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Thursday, January 26, 2012
What Patriots and Giants learned in Week 9

By By John Parolin, ESPN Stats & Info

AP Photo/Winslow TownsonThe Giants and Patriots have already tangled once this season, a 24-20 Giants victory in Week 9. They'll meet again in Super Bowl XLVI, their second Super Bowl meeting in five seasons.
For all the hype about Tom Brady and Eli Manning leading potent offenses into Super Bowl XLVI next Sunday, their Week 9 matchup was a 10-3 advantage for the New York Giants entering the fourth quarter as Brady had pushed the New England Patriots into the red zone. The stage was set for a whirlwind 31-point finish that highlighted season-long trends for both teams.

What helped the Giants win, 24-20, ending New England’s 20-game regular-season home winning streak? And what can both teams take away from the game?

What Happened:
• On the second play of the fourth quarter, Brady hit Aaron Hernandez on a five-yard TD pass. No team targets tight ends like the Patriots, particularly in the red zone. Only the Detroit Lions’ tight ends had as many targets (37) as the Patriots had catches (36) in the red zone, and Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski accounted for 22 red zone touchdowns, twice as many as any other TE tandem.

Hakeem Nicks
Nicks
• After a Giants punt and a Patriots field goal, New York let the Patriots defense do the work on its next drive. On first down at his 25, Manning took a shot down the sideline and cornerback Kyle Arrington was flagged for interference. This season, New England was called for five interference penalties of at least 20 yards, tied for most in the league. That set up a 10-yard TD pass to Mario Manningham out of a three wide receiver set. The Giants were without Hakeem Nicks that day, a big void for one of the most productive three-plus WR offenses.

• The Patriots drove 64 yards and retook the lead on a pass to Gronkowski, and Manning got the ball back on his 20 with 1:36 to go. Nine plays later (including another deep interference penalty), Manning hit Jake Ballard in the end zone. The drive took 1:21. Quick strikes were a Giants hallmark. They had 17 touchdown drives this season that took less than two minutes.

What to take away:
• Both quarterbacks are effective against the blitz. In Week 9, both of Manning’s touchdowns came against at least six rushers. This season, defenses sent extra pressure at Manning more often than any other quarterback, and he excelled. His 18 touchdowns against five or more rushers led the league. As for Brady, no quarterback posted a better TD-Int differential than his +15 against extra rushers. Pressuring them is important, but both offensive lines ranked in the top eight in sack percentage.

• While the Giants will have to figure out a way to defend Hernandez and Gronkowski, who were held scoreless in only four games, the Patriots’ challenge will be in dealing with Nicks, Manningham and Victor Cruz. They have combined for 4,134 receiving yards, including in the playoffs, tops in the NFL. The Giants are at their best with three wide receivers, and the Patriots struggled with extra defensive backs on the field.

• Manning under or overthrew on nine throws, his second-highest total this season. Missing as many a second time around is unlikely, particularly with Nicks back in the lineup. Getting Nicks back will help Manning improve on his 7-of-20 performance in Week 9 with three or more WR on the field. Even in victory, there were plenty of opportunities left on the field for the Giants.