The big game is finally upon us and it’s time for our comprehensive,
yet entertaining Super Bowl preview. We’re going to go into more detail
than “the team that scores more will win,” but less detail than the
ramifications of the Giants “heavy nickel package.” We are going to
begin with the Patriots offense versus the Giants defense.
What Do They Do Best?
New England has an in-line passing game which exploits the opponents
linebacking corps and safeties with their tremendously talent tight
ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Quarterback Tom Brady loves
throwing the deep seam and when opponents adjust to it, wide receiver
Wes Welker is the best in football at clearing out the underneath.
New York has the most talented defensive line in football and there is
nobody better at pressuring opposing quarterbacks. The Giants love to
hit the quarterback early and then make him feel pressure for the rest
of the game even if it sometimes isn’t there.
New England doesn’t have a legitimate deep threat receiver and they
have trouble stretching the field. Teams that have had success against
them have played press coverage against their receivers and dropped
their linebackers while pressuring Brady with only four rushers.
When the Giants go to their “NASCAR package,” they are very small on
the defensive line and are susceptible to the run. New York is very
ordinary aside from Kenny Phillips in the secondary and they will give
up some big plays and untimely penalties. Deon Grant has become a
liability in coverage.
What’s Most Important?
Although third down conversions may be an official stat, first down
could be the most important down in this matchup. If New England can
get four yards or better on first downs, they will have the chains in
their favor and can completely open up the playbook by executing the
quick, short passing game to keep moving the chains.
If New York can be firm on the early downs, they can force New England
into obvious passing situations which will play into the hands of that
devastating pass rush.
What Can We Expect to See?
It shouldn’t be a secret that the New England Patriots are going to run
plenty of no-huddle. The Pats will make the Giants pick a defense at
the beginning of each possession and stay with it. This should let Tom
Brady dictate favorable matchups and ultimately tire out the Giants
What are the negatives of the no-huddle? If the Patriots have multiple
three-and-outs, it will leave their defense vulnerable against an
explosive Giants offense.
Expect to see the Patriots line up in plenty of two and sometimes
3-tight end sets. Bill Belichick isn’t an idiot and although he will
never admit to it completely, he must be haunted from what happened in
the Super Bowl four years ago. New England had plenty of empty, 5-wide
receiver sets on that day and it invited the Giants rush which battered
and bruised Tom Brady. Belichick will learn from his mistakes and
change up the game plan.
Also expect to see New England run plenty of draws and screens. With a
pass rush as fierce as New York’s, they will use their aggressiveness
against them. In the Pats’ glory days there was no better offense in
the league at executing the screen and expect them to move to a more
conventional, throwback type of offense in this one as they can take
control of the line of scrimmage and keep the clock running while
keeping Eli Manning on the sideline.
The Giants defense will blitz Tom Brady as they’ve had success with
that particular strategy before. In the Week 9 meeting between these
two teams, New York blitzed on 31 percent of the downs. Although they
only sacked Brady once, they did force him to go 5 for 16 on those
What is the risk of blitzing? Although the Patriots don’t have a
legitimate deep threat receiver, a poor tackling New York secondary can
turn a quick completion into a big play. It’s also dangerous to leave
the Pats tight ends single covered by any Giants linebacker or safety.
Top Matchup To Watch:
Dan Connolly vs. Giants DT’s- The Giants will try to get a pass rush
from up the middle to make Tom Brady slide left or right. Although
Brady is very mobile in the pocket, he’s not as accurate when on the
move. If Connolly can do a satisfactory job with his matchup, the
Patriots will be able to move the ball.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and