SuperBowl Matchup: Running Game Vs. Defensive Front Seven
On Sunday, the NFC champion New York Giants take on the the AFC champion New England Patriots. Perhaps the key to the match up is which team does the best job running the ball and which defense comes up with the key plays in shutting down the opposition’s running game.
The key to this game will be which team wins the battle in the trenches. The New York Giants offense struggled with their rushing game during much of the season. The loss of star running back Tiki Barber to retirement left a big void in the Giant’s offense.
The rushing game gradually improved late in the season and the Giants had a break-out game of sorts against the Patriots in the season finale
Brandon Jacobs gets most of the work, running the ball and Ahmad Bradshaw has had some key long gainers during the playoffs. The offensive line has done a superb job for New York in the playoffs. They have opened up big holes in key running situations.
The addition of tight end Kevin Boss to the starting lineup has helped the Giants running game and the play of Dave Diehl and Chris Snee has been exceptional. The offensive line will need to continue their strong post season play on Sunday.
For the Giants to win on Sunday, the offensive line will need to dominate the game and open big holes for the tandem of Jacobs and Bradshaw.
Looking to force the Giants to win on the arm of Eli Manning will be the Patriots 3-4 defense. Richard Seymour is the star of the defensive line. He missed a good portion of the season and hasn’t yet returned to his Pro-Bowl form.
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork is very adept at clogging the interior lanes and occupying multiple blockers, which allows former Pro Bowl inside linebackers Junior Seau and Teddy Bruschi to fill the running lanes. Mike Vrabel has been a force in run support this season and was finally named to a Pro Bowl.
The Patriots were exposed by both the Ravens and Steelers running attacks late in the year and the Brandon Jacobs had some key runs in the season finale against a tired Patriots defense (though, with the game on the line, the Giants struggled to move the ball on the ground against the Patriots, which keyed New England’s victory)
At times, the Pat’s linebackers have looked a step slow getting to the outside and against larger sized running backs, such as Brandon Jacobs, New England has struggled at times.
When New England has their potent offense on the field, the key for the Giants will be to put pressure on the Tom Brady and give him little time to pass the ball. It is expected that New England will look to soften up the Giants quick defense by allowing them to commit to a heavy pass-rush and running draws, delays and screen passes.
The Patriots depend on running back Laurence Maroney to move the ball on the ground and the third down back is Kevin Faulk. Faulk is a good receiver out of the backfield, adept at picking up blitzes and can pick up the tough yardage in 3rd and short situations.
The Patriot offensive line is responsible for the success of this offense. They are very good with their trap-blocking techniques and should the Giants need to blitz linebackers to try to pressure Brady, this offensive line could spring either Maroney or Faulk for some long gainers.
Center Dan Koppen is very good at opening holes in the middle and if the Giants struggle to contain Koppen, he will defeat multiple players in the Giants front 7. Tackle Matt Light plays at a Pro Bowl level and is another solid run-blocker. Both guards are very good at getting down field to make blocks in the defensive secondary.
Look for the Pats to run the ball left behind the their best two run-blockers, Light and guard Logan Mankins.
The Giants will look to keep their Patriots offensive line very busy with one of the best defensive lines in football. Led by defensive ends Michael Strahan and Omi Umenyiora, the Giants defensive line must get ample pressure on Tom Brady and stay in their running lanes to help contain the Patriots running game.
The Giants 4-3 defense is supported by a quick linebacking corps, led by Antonio Pierce. Pierce must have the game of his career for the Giant’s defense to withstand the Patriots expected onslaught. If the Patriots are able to slip a lineman past the defensive line to tie up Pierce, the Giants defense could be in for a long day.
For the Giants to have a shot in this game, they must be able to move the ball on the ground and keep Tom Brady , Randy Moss and the Patriots high-scoring offensive on the sidelines.
Keeping an aging linebacker corp on the field will help the Giant’s offensive do what they do best- run hard and connect with short passes. Should they be able to accomplish this, the Giants have a good shot at winning on Sunday.
They have a defense capable of winning a Super Bowl, it remains to be seen if they have enough offense to keep their defense rested and fresh.
With an extra week to prepare, Bill Belichick will throw in a few wrinkles into the game-plan on both offense and defense. He has a veteran squad that won’t become rattled. This team has been here before and succeeded.
The key for the Patriots will be to stop the Giant’s running game and keep the ball in Eli Manning’s hands. Should the Patriots be able to establish an effective running game, the Giant’s defense will wear down and become susceptible to long gainers.
The interior linemen of the New York Giants need to have a stellar effort to give the Giants a chance in this game. As long as New England’s offensive lineman can give Brady enough time to find his receivers and the defensive lineman