EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Defense for the New York Giants starts with the front four.
Stopping the run and forcing the opposition into passing situations will let loose possibly the best group of pass rushers in the NFL. It was the formula the Giants used in 2008 in pounding Tom Brady and stunning the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in the Super Bowl -- and the game plan hasn’t changed for next weekend’s title game rematch in Indianapolis.
The Giants (12-7) want Brady on edge every time he passes. Throw a ball. Expect to be hit. Even the threat of being hit might be enough to influence a play. And that just might be the difference with a ring at stake.
“Look at ’07. That was pretty much the reason why we were in the game, because we kept him off-rhythm,” defensive end and captain Justin Tuck said. “Obviously he is the main reason why (they) are successful. The way to kill the snake is to take off his head. The way to kill an offense as potent as that one is making sure you take care of Brady. Our defensive front will put a lot of pressure on itself to make sure that we do our best to get after him.”
The Giants finished tied for third in the NFL in the regular season with 48 sacks, including 11 in victories over the Jets and Cowboys in winning the NFC East title. They have added nine more in their three playoff wins.
What makes the pass rush so formidable is that it’s not only four guys. The Giants’ line is eight deep. All Pro Jason Pierre-Paul, a University of South Florida product, led the team with 16 1/2 sacks in his second season, while Osi Umenyiora added nine in only nine games. Tuck and backup defensive end Dave Tollefson had five apiece, Chris Canty added four and fellow tackle Linval Joseph had two. There’s also linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, who had 3 1/2 sacks playing as a lineman in passing situations.
One thing that separates the Giants’ pass rush from other teams is its speed. In passing situations, New York many times lines up Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Umenyiora and Kiwanuka -- or four defensive ends. They bring a quickness that Patriots guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters usually don’t see.
And that could put the head of the snake in danger.
“Hey, if that’s the analogy that they’re taking then that’s what it is,” New England receiver Deion Branch said. “I think our job is to go out and protect our guy, protect the snake so he doesn’t get his head cut off. But, hey, that’s Justin. He’s a great player. Trust me, we truly respect that guy, respect what he’s done for the league, what he’s doing for his team, but we can’t worry about that part. We have to worry about what we’re doing and the snake will do his part.”
And the Giants intend to get to Brady again.