INDIANAPOLIS — The defense, specifically the defensive line, knows what’s at stake. And more importantly, they realize they hold the keys to slowing down Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The last time these two teams met, Nov. 6 in New England, the Giants’ pass rush harassed Brady into uncharacteristic mistakes, including two interceptions.
“We have to get after him; that’s what we have to do,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “If not, he can pick our defense [apart]. He can throw the ball even if our coverage is very good. That’s scary. But as defensive linemen we just have to get to him fast enough. We need to get to him fast. … It all starts up front.”
Pierre-Paul led the Giants with 16.5 sacks and has arguably the quickest on-the-snap first step of all the Giants linemen. Despite the other well-known veterans on the team, like defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, the veterans still marvel at Pierre-Paul’s natural ability to disrupt the passing game.
“He’s a huge part of our defense,” linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said of Pierre-Paul. “When you look at the kinds of things he does, not just speed and power, but his understanding of our defense and what offenses are trying to do to him, is amazing. It makes them account for him on every single play, regardless of what they are trying to do.”
Pierre-Paul is the arguably the most famous Big Blue defensive lineman and unquestionably had the best statistical season, but the easiest way to Brady will be a direct line — and that duty lies on the defensive tackles.
Both interior starters, Chris Canty and Linval Joseph, hold those keys and each acknowledged that getting to Brady is a high priority. But they both said they must stop the run first, so they can eventually try and meet their teammates in the backfield.
“You have to focus on run first because you can’t fight the war on two fronts. In order to get to pass-rush situations you have to get them into down-and-distances where they have to throw the ball,” said Canty. “You can’t pass rush on second-and-five or third-and-two. You want those second-and-seven and third-and-sixes. … Our defensive line is very cognizant of that.”
Joseph added that despite the fact New England seems like a pass-happy offense, they are very effective at gashing defenses with the run if they focus solely on attacking Brady.
“You have to stop the run first,” Joseph said. “They’re a very sneaky run team and I want to stop the run first, personally. I always think run before I think pass.”
But once the run game is under control and the Patriots are forced to pass, that’s when the fun begins
“You have to get pressure on him but everyone has to work together. But if we do that and force him into bad decisions it’ll be a good game for us. Pressure and hits on him are most important,” Joseph said. “Because we can make him flinch or move to spots and do things he doesn’t want to do.”
The Giants have the deepest and most talented pass rush in the league and it’s no secret why they’ve been able to tame Brady and Co. in the last two meetings that have mattered (Nov. 6 this season and Super Bowl XLII).
They had a whopping 48-28 sacks-to-sacks-allowed ratio, which was amongst the leaders in the NFL.
Head coach Tom Coughlin said while it looks like a fluky luxury it was done by design.
“It’s not just a luxury,” Coughlin said. “It’s a style and a way in which we prefer to play. It’s a position that we place a whole lot of stock in.”
Big Blue notes
» Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) missed practice Wednesday, but it’s of no alarm, said Coughlin. That’s been Bradshaw’s ritual during the season, as he usually sits out Wednesday and Thursday and practices Fridays so he stays fresh for Sundays.
»Pierre-Paul said he’s about ready to play right now and their defensive meetings, specifically the defensive line, are oozing swagger: “Our confidence is very high. We know what we have to do and what’s at stake. This is our last game, so we have to give it our all. We have to be the most physical [unit] of the defense.”
»Wideout Mario Manningham said he meant no disrespect towards Patriots utility man Julian Edelman when he was asked his thoughts about the wideout also moonlighting as a defensive back. Manningham initially said he “hoped” to be lined up over the converted receiver but backtracked the next day: “It’s not like that. I respect him as a player. I understand that he’s a good player. I don’t take anything from him but he plays offense.”
»Safety Antrel Rolle didn’t do much backtracking when asked to clarify his bravado. Earlier this week Rolle said the Giants were going to “win this thing. … We’re going to win this thing for a lot of good reasons. We’re going to take care of business, man.”
Rolle, though, wouldn’t go the Joe Namath route when asked to expand on his thoughts: “I didn’t guarantee anything. I said we’re going to go out there and do whatever it takes. [The Patriots] are exceptional at what they do, and we understand that, but so are we. … When we go out there and have that mentality that we have, and we fight, I don’t think we can be denied,” he added. “I’m not saying we can’t be beaten. Any team in the NFL can be beaten. But we are not going to be denied at this point.”
»Former Bergen (N.J.) Catholic High School star and northern New Jersey native Justin Trattou is living out his dream, just like his more famous teammate Victor Cruz. Trattou, a lightly-used reserve defensive end, said while he’s been in awe of the Super Bowl spectacle he’s all about business this trip: “I grew up a Giants fan and now I’m a Giant and in the Super Bowl. You can’t get any more picture-perfect than that. … It’s definitely a great experience, but at the end of the day it’s all business because we’re here to win it and to us we have to make this just a regular day.”
»Rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara said he’s not in awe of the atmosphere, but admitted he’s sometimes in awe of his own defensive line: “I’m sure they’re going to get that done [pressure Brady] and when they do it’ll make [the secondary’s] jobs easier. … It all goes hand in hand but our defensive coaches and the defensive line take pride in getting hits on the passer, legally. It’s fun to watch.”
Giants beat writer Tony Williams is in Indianapolis all week. Follow him on Twitter @TBone8 for breaking news and updates on everything happening at Super Bowl XLVI.