News & Politics

This Super Bowl Sunday’s Competing Storylines

Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning, Giants vs. Patriots defense, and Madonna’s performance vs. your sanity.

Can Brady’s lead feet conquer the Giants’ pass rush? Photograph by Flickr user Jeffrey Beall.

It’s supposed to be all about the quarterbacks. Tom Brady bested Dan Marino’s record-setting 1984 season, and he didn’t even lead the league in passing. Eli Manning declared himself one of the league’s elite, and he backed it up by coming within a few of his no-look bombs of breaking Marino’s record himself.

The defenses, which ranked 27th and 31st in the league during the regular season, were just along for the ride. Yet in the playoffs, the teams who have gone up against the Giants and Patriots have averaged under 14 points per game.

That brings us to the most pivotal story lines heading in to Super Bowl Sunday.

New York’s pass rush vs. Tom Brady’s lead feet

If you listen to just five minutes of pregame analysis you’re probably going to hear how pressure is the key to beating Tom Brady. This is not new information. Brady has never been particularly mobile. Even in his younger days, he moved like he was underwater. Every coach in the league wants to get pressure on Brady, yet he still destroys their defenses more often than not. That’s because Brady reads the blitz the way Eli reads his Archie comics.

The advantage the Giants have is the ability to pressure the quarterback without having to blitz. The team finished the regular season with 48 sacks, the third most in the league. Of those, 41.5 were credited to the defensive line.

Their defense had the third most sacks in the regular season, more than 86 percent of which were credited to the defensive line. If they can continue to get after Brady while dropping seven defenders into coverage, they can limit the damage inflicted by New England’s passing attack.


New England’s opportunistic defense vs. Eli Manning’s no-look bombs

No team has ever given up as many yards as the Patriots and made it to the Super Bowl. Nobody has even been close. They are a defense that relies heavily on takeaways.

During the regular season they intercepted 23 passes and recovered 11 fumbles, helping them to finish third in the league in turnover margin.

Manning has never shied away from throwing into coverage, be it double or triple. Sometimes I’m not even sure his eyes are open at the time. It’s worked out pretty well this season, but he is the same guy who threw 25 interceptions a season ago. If the Patriots are going to keep the Giants from lighting up the scoreboard, they’ll need to win the turnover battle.

Okay, enough with the talking points. Let’s get to the entertainment.


The halftime show vs. your sensibilities

Because halftime, along with the commercials featuring creepy babies that talk but don’t age, is why a sizable percentage of people bother tuning in to begin with.

The last time NBC broadcast the Super Bowl they played it safe with a Bruce Springsteen halftime show. This time around it seems as if they’re trying to be a bit more current, with Cee LoNicki MinajM.I.A., and LMFAO rumored to appear. But in true network television form, those relevant acts will only be on hand to prop up what’s left of Madonna.

Do yourself—and everyone in the room—a favor and switch over to Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl for those 20 excruciating minutes. Just try not to get too caught up, or you’ll miss half of the third quarter.