Picking the Super Bowl winner comes down to one little truth, infamously supplied earlier this week by New York Giants pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, who said of Tom Brady: “It’s not like he’s God.”
OK, then, I’m taking the Giants.
If Brady’s a mere mortal, he’s bound to have trouble with what the G-Men will bring his way via pressure up front. The Pats’ quarterback struggled against that pass rush the last time these teams played in the Super Bowl and again when New York beat New England on its home field a couple of months ago.
And in that last contest, Pierre-Paul said Brady was “reacting to pressure that didn’t exist” and “throwing balls on the ground and stuff.”
Imagine that Giants front bringing even more pressure this time.
If Brady is not Tom Almighty, what happens when he gets hit? And hit? And hit?
Pierre-Paul’s partner in pass rush, Osi Umenyiora, reacting to his teammate’s proclamation about a quarterback now aiming for his fourth Super Bowl title, told a reporter: “Tom Brady’s not God, but he might be Jesus.”
Everybody seems to know that the biggest game of the year hinges on Brady’s ability to stand upright in the pocket and deliver the ball to his tight ends and Wes Welker. If that pocket doesn’t hold up, Brady and the Pats are toast. Bill Belichick knows this, too.
That’s why Umenyiora is predicting that New England will provide max protection and Brady will get rid of the ball quickly in an attempt to avoid some of their problems of the past against the Giants.
And let’s say it the way it is here: Brady hasn’t been as sharp in these playoffs as he’s so frequently been throughout his career. Joe Flacco outplayed him in the AFC championship game. On the other hand, he might emerge out of the deep with a historic performance, keep the Giants off-balance, and chuck five touchdown passes.
That’s what it comes down to in Super Bowl 46.
Nearly as simple as that: What will Brady do? What will he be able to do?
The flip side is Eli Manning, who has been Brady’s equal of late. Without his gutsy showing in the run-up to the SB, and his gifted receivers, the Giants, who at one sorry point during the regular season were 7-7, never would have forged their impressive run through the postseason.
That’s why Brady has to play like a superstar. If Manning and Brady are essentially a wash, then the Giants have to win — don’t they? — since New York’s defense is superior to its New England counterpart. And since Brady’s key weapon, Rob Gronkowski, is hurt — although the tight end will play — you wonder how confident, how super Brady can be. The QB has promised he will bring a much better effort than he offered in the AFC title game, and there’s that other thing, too: revenge. Normally, that would be discounted as any kind of legitimate factor here. But with a player of Brady’s caliber, duly dialed in and motivated, it’s easy to see him strongly seeking a way to find redemption against the franchise that spoiled his team’s perfect season in Super Bowl 42.
Either way, it will be close. That’s the way New England’s Super Bowls trend — about a three-point margin, win or lose.
The Giants are confident. They’ve been talking maybe a bit too much this week. But with the equalizing threat Manning provides, along with his plethora of explosive targets, going up against a defense that isn’t as good as New York’s, ultimately, the edge here goes to the Giants, 27-24.
Unless Brady really is … well, You-Know-Who.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Gordon Monson Show” weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.