For the fifth time in 11 years, the Patriots are making an appearance in the Super Bowl, and they’re facing off against a familiar foe. We know the offense can score points, but will the defense be able to keep Eli Manning and the Giants in check? Here are three keys for a New England victory.
1. Keep the Giants off the field
Manning proved he belongs in the elite quarterback discussion after engineering five fourth-quarter comebacks during the regular season, including one against the Patriots back in Week 9. The last thing New England wants is to allow the New York offense to stay on the field.
Stopping the Giants on third down this postseason has been a challenge, as they’re clicking at 44 percent, and the Patriots have had issues ending opposing teams’ drives during the playoffs (just a 45 percent success rate). That came against the Broncos and Ravens, two far less complicated offenses than what New England will see on Sunday. The Patriots’ porous D hasn’t faced a dangerous a passing team like New York this postseason, and the more time Manning and his receivers are stuck on the bench, the better.
2. Knock Eli down
The Niners did a fantastic job getting to Manning in the NFC Championship game, sacking him six times overall. The Giants offensive line had its hands full against a tough, physical San Fran front seven, and New England will try to present the same challenge on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Patriots recorded 40 sacks during the regular season, averaging 2.5 per game. Their pass rush has been far more efficient during the playoffs with eight sacks, five of the mobile Tim Tebow, and three of the not-so-mobile Joe Flacco, which is almost 1.5 more per game than their regular-season average. The Patriots D needs to stay aggressive and knock Manning around to get him off his game.
3. The Brady of old needs to shows up
Tom Brady had a very un-Tom Brady like performance against the Ravens in the AFC Championship game, throwing for 239 yards and two interceptions. It was the first time in 36 games that the Patriots QB failed to throw a touchdown.
On Sunday Brady will need to play more like he did during the regular season when he averaged almost 318 passing yards per game, and less like he did against Baltimore. But that won’t be easy.
Even though the Giants ranked 29th against the pass, their secondary has tightened up as the playoffs have progressed. New York has allowed just shy of 220 passing yards per game during the playoffs, 35 yards less than they did during the regular season. The Giants’ secondary is finally healthy, and the front seven will try to make Brady as uncomfortable as possible.
It’s up to the QB, who has the talent and the weapons, to take advantage of mismatches and stretch the field.