When the Patriots face the Giants in a Super Bowl repeat this February 5th the Patriots will have to play a lot better football if they want to get revenge on the former Super Bowl XLII champs. Besides for Brady’s terrible performance last week, the Patriots defense still has room to improve.
Their post season defense is not on par with their defensive play from the regular season.
Despite letting up the most passing yards in the league this regular season, the Patriots were + 17 in turnover differential but during their 2012 playoff run, their turnover differential is -3. They averaged 2 turnovers a game during the regular season, they are averaging just half that in the playoffs thus far, the home dogs.
It is true the Patriots have been stout against the run in the playoffs, but against two run first teams Belichick knew what kind of game plan had to be drawn up. In Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots game plan will have to be centered on defending the pass opposed to the run. Against the New York Giants, it will about blitzing at the right time, and pressuring Eli Manning to throw the ball earlier than he’d like to. We all know Eli can scramble and make a play with his feet ((“The Helmet Catch”) ”Catch-42”)but hopefully the Patriots can con Eli into making a couple bad throws this time around instead. The Patriots weren’t the greatest at rushing the passer this season (14th overall) but they have eight sacks in their last two games. What happens if the game plan is drawn up well but the Giants out execute the Patriots pass defense? Can the Patriots do anything on offense that it hasn’t done already to help out their defense?
In order to counter the zone Eli Manning is in and the well balanced offense he runs, the Patriots will need to throw deep. The Patriots and Giants have similar characteristics to one another when moving the ball up and down the field this season but the Giants offense still manages to stay on the field 43 seconds longer than the Patriots offense does on average. In week 9 of the regular season, the Giants were on the offensive side of the ball 34 seconds more than the Patriots’ offense. After Super Bowl XLII, the Giants were on the offensive side of the ball 54 seconds more than the Patriots’ offense. I am sure Bill Belichick is well aware of this stat when they face the New York Giants and they are going to have to start off fast if they want to do anything about it.
Score Quickly and Throw Deep - You can’t count on a defensive back to blow an assignment in order to hit a homerun ball so you have to get the ball in your playmakers’ hands.
Who can go deep?
We already know that Victor Cruz averaged 18.7 yards a catch during the regular season (3rd most in NFL for a wide receiver with 30 plus grabs) but what about the Patriots? Rob Gronkowski, who won’t be playing at full health this Super Bowl, averages the most yards per catch (more than 30 catches) as a Patriots receiver with 14.7 yards a catch. Right behind the Gronk is Deion Branch who averages 13 yards a catch. Although Wes Welker torched the Miami Dolphins for a 99 yard score in week 1, Wes is also averaging 13 yards a catch this season, he’s not the greatest deep threat for the Patriots, so who is?
The Giants were great at preventing 40+ yards on passing plays this season so it will be a challenge for Patriots O line to give Brady time to throw deep, but if anyone’s number will be called to catch a deep ball from Brady in the 2012 Super Bowl, it’s Chad Ochocinco. Chad Ochocinco has done it before with the Bengals but on a consistent basis! He can be trusted to make a huge a play when in need and that is the type of player he is. His legs are also fresh, he’s barely been utilized this season, and the Giants will least expect him. What better way to show his desire to be back with the Patroits next season by making a huge play in Super Bowl XLVI when they need it most? What if Ochocinco is the X factor for the Patriots in this game, we have seen stranger things happen. Out of the 15 catches Ochocinco has this season, he is averaging 18.4 yards a catch. He is the best candidate to go deep and make a play down field for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
Other Deep Ball Candidates
Deion Branch - ran a 4.47 in 2002
Tiquan Underwood (Jaguars Mr. Irrelevant pick) - ran a 4.36 on his pro day in 2009
Danny Woodhead - ran a 4.3 forty on his pro day in 2008.
Mathew Slater – ran a 4.3 forty on his pro day in 2008. Slater has one catch this season for 46 yards.