Super Bowl report card (cont.)
Posted: Monday February 4, 2008 12:53AM; Updated: Monday February 4, 2008 8:51AM
New England Patriots
Quarterbacks: Brady didn't have much time to operate in the pocket, but he still delivered an MVP-caliber performance. He connected on 29 of 48 passes for 266 yards with one touchdown and led the Patriots on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that gave the Patriots a four-point lead in the late stages of the game. Although Brady didn't have the opportunity to throw the ball downfield, he displayed good poise and patience checking the ball down to Welker and Faulk underneath the Giants' zone defense.
Running Backs: This grade is influenced by the number of clutch plays provided by Faulk throughout the game. Though he left the game briefly in the third quarter due to a hamstring injury, Faulk finished with seven receptions for 52 yards. Laurence Maroney was held to 36 rushing yards and failed to play a major role in the Patriots' game plan for most of the game.
Receivers: Welker single-handedly carried the passing game as the Giants focused extensively on limiting Randy Moss' impact on the game. Welker's 11 receptions totaled 103 yards, and his success working the underneath zones allowed the Patriots to move the ball when the rest of the offense was struggling. Moss, though, was held in check most of the game, but finished with 62 receiving yards and added three key receptions on the late fourth-quarter drive, including a six-yard touchdown. Stallworth wasn't a significant factor in the game, but contributed three receptions on an assortment of screens on the perimeter.
Offensive Line: The Patriots' line was thoroughly dominated by the Giants' defense. Matt Light, Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur all struggled in their individual matchups, and Brady was repeatedly battered in the pocket by an assortment of Giants' defenders. With the offensive line failing to adequately protect Brady, the Patriots were unable to utilize their explosive vertical passing game to attack down the field.
Defensive Line: Ty Warren, Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork combined for 18 tackles, but their inability to consistently penetrate in the middle allowed the Giants to dictate the tempo and flow of the game in the early stages. With the Patriots unable to handle the Giants' running game with their base defense, Bill Belichick was forced to call more blitzes and eight-man fronts, which opened up other areas of the field for Manning.
Linebackers: The Patriots' inability to stop the run early falls squarely on the shoulders of Junior Seau and Bruschi. The Patriots' aging set of linebackers were unable to quickly defeat blocks and their inability to stop the lead and power forced the Patriots to rely on the blitz to stop the run. Adalius Thomas provided consistent pressure off the edge (two sacks), but he was beaten by Boss on that 45-yard reception that set up the Giants for an easy score.
Defensive Backs: The Patriots' secondary held Burress to only two receptions and forced Manning to rely on his less-heralded receivers. Asante Samuel and Randall Gay made several clutch defensive plays, but their counterpart, Hobbs, was beaten on a quick double move by Burress for the game-winning score and allowed Toomer to sneak past him on a 38-yard reception in the second quarter. Although Hobbs came up with the secondary's only turnover, his leaky coverage hurt a solid performance by his teammates.
Special Teams: Maroney's 43-yard kickoff return set up the Patriots' first touchdown and he had another big return nullified by a holding penalty that would have set the Patriots up with a short field. Chris Hanson had a respectable day punting and the coverage units neutralized R.W. McQuarters and Domenik Hixon in the return game.
Coaching: The inability of the Patriots' offensive staff to find a solution to the Giants' aggressive pass rush resulted in five sacks and numerous hits on Brady. Although the screen game and underneath package to Welker allowed the Patriots to move the ball, the offense never appeared to have a good rhythm. Defensively, the Patriots were unable to stop the running game early and that failure allowed the Giants to control the tempo of the game.
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