With Tom Brady and Eli Manning facing off in the Super Bowl, it’s little wonder that the pregame buzz has revolved around the glitzy QB matchup. The recent history between these two teams, though, suggests that a shootout is far from the most likely outcome.
If defenses do tell the story of tomorrow’s championship game, these three players will be right in the middle of it:
CB Corey Webster, Giants
It’s been a horrendous season for the New York secondary. The Giants ranked 29th in the league against the pass despite an outstanding rush up front and Webster and his CB mates were the biggest reason why.
With New England TE Rob Gronkowski battling an ankle injury, though, Webster has a prime opportunity for redemption tomorrow. If Gronkowski is slowed, Tom Brady will have to look more to his outside receivers, giving the ball-hawking Webster (six INTs on the year) a chance to make a game-changing play like Tracy Porter did in beating the Colts two Super Bowls ago.
DE Mark Anderson, Patriots
Andre Carter was the higher-profile new addition to shore up the New England pass rush, but Anderson was just as effective in 2011. The Bears castoff notched 10 sacks in the regular season (equaling Carter’s mark), an especially impressive feat for a DE in New England’s 3-4.
With the Giants running game rarely serving as more than a distraction this season, Anderson’s pass-rushing skills will come to the fore in the Super Bowl. While New York concentrates on stopping Carter outside, don’t be surprised if Anderson breaks through inside and puts the heat on Eli Manning.
DE Justin Tuck, Giants
When the New York defense ground up Tom Brady in the first Super Bowl clash between these teams, Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were the co-leaders of a fearsome defensive line. Now, Tuck has been relegated to a supporting role behind breakout star Jason Pierre-Paul and his 16.5 sacks.
Even Umenyiora, slowed by injury though he was, accumulated nine sacks on the year to Tuck’s five. Look for Tuck to regain some of his 2007 magic against rookie right tackle Nate Solder and/or injury returnee Sebastian Vollmer.