INDIANAPOLIS – The Giants defense will do everything it can to pressure Tom Brady, and the way the front four has been playing lately it's more a matter of what happens when the pass rush closes in on the Patriots quarterback.
"I think it starts with hitting him, even when you don't actually get sacks, just keeping people around him so he can't step up," defensive end Justin Tuck said Tuesday at media day. "I think he gets a little frustrated when he has to go to his second or third receivers. You can kind of confuse him sometimes with our coverage. I think there are a lot of things that can get him rattled, but it just seems like not too many people are able to do that."
The Giants have the people to make it happen in Sunday's Super Bowl. In beating the Patriots four years ago in the NFL title game, the Giants sacked Brady five times, hit him nine other times and forced a fumble in their 17-14 upset.
In turning around their season with a five-game winning streak to make it to Indianapolis, the Giants (12-7) have allowed a total of 67 points, 13.4 per game, and produced 20 sacks with no opposing quarterback throwing for more than 251 yards — including Aaron Rodgers of the Packers.
"To be honest, I think our confidence is very high," said second-year defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who led the Giants with 16½ sacks in the regular season. "We know what we have to do and what's at stake. This is our last game, and we're in the Super Bowl. We have to go out and give it our all."
In their 24-20 win over the Patriots in early November, the Giants sacked Brady twice and had two interceptions. One sack led to a fumble recovery that set up a score.
"We did some things that disrupted his timing," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "We caused him to stay jittery in the pocket. Hopefully we can do that again."
A lot of changed since that game. Tuck was playing hurt at the time. Osi Umenyiora was still not healthy after missing the start of the season with a knee injury and the defense was still giving up too many big plays.
Now, everyone on the defense is healthy. The secondary is covering receivers and the line has finally meshed and is playing its best.
Umenyiora has no doubt the Giants will get to Brady.
"They're going to definitely do some things to keep us off of him, max protections, short throws, quick throws, but they can only do that for so long," Umenyiora said. "Whenever we have opportunities where he does hold the ball, we're going to have to get to the quarterback."
Center Dan Connolly said the Patriots need to keep Brady upright.
"Keeping him from being hit is our No. 1 goal," Connolly said. "If he can stand back there and do his job, we'll be OK."
Seven-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman and current NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp says the Patriots better establish a running game if Brady is to be successful.
"There is no way they can drop Tom Brady back 40 times and expose him to this rush," Sapp said. "Whoever controls the line of scrimmage wins this ballgame. It's always that simple. If New England can get a run game going, we have a ballgame, If they expose him to the rush when it's third-and-6, third-and-7 and third-and-8, look out. You can't let a defensive lineman pin your ears back."
And once the Giants' line starts getting to the quarterback, it's contagious.
"You know, the adrenaline is pumping," Pierre-Paul said. "You just have to get there, and like a dunk, you've just got to dunk the ball. Once you do it, you just want another one. Like a sack, once you get one sack, you just want more. The guys on my front line, if Osi gets a sack, I want two sacks, because if I get two sacks, Justin Tuck is going to want three sacks."
That's what happened in 2008 when a few of the names were different, with the obvious absence being Michael Strahan.
"This game will not be won off what we did in '07 or what we did earlier this year," Tuck said. "I hope we don't fall into that trap of believing that because that team has won 10 straight. They are playing, I think, better football — team football — than they played in '07. But, I think we are playing better team football than we played in '07. It's going to be a fun matchup. It's going to be a fun atmosphere, and I am looking forward to it."