Pats' line has tough job against Giants' pass rush
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady felt the power of the New York Giants' pass rushers when he was sacked five times in their first Super Bowl confrontation.
Four years later, the New England Patriots' offensive linemen expect another fierce attack on their quarterback in the championship rematch on Feb. 5. The Giants will indeed have plenty of strong, speedy pass rushers zeroing in on Brady.
"This year, they're definitely the best defensive line in football," Patriots right guard Brian Waters said Friday. "The wave of good football players they throw at you definitely makes them a difficult task."
There's Jason Pierre-Paul with 16 1/2 sacks, Osi Umenyiora with nine and Justin Tuck with five. Chris Canty and Mathias Kiwanuka also can put pressure on the quarterback.
"They've got good pass rushers across the board," left guard Logan Mankins said, "and when their backups come in they're good, too, so you're going to always have four guys that are very good pass rushers in the game."
At least Brady has Super Bowl experience against an aggressive Giants pass rush.
The Patriots' quest for a perfect 19-0 season ended with a 17-14 loss in the 2008 Super Bowl. After the Giants scored the decisive touchdown with 35 seconds left, Brady was sacked for the fifth and final time.
Mankins didn't care to discuss his memories of the Giants' pass rush on that day.
"That was four years ago," he said Friday. "Next question."
But Umenyiora thinks the Patriots view the upcoming game as a chance to get even.
"Of course," he said. "I mean, if I were them, that's what I would be doing. Great players — Mankins, (Matt) Light, the (Sebastian) Vollmer kid. They have some very good football players. They were embarrassed about that last game and they are going to do everything in their power not to allow that to happen."
The Patriots have had some memorable, if regrettable, games when Brady's gotten hit.
In the opener of the 2008 season, he suffered a season-ending knee injury when he was hit by Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard. In a 33-14 wild-card playoff loss to Baltimore on Jan. 10, 2010, Brady was sacked three times. The next year, he was sacked five times as the New York Jets won a divisional playoff game 28-21.
But Brady has received decent protection recently. He was sacked a respectable 32 times in the regular season. In the playoffs, he wasn't sacked in a 45-10 win over Denver and was sacked just once in a 23-20 win over Baltimore in the AFC championship game.
The Giants sacked him just twice in their 24-20 win on Nov. 6. But one of those sacks, by Michael Boley, forced a fumble and the Giants took a 10-0 lead on the next play on Brandon Jacobs 10-yard run.
"Tom has been in this position before," said running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who may do more blocking than usual. "We have to come out and just be assignment sound."
At times, the Giants use four defensive ends, trying to generate speed against the power of the offensive linemen.
"That's the biggest difference," Waters said, "knowing who you're going against from play to play. You have to know that every one of those guys have different elements of their game from JPP (Pierre-Paul) and his long arms and his super athletic ability to a guy like Tuck, who is a veteran, a guy who is always going to give you one look and do something different to the bigger guys in the middle, the guys who are real physical."
So what's an offense to do?
It can keep an extra blocker in, a running back or wide receiver. It can have a wide receiver or tight end throw a chip block before starting his route. It can throw quick passes before the pressure reaches Brady.
Draw plays and screen passes can slow down pass rushers by making them hesitate before charging the quarterback, but the Patriots have used those infrequently this season.
Deion Branch came up with an original tactic for him and his fellow wide receivers.
"Well, if we can switch positions with the linemen, hopefully (defensive) linemen move out and then we block the corners," he said with a laugh. "But, overall, there's a lot of things we can do. We'll make those adjustments on the sideline."
They can also fight.
Umenyiora said he and Patriots left tackle Light did that in their first meeting this season.
"I've actually fought him twice, a for-real fight on the football field twice. Me and him have history and we are going to rekindle that," Umenyiora said. "He wasn't as bad in the Super Bowl, but this past game we fought again. I don't know what it is he does, but there is something he is doing that really gets under my skin. I am not that type of guy. He is the only guy I have ever fought on the football field.
"I think he is more important to his team than I am right now. So if we both fight and get kicked out (Pierre-Paul) and Tuck will have a field day."
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J. contributed to this story.