January 30, 2008
Grogan's Grade: Superbowl XLII Preview
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, the big news for the Patriots heading into Super Bowl XLII is the health of their All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady. After that video surfaced of him sporting a walking boot and limping outside his girlfriend Gisele BŁndchen's New York City apartment it was subsequently revealed he was suffering from a high ankle sprain and Patriots' Nation has been on high alert ever since. Since you've played with such a malady perhaps you can explain Brady's health and how big an impact the injury will have on him?
Steve Grogan: First of all and most importantly I don't expect it to affect his play in the game. I think the boot was just a precautionary measure. If he had been in bad shape I don't think they would have let him travel to New York City, they would have kept him home for treatment. I know the fans were worried when he didn't practice last week but that also was just precautionary. There was no real need for him to practice at that point. They were just getting the game plan ready so that's not going to bother him. If he misses practice this week then I might have some skepticism but he's supposed to be ready to go in Arizona.
Brady said on Monday he's confident about being well enough to play and that he could have played last week if he had to. I don't doubt that at all because when I grew up watching the NFL I remember Johnny Unitas wrapping his leg, lacing up his high tops, and then going out and throwing three touchdowns passes while playing hurt. If worse came to worse they could even shoot his ankle up if it came to that, but watching him leave for Arizona he was walking normally so it can't be that bad.
RRM: There are a few things we all learned from the first game between the two teams back in December. One is the huge physical advantage Giants' wide receiver Plaxico Burress had against the Patriots' defensive backs. Burris has come up huge in the postseason thus far, do you think the Patriots will be able to keep Burress from hurting them?
SG: I would expect the Giants will try to exploit the advantage they have with the size Burress has like they did against Green Bay where he really hurt the Packers. Just like Randy Moss Burress is a big guy and it's hard to take him away unless you put a double on him in some way, shape, or form. I think Bill Belichick will find a way to shut him down, and I would be surprised if he catches as many balls as he did in Green Bay. I thought the reason he got so open against Green Bay had to do with the way the Packers were playing defense. They were trying to cover him one on one and the cornerback just couldn't handle him. He was trying to be physical with him on the line of scrimmage and Burress was just too big for him to handle in that fashion. For some reason the Packers never made an adjustment, and I don't think the Patriots will make that same mistake.
RRM: This Giants' secondary is not up to par with those of the AFC squads the Patriots have already faced in the postseason. Do you agree that at least on paper this would appear to be an area that the Patriots can really exploit?
SG: This is not an above average NFL secondary, rather the Giants rely on their pass rush to help them in coverage. If you can prevent them from mounting that pass rush you will have a huge advantage. Like we saw in the second half of that first game once the Patriots settled in they had receivers in open space and Tom Brady had a field day. If the Giants can't find a way to get pressure on the quarterback then Brady will find open receivers to throw to, there's no question about that.
RRM: How do you think the Patriots will open this game? Will they want to show that Brady is healthy right from the start and go with five-wides and start throwing the ball around, or with the success Laurence Maroney has had running the football during the postseason do they try and run the ball on the Giants?
SG: I would think they would have to mix things up a little bit to see what the Giants are doing on defense. Then again the Patriots have been throwing the ball all over the field most of the year so I would expect them to come out throwing the football a bit more than they will be running it. Once they get a feel on how the Giants are going to play them they'll make their adjustments. If the Giants are bringing some blitzes they feel can be exploited with the running game then you'll see Maroney getting the ball. If they feel they can protect Brady you'll see the ball going down the field. That's was so nice about this offense is that they can adapt and adjust to whatever a defense is trying to do to them because they have so many weapons.
RRM: It seemed to me in that first game once the Patriots started bringing some heavy pressure on Eli Manning he started having problems. Do you think they'll try to blitz him early and show him a lot of different looks to try and confuse him?
SG: I don't think you'll see a steady diet of it from the Patriots but you'll see some. They will definitely do some things to try and confuse Eli Manning. He's played very well in the postseason but he's still a young quarterback that hasn't seen everything, plus he's in the big game and he's bound to be a bit nervous. If they can get him a little confused early on in this game it will help the Patriots a great deal.
I really think the key for the Giants in this game is going to be their running game. They do run the ball very well, and if they can establish some kind of running game and keep the down and distance in a manageable spot for Manning then he can throw his play action passes and get rid of the ball quicker. But if they are facing a lot of second or third down and 10's and he's having to drop back and throw the ball down the field I think it's going to be a problem for them.
RRM: You have to feel for Randy Moss, who finally gets his chance to play in a Super Bowl but you know he will be besieged all week long by the national media about the restraining order taken out against him by his female acquaintance in Florida. I guess you can't help but feel a little sorry for him?
SG: I don't think Randy Moss will want to talk about it or anything remotely regarding it before the Super Bowl. It's unfortunate to be sure, but at the same time he's getting a chance to play for a world's championship and that's the big reason he came here so I'm sure he's been through enough rough times during the course of his career that he'll be able to put it in the back of his mind and go out and perform and hopefully win a ring.
RRM: Moss has had only one catch in each of his first two postseason games with the Patriots. Why do I have a feeling that trend will not continue this Sunday against the Giants?
SG: The Patriots have to find a way to get the ball in his hands a little more than they have. I don't know why they haven't tried it more, maybe because they've been setting teams up for what's coming, I don't know? But I would have to think that Randy Moss will have to touch the ball a lot more in the Super Bowl than he has recently.
RRM: The last three Super Bowls the Patriots played in were all decided by Adam Vinatieri's right foot. Are you confident in Stephen Gostkowki's ability to make a game-winning field goal in the final seconds?
SG: I think he's up to the task, but I don't think there are many people that have the confidence in him right now because he hasn't done anything like that yet. This may well be his chance to write his own legacy and step out from under the shadow of Adam Vinatieri once and for all.
RRM: You played in Super Bowl XX and back then everyone remarked how much the game had changed since Super Bowl I when you could have walked up to the gate at the Los Angeles Coliseum right before kickoff and bought a ticket for the game. Now over two decades later the event has gotten even bigger; can you try and explain what the experience is like for a player?
SG: It's hard to explain. If you haven't been there you can't explain it to another player. There's just so much electricity and so much excitement and so many distractions the week you are at the host city and it all runs together. When you finally get a chance to get out on the field on Sunday you're really glad to finally be able to play the game. Then the electricity in the air is just unbelievable because you know people all over the world are watching this game and it's a chance to make a name for yourself and a memory for a lifetime. Then the game starts and it becomes just another football game. You put it into autodrive and you go out and do what you've been doing your entire career. I do remember the pregame and halftime were so long because they have so many things going on. You warm up and then wait around, and then you have to warm up again because you've been waiting around for a half an hour or 45 minutes, and that's difficult to do. It's just all part of Super Sunday.
RRM: As a Super Bowl veteran and as a fan, do you prefer the extra week off after the conference championships or would you rather play the Super Bowl the very next week?
SG: I think as a fan you'd rather get it over with and have the game the week after the conference championship games. I'm sure the media would prefer only one week because they run out of things to write and talk about, but as a player that extra week is very welcome. It gives you extra time to regroup and get your focus. You also have more time to get all the friends and family squared away as far as tickets, travel, and hotel accommodations are concerned.
RRM: I don't think it is widely understood that the players have a lot of outside concerns regarding this game that most fans aren't even aware of?
SG: I don't think they really do understand. When you only have two days to do all that including travel when there is only one week between games it becomes a tremendous hassle. I remember when we went to the Super Bowl in 1986 most of the preparation, game planning, and practice was done by the time we got to the Super Bowl site. There are so many distractions down there that if you only have a week in between games to try and address those distractions as well as prepare for the game it's extremely difficult.
RRM: This is the Patriots fourth trip to the Super Bowl in seven years. Does having experience in this game really help?
SG: I think knowing what to expect is definitely an advantage for a team. Having been through it once myself, if somebody would have tried to explain to me what was going to take place once we hit New Orleans in '86 they wouldn't have been able to do it justice! It's a real circus with just so much going on, and everybody is tugging at you in different directions. You have to sneak up the back elevator in the hotel to get to your room because the fans all want a piece of you, and I imagine things have gotten even crazier over the last 20 years. The media crush on this game is tremendous and having the New York media involved this time around is going to make it even more so. You can try to explain that to a player until you're blue in the face but until you actually go through it you really don't know what it's like, and that's why I think it gives the Patriots an advantage.
RRM: It's been a few years but you know the drill, with no Grogan's Grade this week we need an official Grogan's Prediction for the final score of Super Bowl XLII. What's it going to be #14?
SG: This Giants team is on a roll right now and they really remind me of the '85 Patriots team I played on that won three games in a row on the road in the playoffs. We faced one of the greatest defensive teams in history of the NFL in the '85 Bears and these Giants will be facing one of the greatest offensive teams ever in the NFL, and I think they are going to have a really hard time.
The Giants have done so much that was unexpected of them and right now the Giants have reached their goal, they got to the Super Bowl. I don't think their goal at the start of the season was to win the Super Bowl like it was for the Patriots. Looking back if we had played the Bears the week after the AFC Championship game I think it would have been a much closer game, because during that extra week we lost a lot of the emotion and momentum that we had built up over that three week run. A lot of the air goes out of your balloon over that extra week where you are sitting around essentially doing nothing, and I believe the Giants will be susceptible to falling into that trap as well.
The last thing the Giants want this game to become is a shoot out. Unlike last time I don't think they want this game in the 30's. I do think the Giants will play the Patriots tough. Both teams are familiar with one another having played just a few weeks ago so it makes preparation easier. You know the personnel and their tendencies, but I just don't think the Giants have the firepower to go into Phoenix and beat this Patriots team. I think the Giants will hang in there for awhile but I think just like the way the Patriots have been doing it for most of this year they will make some halftime adjustments and open it up in the second half and end up winning the game fairly easily. It's time to start the countdown to 19-0!
New York Giants - 17
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