Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has the ball stripped by Giants defensive… (Chris O'Meara / Associated…)
What the New England Patriots offense must do to be successful against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl (Feb. 5, 3:30 p.m. PST, Ch. 4):
For all the different formations, personnel groupings and looks the New England Patriots use in a given game, one thing doesn't change:
Everything starts with Tom Brady.
The All-Pro quarterback usually calls two plays in the huddle and has the freedom and flexibility to get the offense into the best play possible based on what the defense is showing him. He attacks the middle of the field as well or better than anyone in the game, and typically has passing options at all three levels — deep, intermediate and short.
The Patriots like to send tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez up the inside vertical seams, leaving slot receiver Wes Welker to get open underneath. Another play might have Gronkowski deep, Welker running a crossing pattern at 15 yards, and a running back as a safety-valve check-down at five yards.
New England does run some, and if the Patriots can do that effectively it sets up the play-action passing game for Brady, who is very comfortable faking handoffs to the left and, in doing so, turning his back to the defense. Not all quarterbacks like doing that.
Getting rid of the ball quickly will be important for Brady with the kind of pressure the New York Giants bring, and he's exceptional at that.
"They can rush the passer, there's no doubt about that," Brady said. "In playing them before, you understand that they can — they stripped, sacked us on our own 10-yard line or something like that when we played them last. They get a lot of turnovers. They put a lot of pressure on you with their front four."
The 6-foot-6 Gronkowski is phenomenal. He had 90 catches and 17 touchdowns during the regular season, then three more touchdowns in the divisional clobbering of Denver.
"If you're a defense and you don't circle No. 87, you're insane," said CBS analyst Rich Gannon, referring to the second-year tight end. "That's where Brady wants to go, and covering him is going to be a real challenge for the Giants."
One of the big stories of Super Bowl week will be the condition of Gronkowski's left ankle, injured in the AFC championship game victory over Baltimore. He has been a key to the Patriots' success.
"It would [stink] to miss this game," Brady said when asked about Gronkowski. "You put all the work in over the course of the entire year and to have the opportunity to play in this game, you know everyone is going to be doing everything they can to be out there."