Saturday, February 4, 2012

Key Matchup--Brady vs. Giants' Pass Rush

Once again.

That three-point spread favoring the New England Patriots over the New York Giants in the Super Bowl says the worshipers of Pats' QB Tom Brady continue to bet with their hearts rather than their heads--the supreme no-no in gambling.

Forget idolatry. Think twice. Check out the key matchup in this game. It's not in New England's favor.

Quite simply, this contest rides on how well Brady handles the Giants' notorious pass rush. Can this quick, lethal front seven, lead by Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, harrass Brady into bad decisions and off-target throws? Remember, the Pats' passing attack already has one strike against it with No.1 receiving weapon Rob Gronkowski hobbled by a left-ankle sprain. Slow down the Pats' passing and you cripple the whole offense, since they'll never win on their second-rate rushing game alone. This is a pure passing team that runs primarily as a change of pace. None of their RBs is a real threat.

Undoubtedly the Pats have scoured the tape of the NFC Championship game. They've been watching in horror as the Giant pass rushers force San Francisco 49er QB Alex Smith into a so-so game. On third down plays, he was a total bust. Three things won that game for the Giants--Eli Manning's sharp passing, Kyle Williams' two colossal blunders and the Giants' brutal pass rush. In the two previous playoff games, the Giants pass rushers badgered Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers into ineffective performances.

Will it be any different for Brady? His offensive line is hardly a steel curtain. Yes, anchored by guard Logan Mankins and tackle Matt Light, the Pats' O line has provided some stellar protection for Brady, allowing just one sack in two playoff games. But holding off the Denver and Baltimore pass rushers is a lot easier than stopping the rampaging Giant rush.

The Pats do have an antidote for the Giants' pass rush. Brady's vaunted quick release can neutralize it to a degree. Also, Brady doesn't have to hang onto the ball very long since the Pats thrive on short and medium passes, which take less time to execute.

But are Brady's quick release, the Pat's O line and a solid short passing game enough to ward off the disruptive effects of that murderous Giants' pass rush?

Don't bet on it.