Seven Super Bowl Questions: Volume Two

| February 1st, 2012

We continue with my top four questions heading into Super Bowl Sunday.

#4 What will Tom Brady’s approach to the Giant d-line be?

In 2007 and earlier this year Tom Brady was under duress from the fearsome Giants pass rush and one of the most prolific passing attacks in the game was relegated to the land of the ordinary. But this passing attack is a bit different for Brady. He relies on timing routes to his tight ends and slot man Wes Welker. I can’t imagine the Pats will pull a Mike Martz and drop Brady deep in the pocket repeatedly, subjecting him to the likes of Pierre-Paul, Tuck and Osi. Brady will have to hit the quick stuff outside and over the middle. He’ll have to go to the run from shotgun to keep the edge rushers honest. It is the only way he’ll be successful.

#3 Is Gronk healthy and can the Pats survive without his at %100?

If Rob Gronkowski can’t play Sunday I see no way for the Patriots to win this game. Aaron Hernandez is good but he’s far more wide receiver than tight end. Gronk positions himself at the end of the line, delivers punishment to rushers and then revolutionizes the tight end position by catching every ball thrown his way, being borderline impossible to tackle and scoring touchdowns at a clip we’ve never seen in the NFL previously. He is THE mismatch. Not only against the Giants but against the entire league. Without him the Pats will not be able to play the game that ushered them to a 13-3 year and may be looking at long evening in Indianapolis.

#2 How in God’s name can the Pats cover the Giants wide receivers?

They can’t. For two reasons: (1) the Giants wide receivers are as good as there are in football and (2) the Pats secondary is crappy. I talked yesterday about the Pats living in the “big nickel” look, attempting to use quantity to compensate for their lacking in quality. But the truth is they’ll be forced to engage in a shootout unless Vince Wilfork and the great Mark Anderson can harass Eli Manning the way the brilliant Niners front seven did a few back in San Francisco. Without that pressure it could be a field day for Nicks, Cruz and Manningham. (Side note: I do wonder if Shaun Ellis will have something for this game.)

#1 What does this game REALLY mean to Belichick and Brady?

I usually don’t get concerned with intangibles when it comes to the Super Bowl because rarely do they have any influence on the outcome of the contest. But Bill Belichick is one of the greatest football coaches that has ever lived. Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks that has ever lived. And four years ago they were on the precipice of a perfect season. If they beat the Giants that night in Arizona, they’d each have that elusive fourth Super Bowl and solid arguments could be made that each belong historically at the very top their craft. They did not win that game. And earlier this season they lost to Coughlin and Eli once again.

This game has to mean more to them than any other they’ve played together. It has to. If they win they’ll have their redemption, four years later, with an inferior roster. If they win it they’ll each have that fourth Super Bowl and their immortality. If they lose their legacy will be marred by their inability to beat Coughlin and Eli. Their brilliant run together over this past decade will be marked with an impressive (but not legendary) 3-2 record in the biggest game of all. For mortals that record would be more than sufficient. For Belichick and Brady it can’t be.