New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the second quarter of the AFC championship football game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 22, 2012. The Patriots defeated the Ravens with a score of 23-20, winning the AFC title and qualifying to play in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
Jim Davis, Associated Press - Nyt
Souhan: Don't buy the Belichick, Brady myth
- Article by: JIM SOUHAN
- Star Tribune
- February 5, 2012 - 8:32 AM
The power of myth has persuaded many Americans that the New England Patriots are a great team that will beat the New York Giants. I say the Patriots are not, and probably will not.
The Patriots command adulation because of the reputations of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, who have won three Super Bowls together and narrowly lost a fourth. Those willing to look beyond their legends will find that the momentum of their dynasty has slowed.
Brady has played in 21 NFL postseason games. In his first 10, he went 10-0, including 3-0 in Super Bowls, while throwing 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. In his last 11, he is 6-5 with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. If you throw out his victory over Tim Tebow's Broncos this season as unworthy of a playoff game, then Brady would be 5-5 with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his past 10 true playoff games.
The Patriots have hardly ruled the NFL since Belichick got caught stealing signals from opponents in the infamous "Spygate" scandal. In the four seasons since the NFL punished Belichick, he is 2-2 in the postseason.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning have outperformed Belichick and Brady in recent postseasons. In Manning's first two postseason games, he went 0-2 while throwing two touchdowns and four interceptions. In his past eight, he is 7-1 with 14 touchdown passes and four interceptions.
If the Patriots are to beat New York, a team that beat the Patriots in Foxboro Stadium in Week 9 without four offensive starters, they will require superlative performances from three people: Belichick, Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski has a sprained ankle. The Patriots have only two tight ends on their roster, Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. In the playoffs, the Patriots lined up with both tight ends on the field on 88 percent of their offensive plays.
If Gronkowski is out, that might mean more playing time for receiver Chad Ochocinco, who has just 15 catches this season. Brady throws one interception per 28 attempts with three wide receivers on the field this year, and one per 68 attempts in all other formations.
Brady relies on Gronkowski near the goal line. He attempted 18 passes into the end zone to Gronkowski, completing 14 of them, for 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. He attempted 33 passes into the end zone for other receivers, completing just nine of them, for nine touchdowns and two interceptions.
One of Belichick's greatest strengths is his ability to get the most out of his players. In this game, that strength could become a weakness. He has been using receiver Julian Edelman as a cornerback. The Giants have the receiving depth and talent to expose Edelman as an impostor.
The Giants and Manning were mediocre this season until the emergence of receiver Victor Cruz, who gives the Giants a potent three-receiver set. The Patriots gave up more touchdowns with three receivers on the field than any other team in the NFL this season, and no team completed more passes and touchdowns in three-receiver sets this postseason than the Giants.
Cruz excels at catching deep passes and passes down the sideline, and at running after the catch. Manning and Cruz should be able to expose the Patriots' secondary, while the Giants' secondary should be able to match up with a Patriots team lacking a healthy Gronkowski.
There are those in the NFL who are intimidated by Belichick. The Giants are not. Since 2001, the Giants are one of only two NFL teams that do not have a losing record against the Patriots. The Giants are 2-2. The Broncos are 6-4. And it was Coughlin and Manning who kept the Patriots from an undefeated season in Super Bowl XLII.
If I'm wrong, and the Patriots win today, Belichick and Brady will have guided a rather unimpressive roster to a Super Bowl title, and all of the myth-making aimed at them this week will prove justified.
A variety of sources contributed to this report, including ESPN Stats & Info, footballoutsiders.com and Sports Illustrated.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org
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