The Giants are about done with their preparation and after almost two weeks of dissecting the Patriots’ allegedly porous defense, they’re left wondering where all the criticism is coming from.
“I don’t see what other people see [because] I think their defense is good,” running back Brandon Jacobs said of New England. “They’ve been playing great ever since they lost to us [Nov. 6]. I think their defense is playing well during this whole run [where] they’ve had 11 straight [wins] now. We’re looking forward to hard-hitting matchup.”
The Patriots were among the league’s worst units in yards allowed, yet finished a respectable 15th in points allowed per game. They mostly exhibited a bend-but-don’t-break mentality because most of the time, teams were playing catch-up. That meant lots of fourth-quarter yards gained in vain.
Even when New England employs offensive guys into the defensive game plan, they never really lost a beat. Giants’ wide receiver Mario Manningham made some headlines earlier this week when it sounded as if he was scoffing at the notion of the Patriots using wideout Julian Edelman in the secondary. Manningham later tried to put out that fire, but it was evident that the quirky Manningham was a little unnerved that the Patriots would dare use a receiver -- and former college quarterback -- on him.
Victor Cruz took a more diplomatic route in addressing the Edelman situation and gave props to Edelman for his unselfishness and willingness to learn a new position mid-season.
“I see he’s very raw at that position because it’s not his dominant position,” said Cruz. “But he’s quick, fast and he carries over a lot of the receiver stuff over to cornerback. We’ll see how it goes Sunday. Obviously seeing a receiver playing defensive back is a matchup you want to test. He’s in a position and an area where we’ll test him out early and see how he handles that game flow.”
While Edelman will merely be a fly in the ointment, the Giants’ biggest problem -- literally -- will be game planning around massive nose tackle Vince Wilfork. The 6-foot-2, 350-pounder has been a wrecking ball to opposing offenses in not only stopping the run but collapsing the pocket as well.
How well the Giants neutralize Wilfork will go a long way in determining their overall success.
“He is an animal in the middle,” said running back Ahmad Bradshaw. “He clogs all the holes. He’s just a beast. All we can try to do is contain him and try to run around him.”
Bradshaw and Jacobs both figure to have big roles in the Super Bowl, if only to give what head coach Tom Coughlin craves most -- balance. While quarterback Eli Manning is more than capable at getting into a shootout with Tom Brady, the Giants would rather have a more evenly distributed game plan.
Jacobs, for one, is sure hoping to get numerous touches and wear down a defense that he said is not as lame as many think.
“Forget about the regular season [because] their defense has been playing great throughout the playoffs,” Jacobs insisted. “They did a great job against Baltimore and against that running attack. The numbers they posted [in the regular season], you just have to be out on the field to really realize that they’re good. They have a lot of heavy guys in there and it’s tough to move them. … It’s going to be a dogfight.”
Ultimately, Jacobs said, he believes it’ll come down to what he and Bradshaw can contribute. He feels even with all those flashy receivers in the huddle, the backbone of the offense is still their running game.
“If we can get going and stay patient with the run I think that’ll give the wide receivers an opportunity as well at having a great game,” Jacobs said, adding the confidence in the once-awful running game has picked up during this playoff run. “I feel like we have been doing a great job lately at running the ball. But whatever we have to do to win the game that’s what we have to do. … I feel like we’ll have an impact. Me and Ahmad are not that far off from being some of the best players in our offense.”
Big Blue notes
»Jacobs has been peppered with some odd questions this week, but has handled each query with aplomb. Since this is his first visit back to Indianapolis since his infamous helmet-tossing moment in the Colts fans’ stands two seasons ago, that was naturally a question that continually popped up from the local media. Jacobs, though, was ready with the standard answers: “That was a mistake. It stuck to my glove as I looked to throw it against the bench. I never got it back, but I told them to keep it because they weren’t playing me anyway.”
He joked that should the Giants win he won’t be tossing his helmet in celebration: “It would not be an appropriate way to celebrate. I’m definitely not willing to celebrate that way [because] it wouldn’t be cheap. It ain’t the helmet that you pay for, though. It’s the stupid decision you make to do it. The helmet ain’t but $100, but the fine would be like a 100K. Nah, I’m good.”
Jacobs was then asked if he thinks he could pull off sneaking out of the team’s hotel and enjoy the Indy nightlife, as punter Steve Weatherford said he could do if he wanted. Weatherford pointed out in jest that as a “skinny white guy” he could sneak out of the hotel and enjoy Indianapolis a little bit. But countered that any “oversized black man had no chance of getting out of the hotel without being noticed and hounded for autographs.” When relayed that message by a local NBA affiliate reporter, Jacobs agreed, but added the citizens in Indianapolis have been great to him: “He’s absolutely right. But people don’t really bother you around here. I haven’t been distracted and neither has anyone on this team.”
Jacobs’s relationship with his own fans, however, has been contentious at times. He said while they’ve had their run-ins he has nothing but love for them: “In those situations [getting booed] you’ve got a guy that is out there trying to work hard and win football games. I’m upset and they’re upset when we lose. But our fans have been great for us these last two months, even during our losing streak. We had a lot of people come out to San Francisco and to cold Green Bay. They have been as much a part of this as the players.”
Jacobs is due a $500,000 roster bonus in March -- a fee many feel the Giants won’t dole out, making him a free agent. He refused to speculate, but said if this is the last go-around in a Big Blue uniform, this will be a great way to end his tenure: “I’ve not thought about that [contract situation] and it doesn’t really bother me. I’m sure something is going to get worked out and things will be fine. It’ll just take care of itself. I’m playing in the Super Bowl for the New York Giants and if that’s the way it is [being his final game], there is nothing I can do about that. … But no question about it, it definitely motivates me to go out with a bang.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams live from Indianapolis on Twitter @TBone8.