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Super Bowl XLVI: Three keys to victory for the Giants

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws against the New England Patriots third quarter at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on November 6, 2011. The Giants defeated the Patriots 24-20. UPI/Matthew Healey

On Thursday I’ll discuss the three keys for the Patriots to win Super Bowl XLVI but today, let’s take a look at the Giants.

1. Pressure Brady with their four down linemen.
If I’ve written it once I’ve written it one hundred times: The key to beating any elite quarterback whether it’s Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, is to pressure him with your four down linemen. According to Pro Football Focus, Brady’s completion percentage this season when blitzed is 62.6. That number rises to 67.3 percent when he isn’t blitzed and 70.6 when he receives no pressure at all. But when he’s under pressure, his completion percentage falls to 48.6 and his QB rating falls to 88.8 (compared to 110.1 when he’s not under pressure and 115.3 when he’s blitzed). Blitzing can be an effective tool for any defense, but top quarterbacks will burn teams that rely on the blitz as their sole means of creating pressure. That’s one of the reasons why the Giants have had success against Brady in the last two meetings between these two teams. New York uses four defensive ends in passing situations, which is an advantage that no other team in the league possesses. Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5 sacks), Justin Tuck (5 sacks), Osi Umenyiora (9 sacks in just nine games) and Dave Tollefson (five sacks) can line up at the same time because Pierre-Paul and Tuck have the ability to play inside. The Giants also have the option of playing a combination of three of those ends with Mathias Kiwanuka (3.5 sacks), who is a highly versatile role player. So while other keys will certainly factor into a New York victory on Sunday, perhaps nothing is more vital than the Giants’ ability to rush Brady with their four down linemen and drop everyone else back into coverage. New York’s defense was built to do one thing: Get after the quarterback. If the Giants don’t pressure Brady on Sunday, they’ll have a hell of a time beating the Patriots again.

2. Manning needs to avoid turnovers.
When it comes to the Giants, the difference between winning and losing often comes down to one stat: Turnovers, or more specifically, Eli Manning’s turnovers. When Manning didn’t turn the ball over this season, the Giants were 6-0. When he turned the ball over only once during a game, the Giants were 5-2. When he turned the ball over two or more times, the Giants were 0-5. Simply put, the Giants don’t lose when Eli protects the football. When he doesn’t, it’s hard for this team to carry him when he’s making mistake after mistake. (This is one of the many reasons why I keep saying that without Eli’s play this season, the Giants wouldn’t have even made the playoffs.) Sunday will be no different. If Manning makes good decisions and doesn’t give Brady and Co. opportunities to score with a short field (or, conversely, take away potential points for the Giants), New York has an outstanding chance of winning. When Eli is on point he can be as good as anyone in the league from an efficiency standpoint. When he starts turning the ball over it’s as if his entire game falls apart. He’s more careless, he starts throwing off his back foot and his pocket presence flies out the window. The Redskins’ 23-10 victory over the Giants in Week 15 of the regular season is a perfect example of how quickly things can go south for New York if Eli struggles.

3. Attack, attack, attack.
Kevin Gilbride deserves a lot of credit for developing the most underrated passing attack in the league. People love to wax poetically about New Orleans, New England and Green Bay’s passing games but what about New York’s? Thanks to Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham’s, I would put the Giants’ passing attack up against any other team’s in the league outside of maybe the aforementioned Saints, Patriots and Packers. That said, it wasn’t too long ago that New York fans were screaming for Gilbride’s head because the offensive coordinator was being too conservative when it came to his play calling and his approach inside the red zone. When the Giants would get inside the 20, Gilbride would often take his foot off the gas and New York’s offense would get bogged down. Thus, it’s important for Gilbride to continue to attack through the air. The Patriots have a slew of young defensive backs playing in their first Super Bowl, including a safety in Patrick Chung that struggled in pass coverage last week versus Baltimore. Although New England has played much better defensively over the past couple of weeks, the Giants have a huge edge when it comes to their receivers being matched up against the Patriots’ defensive backs. Now isn’t the time for Gilbride to rest on his laurels and hold his passing game back. New England’s front seven is good against the run, so the Giants need to dance with the date that brought them.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Giants inquired about Braylon Edwards

According to an insider at Scout.com, the Giants contacted the Browns about the availability of wideout Braylon Edwards.

Via Rotoworld.com:

Braylon EdwardsThe Giants contacted the Browns about Braylon Edwards’ availability “about a month or so ago,” according to the Giant Insider on Scout.com.

A February internet rumor had Mathias Kiwanuka going to Cleveland for Edwards, but Scout.com says Kiwi was never brought up in talks. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Kiwanuka traded with all the depth New York has on its defensive line, but Cleveland certainly can’t afford to part with Edwards. Take Braylon off the Browns and their No. 1 receiver is Donte’ Stallworth.

This confirms the old adage of, “when there’s smoke there’s fire.” Most web sports rumors can be dismissed, but this one just made sense. The Giants are in desperate need of a receiver and the Browns don’t seem willing to commit to Edwards long term. Kiwanuka might not have been a part of their talks initially, but he would make sense for Cleveland, who needs an outside linebacker who can rush the passer.

Browns shopping Braylon Edwards?

According to Rich Cimini of the New York Daily Times, the Browns are reportedly shopping wide receiver Braylon Edwards.

This rumor has been circulating for over a month, but so far nothing concrete has developed. Cimini doesn’t even go into much detail about the subject, in fact all he writes is that he got a “hot tip” that Cleveland is shopping Edwards and asks readers whether or not the Jets should be interested.

One small rumor that developed late last week had the Browns shipping Edwards to the Giants for Mathias Kiwanuka, which on the surface makes sense. Cleveland is dying for a pass rusher and Kiwanuka, who has experience at both defensive end and linebacker, certainly fits the bill. New York is in obvious need of a wideout with the uncertainty of Plaxico Burress’s situation hanging over their heads, and is stacked with defensive linemen and linebackers after signing Chris Canty, Michael Boley and Rocky Bernard last week.


Read the rest after the jump...

Did Giants lose another defensive end in season opening win?

The New York Giants started their title defense on a high note Thursday night, beating the Washington Redskins 16-7 in the 2008 NFL Season Opener.

The G-Men relied mostly on running back Brandon Jacobs, who carried the ball 21 times for 116 yards. Eli Manning looked sharp in the first half, but struggled dramatically in the second as the Redskins found ways to disrupt his timing. Receiver Plaxico Burress had a big night, hauling in 10 passes for 133 yards.

Even though the Giants won, an interesting situation occurred on the game’s final play. With the Redskins trying for desperation points with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, Washington offensive tackle Chris Samuels held Giants’ defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka’s legs as Kiwanuka beat him around the edge. Kiwanuka fell awkwardly and struggled to get up with an apparent leg injury. The game ended on that play, so it’s unclear at this point how serious the injury was (if it was anything at all).

What an incredible blow it would be if the Giants lost yet another defensive end following Michael Strahan’s retirement and Osi Umenyiora’s season ending knee injury. Kiwanuka had to make the transition from linebacker to end to fill in for Umenyiora, so New York is already thin at the position. Hopefully for the Giants’ sake, Kiwanuka is fine.

Update: Kiwanuka had X-rays taken after the game and they were reportedly negative.

No Strahan or Umenyiora – how will Giants’ defensive line cope?

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at how the New York Giants expect to cope without having Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan on their defensive line.

Michael StrahanWhen the New York Giants selected defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka with the 32nd pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, many eyebrows were raised at the pick. Why would the Giants take another defensive end when they already had Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck on the roster?

After Strahan retired following the Giants’ Super Bowl victory in January and Umenyiora was lost for the 2008 season because of a knee injury, nobody is questioning New York’s decision to draft Kiwanuka now.

Kiwanuka not only has the daunting task of having to transition from outside linebacker back to defensive end, but he also will attempt to fill the shoes of Umenyiora, a highly productive player who registered 52 tackles and five sacks last season.

Playing opposite of Kiwanuka on the line will be Tuck, a promising fourth-year player who compiled 10 sacks last year as part of a rotation. While he’s shown plenty of upside, this will be the first time in Tuck’s career that he’ll be counted on as a full-time starter.

Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins will man the interior of New York’s defensive line. Neither stands out as impact players, although Cofield did show promise in his rookie season when he compiled 44 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

There’s no denying that losing both Strahan and Umenyiora was devastating. The Giants demonstrated what a heavy pass-rush could do for an entire defense in the Super Bowl when they completely flustered Tom Brady and his offensive line. While young corner Aaron Ross is developing into a nice player, the rest of the secondary is average at best – especially after safety Gibril Wilson signed with Oakland this offseason – and will need the front seven to put pressure on opposing teams’ quarterbacks so they’re not vulnerable in coverage.

New York GiantsNew York is going to need Kiwanuka and Tuck to provide the type of rush that Strahan and Umenyiora got last year in order for the defense to not be exposed in certain areas. Both ends have a ton of talent, but how will they do as full-time starters? Can they be as effective as every-down players as they were in a rotation last year? Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was outstanding in devising game plans last year to frustrate opposing teams, but a lot of what he does depends on his ends getting pressure.

Time will tell if the Giants will sink or swim without the two ends that helped them when a Super Bowl last season.

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