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Pressure - from Giants - got to Pats

Pressure was the word of the day on Super Bowl Sunday. Not the pressure to win, necessarily, as much as the pressure brought on QB Tom Brady by the New York Giants pass-rush.


It should have been evident from the Patriots first offensive play.

New England ran a fake end-around to WR Wes Welker, trying to set up a screen to RB Laurence Maroney. But QB Tom Brady's pass fell a bit short, thanks to a bull rush by the New York Giants stout defensive front.

That set the tone for New York's 5-sack, 9-QB hit parade in Super Bowl XLII.

And it wasn't like the Giants blitzed all that often. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo estimated afterwards that he sent his guys after Brady only about a third of the time.

"I'll be honest with you, I won't know that until I watch the film," he admitted just moments after the last piece of confetti fell to the University of Phoenix Stadium grass.

"Even when you do blitz, the Patriots are so good at knowing how to pick it up, it still had to come down to somebody beating a block. It wasn't like we outnumbered anything. We didn't fool anybody. I think the players just made up their mind that they were going to get it done."

Defensive end Michael Strahan, along with backup defensive tackles Justin Tuck and Jay Alford, provided most of the pressure on Brady throughout the night.

"I have to give credit to the guys up front," Spagnuolo said. "We hung our hat on those guys all year long and we did it again."

An argument can be made that Tuck, with a pair of sacks and two QB hits to go along with his six total tackles, could have been named Super Bowl MVP.

"Justin has been doing that all year long. He's a warrior. He got banged up, came out, got right back in there. He's a great character guy, who we love having. He's very special because he's very versatile," Spagnuolo raved.

"We knew the focus for us to win was to get a lot of heat on [Brady] early and often. I feel we succeeded in that," Tuck exclaimed in his post-game interview.

"That offense is made to stay in rhythm and some things we showed him up front and in the secondary, you could tell it kind of threw him off rhythm. He made some errant throws and held the ball a little longer than he normally does. That's a combination of pressure in his face and the secondary doing a great job of locking down all of the receivers, and really doing a very good job."

"I think it is their overall defensive scheme," Brady pointed out to reporters after the game. "They got good coverage guys; they have a good pass rush. They are a good team. I think they are coordinated very well. They are obviously very well-coached. They were just more than we could handle tonight.

"They are a great team. They are very good on defense. They have some great pressure schemes, obviously some great pass rushers. Once we kind of got the idea of what we were doing, I thought we handled it much better but we just didn't get the ball in the end zone enough. You score 14 points. I think that was our lowest total of the year and that got us beat."

"It's one of those things where they have a great front seven. They have tremendous players up there and they just out-played us," C Dan Koppen lamented.

"We never had a number on it, but all week long we talked about, even if he got the ball out, even if he completed the pass, we needed to hit him to somehow disrupt him," added Spagnuolo, who interviewed for the Washington Redskins head coaching job this week.

"We thought that if we did it early, it would pay off in the end."

As impressive as their pressure was in the Super Bowl, the Giants were equally awed by Brady's ability to bounce back from hit after hit after hit.

"I will say this, though: That man is a true warrior," said Spagnuolo. "I don't think it affected him that much, because certainly at the end of the game when he was driving the football, he wasn't thinking about the six hits in the first quarter."

"That guy is a true competitor," echoed Tuck. "There's no quit in him."

However, as Brady indicated, the pressure to go undefeated may have proved easier to handle than the pressure brought by the Giants defense.

"We didn't get into a great rhythm, although we took the ball and went right down the field and scored a touchdown [on the opening drive]. The second drive we didn't pick up a second-and-one and a third-and-one. And the next drive, another three-and-out.

"We had a good drive going there at the beginning of the third quarter and they kind of knocked us out of field goal range.

"Just a lot of missed opportunities. I think we were close a lot of times; just not close enough."

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