in this game. Big games are decided by which team will be more physical on the offensive line. The team that gets a bigger push and forces the other team to change strategy or quit normally wins.
Offensive line play is a must watch early in the game and late in the game. Teams want to set the tone physically early and need protection late to run out the clock or rally.
New England is at their best in the playoffs when they can run the ball. It opens up the passing game and allows more time for Brady in the pocket. New York can keep the Patriots offense on the sideline.
Both the Giants and Patriots will try to jam receivers at the line. New England will try to get the Giants wide outs off their routes and New York will try to get hands on the Patriots tight ends.
Free releases for receivers will be key for both teams passing game. New York and New England will scheme up ways to get a free release for their receivers.
Watch the tight ends for the Patriots and receivers for the Giants and see if they get jammed or they escape with an easy release. If either team can get a jam at the line, watch the check down receiver on plays (normally a running back).
Brady has averaged 110.7 passer rating in wins this season and 86.3 rating in losses. He has eight touchdowns to six interceptions in loses as well. Against the Giants he has averaged a 75.4 passer rating (worth watching as game goes along).
Manning on the other hand averaged 102 quarterback rating in wins and 82.3 rating in losses this season. He has a 77.9 passer rating against the Patriots.
Bill Belichick has the reputation as a genius coach. Against the Giants and going for a perfect 19-0 his team looked tight and played not to lose. The Patriots have never put a team away in the Super Bowl as of yet.
That does not mean Tom Coughlin is the better coach. Coughlin has a 4-4 career playoff record and has missed the last two postseasons.
Belichick on the other hand has the chance to win more playoff games than any coach in NFL history before his career is done. He must have his team prepared but lose on game day.
Coughlin has more to gain with a win. He can best Belichick in two Super Bowls, which would say a lot when he is done coaching.
Super Bowl XLVI is a classic offense (Patriots) versus defense (Giants) matchup. Can New England score points or can the Giants get to Brady?
Can the Patriots or Giants run the ball? Which team makes more mistakes?
New York has won before but New England gets a chance at revenge. Brady can join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana with four Super Bowl wins.
I feel he is going to play lights out against the Giants in this game. Belichick will regain the genius label with something he has added for this game.
Also in the regular season matchup, New England had four turnovers and still almost won. If they had done better protecting the ball and making the most of their scoring chances, the Patriots would own a victory over New York.
Finally, Las Vegas has the Patriots as a two and half point favorite but everyone else is picking the Giants to win. New York is an underdog in the eyes of the bookies but a favorite by analysts. New England is an underdog by the talking heads but a favorite in Vegas.
In reality it will be the Patriots who play the no respect and underdog card in this game. The Giants have heard all week how they will get to Brady all game long, which should motivate the New England offensive line.
I am going against the grain. It is Brady’s game. It is Brady’s time, again.
Pick: New England Patriots
Score: Patriots 41 Giants 27