Pro Football Focus broke down the tale of the tape between the Giants offense and Pats defense with some insightful numbers. Our comments are italicized. (Note: PFF gave the Giants the advantage in all categories but interior running.)
Interior Running Game
The Giants have a problem on the O-line, and it clearly manifests itself in the performance of their running game, especially up the gut. Poor center play and sub-par work from the guards has left New York averaging only 2.5 yards per carry between the guards and with a long of just 19 yards all year. The NFL average on runs in the same direction is 3.9, and in the Super Bowl, they will find themselves going up against a heavy New England defensive front…In the first meeting between the two teams this year, the Giants only attempted three runs in this area, gaining 7 yards.
-A battle that the Giants probably won’t win. This is fine by them. They know that this isn’t going to start being a reliable option for them Super Bowl week. Just not going to happen. Even still the Giants would be wise to mix in a few of these to maintain a balanced rushing attack. Don’t expect to see more than five or six inside rushes. Makes no sense with big Wilfork in there.
Outside Running Game
Runs to the perimeter is where the strength of the Giants’ run game lies, largely because they are relying less on the in-line blocking of their offensive line and more on the game-breaking ability of their running backs. Ahmad Bradshaw has forced 26 missed tackles this season on his 171 carries, and the Giants average 4.6 yards per carry on runs outside of the guards on the season…The Patriots struggle especially with runs off tackle, which netted opposing offenses 5.5 yards per carry in the regular season and 474 total rushing yards.
-The Giants will make their money on the ground on these plays. That means counters, misdirections, tosses, the patented “Bradshaw Backside Cut” and some traditional off tackles, which is a weak point for the Pats. Who knows what type of defense Belichick will throw the Giants’ way, but no one would be surprised to see him “encourage” the Giants to run the ball.
Short Passing Game
The Patriots have had their troubles in coverage all season, but if there is an area of the field where they can be dangerous, it is in underneath coverage. In the regular season on throws under 10 yards in depth they surrendered twelve touchdowns and over 2,000 yards, but they also picked off 13 passes, three more than on passes beyond 10 yards in depth. Manning has been able to make plays on these throws, but over the season he has thrown five interceptions on throws under 10 yards down field. If teams can force pressure quickly, they can anticipate his outlet throws and make plays on them.
-Has become a much more reliable part of the Giants offense, another reason why they have become all the more dangerous. Between Gilbride/Eli’s renewed focus on getting the ball to a back (even if it is on 3rd and long just to improve field position) and Cruz’s ability to rip up short zones, the Giants could find success here. If they do then they will be all the more at an advantage when looking to gain those chunk yards. The Giants went away from the Nicks’ hitch in SF (probably because of a combination of SF’s talent, defensive scheme and the weather conditiions), a play that they found so much success with in GB. Look for it to be back in SB XLVI because it’s hard to think the Pats CBs will be bold enough to look to jump this route with the deep threat that Nicks represents.
Intermediate Passing Game
When Eli Manning throws towards the sidelines this season he has been excellent on intermediate throws. He has just one pick outside the numbers from 93 attempts. Those attempts yielded 884 yards and seven touchdowns and featured some impressive passes in the face of heavy pressure.
-Here is where things start getting really dicey for the Pats. Between the impeccibally timed dig (deep in) routes, corner routes and deep climbing routes all the way across the field, Eli and his receivers have become deadly in this range. Eli’s timing with his receivers has become as safe of a bet as the pass rush! It’s going to be there. This is where Cruz can run circles around Edelman.
Deep Passing Game
If there is an area where cycling through a series of bodies is going to hurt in coverage, it is deep. New England coughed up 1,226 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season purely on passes thrown deep (over 20 yards downfield), and they allowed half of all such targets to be completed. 18.5% of all Manning’s attempts were 20 or more yards down field and he attempted 20 more of those throws than any other QB. The impressive figure, though, is that despite that volume of attempts, Manning still completed 46.8%. That was good for seventh in the league, despite eight drops on deep throws, two more than any other quarterback.
-And we get to our final stop. If Manning has the time then this could be the demise of the Pats’ Super Bowl hopes. Although the Pats kept the Giants in check in this category back in Week 9 (without Nicks of course), this pass game is clicking in ways we couldn’t imagine. No matter the coverage, the bottom line is that Eli has proven time and time again that he can and will fire the ball downfield. Another area he has improved so much as we know is his pocket presence- he has become so good at moving around amidst pressure, all the while keeping his eyes down the field at his receivers. As the stats show above, it has certainly paid off. This needs to and WILL be exploited by the Giants.
For the complete breakdown: http://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/01/30/holding-the-edge-giants-offense-vs-patriots-defense/