If you respect Bill Belichick for being a student of the game and having tremendous focus, read the following piece on his longtime friend and “mysterious” co-worker Ernie Adams. Very, very interesting piece. You’re sure to enjoy it.
The two determining factors for the game itself will be the Giants defensive line and Eli Manning’s ability to play close to perfect. And, as they say, defense wins playoff games. Stick with me here, Patriots fans. I’ll take these one at a time.
All the talk is that Eli has turned a huge corner in his career and is now approaching elite or elite(a) status in the league. Um, maybe. But this is Belichick’s (and Ernie Adams’) second time playing Eli and they’ve had two weeks to study his recent play. The Patriots defense this year is a bend but don’t break, read and react kind of team. So even if Eli marches the team up and down the field and puts up great numbers on paper, the defense is only looking for those few key plays that make all the difference in the world. They could be an turnover, a stop or stops in the Red Zone that lead to field goal attempts rather than touchdowns or just that one key stop on third or fourth down. Eli doesn’t have to carry the team, but he has to play well enough to at least keep the defense from stacking against the run. I’m not sure Eli has that in him.
As for the Giant’s defensive line against the Patriots offensive line, I give the nod to the defense. But not the Giants defense. When it comes to the passing game, which the Patriots favor, the roles are reversed; Strahan and his gang will be the attackers while Matt Light, Logan Mankins, et al will be “defending” Tom Brady. SI’s Peter King did a good job of breaking down the numbers in this matchup from Week 17. Short story: the Patriots O Line shut down the Giants D Line. Two more factors:
1--King says the crowd in the Meadowlands limited Brady’s use of vocal signals at the line. Super Bowl crowds are notoriously quiet, he says.
2—Not one, but two of the Patriots regular starting offensive lineman AND blocking tight end Kyle Brady did not play. They will on Sunday. That’s kind of a big deal.
So look at the defense: both the Patriots against Eli Manning and the defense of Tom Brady in the pocket. The tricky thing is, the Patriots are good enough to loose both of these battles and still win. The Giants need to win both convincingly in order to have a chance.