Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Monday, January 23, 2012
Updated: January 24, 2:09 PM ET
It comes down to stopping Eli

By Tedy Bruschi
ESPNBoston.com

Now that we've had a chance to catch our breath after Sunday's draining victory over the Ravens, let's rehash a bit and then look ahead to the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl rematch.

Q. What do you think of the Super Bowl XLII Rematch in Super Bowl XLVI? -- Chris F. (Latham, N.Y.)

A. I think it gives us plenty to talk about these next two weeks. It was the most difficult loss of my entire career. I think it's the matchup everyone wanted to see. The storylines will be endless, and it will be an exciting two weeks.

Q. Knowing Coach Belichick well, don't you think he will come up a scheme to try taking away these Giants wide receivers? -- Dean (New Jersey)

A. There is no doubt that Bill Belichick will come up with a creative plan. I think much of the same that we saw this weekend will be a big part of the Super Bowl. There will be opportunities to make big plays; it's just a matter of who makes them.

Q. Hey Tedy! Feels great to be back in the big dance! Tom wasn't terrific yesterday and they're playing arguably a better defense in two weeks. Is his performance concerning? It feels like he'll need to put up 40 points for us to win this game. -- Smitty (Melrose, Mass.)

A. It's a question I've had about this team all season. Can it win when Tom Brady has a bad game? The defense showed it could step up and did so in a big way. I don't think either team will score 40 points in the Super Bowl.

Q. Great to see you there in the booth with the Kraft family. Were you watching the kick or did you have your eyes closed like me? -- DFWPatsFan (Arlington, Texas)

A. No, I was watching. There's no way Mrs. Kraft was going to let that go through the uprights.

Brandon Spikes
Brandon Spikes' big interception against the Ravens on Sunday showed he's not just a one-dimensional player and should gain him new respect around the league.

Q. Tedy, I was at the game last night and couldn't help but feel like the defense is playing with a confidence that we haven't seen all year. What changed? -- Monty (Ipswich, Mass.)

A. These are similar schemes and concepts that the defense runs all season long. It mixed up zone with man and played some three-man rush. The big difference, honestly, is that this defense has just improved over the course of the season. Playmakers are emerging all over the place. My favorite part was to see Brandon Spikes' interception. And Vince Wilfork had a signature game.

Q. Do you think Julian Edelman was a liability yesterday on defense? Everyone gives him a hard time but to me he played decent and did not give up a big play. How do you feel? -- Jeffery L. (Miami)

A. He's done well when he's played defense. This is the first time that he showed some deficiencies. That it's taken this long for that to happen is a testament to him. He'll take this and learn from it. Let's remember, he is a wide receiver.

Another thing on Edelman: To give him any type of criticism is unwarranted. You cannot grasp how difficult it is to play 27 snaps of defense and 27 snaps of offense in a single game. It's mind-boggling.

Q. How impressed with Brandon Spikes' development this year have you been? He really brings some intensity and passion that the defense lacks at times. Can he be the other every down MLB in our base 3-4 moving forward? -- Chris (Charlottesville, Va.)

A. Not just his development this season, but over the past two. Stopping the run is what he does best, but showing he can make a play like he did with that interception, he gains respect throughout the entire league that he's not just a one-dimensional player. That can be the beginning of a great career.

Q. Hi Tedy. What a game, and what a season. I'm crazy excited about another Super Bowl appearance for the Pats. My question is about Tom Brady's performance yesterday. He's saved the team so many times that no one could criticize him for having an off-day. But do you think his troubles were down to a bad day at the office, or was it something special that the Ravens were doing on D? At times it reminded me of the playoff loss to the Jets. Here's hoping TB12 brings his "A" game to Indianapolis! -- Dan (Sheffield, U.K.)

A. Let's give the Ravens defense some credit. They did a great job of getting organized defensively. No matter what personnel grouping or formation the Patriots were in, the Ravens always seemed to be on the same page. They had great communication and were always in position to make the tackle. They were making the Patriots earn everything. That's what good defenses do.

Q. I will start this off by saying that before the playoffs began, the one team I did not want to face, including the Packers and Saints, was the Giants. This game will come down to the trenches. What is different about this Giants D line from the last time we faced them in the Super Bowl? -- Andrew (North Conway, N.H.)

A. There are a couple of different names, but the production and philosophy is the same. Wanting to get pressure with the four rushers, the Giants run creative pass-rush games and pick stunts, and Justin Tuck has dropped back in coverage (in a three-man rush with eight in coverage). It baffles me why Perry Fewell, their defensive coordinator, is not being mentioned for any head-coach openings.

Q. Tedy, since switching to more of a 3-4 style of defense, the Patriots' defense dominated against Denver's option-style offense and accomplished what everyone said they couldn't -- hold down the fort and even come up big when Tom Brady didn't bring his best game. Certainly they are gelling at the right time, but how much do you attribute to the change in scheme from the 4-3, and how does the 3-4 style of defense they are playing now differ from what they've done in past seasons? Thanks for the great work educating us fans! -- Adam (Broomfield, Colo.)

A. Remember, this is a game-plan team, especially defensively. Don't be surprised if they come out in a 4-3 in the Super Bowl. It all depends on what Belichick thinks is best. Here is why I think they went 3-4 in the past two games: It gives you a better edge in the running game. You needed that against the Broncos, a C-gap running team with the option attack. Also, versus the Ravens, the 3-4 puts Wilfork over center Matt Birk. Wilfork wins that matchup every time, driving Birk back into Joe Flacco's lap. It's about matchups.

Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman may have struggled a bit Sunday, but he deserves credit for emerging as a reliable two-way player for the Patriots.

Q. The Giants D-Line will again be the collective MVP of the Super Bowl this year. The Patriots O-Line is banged up and we all know Brady crumbles under pressure. What do the Patriots have to do to make up for these deficiencies and win the game? -- Marcus (Bronx, N.Y.)

A. You can start first by blocking them [laughing]. As easy as that sounds, I understand what you're saying, because it's going to be a difficult thing for the offensive line to do. Do the Patriots counter that with quick-hitting plays or quick traps in the running game against a penetrating defensive line? There are various things offensively you can do. I agree, Bill O'Brien has his work cut out for him.

Q. What makes the Patriots organization so good? The formula used by the Patriots is different than all teams in the NFL. They define team play, so how hard is it for NFL players to come in to the organization and put the team first? -- Lee M. (Houston)

A. Belichick defines mental toughness as doing what's best for the team when things aren't perfect for you. That's difficult to do for players, coaches and owners sometimes. But in this organization, everyone knows their role and focuses on that.

Q. Sterling Moore is looking like a big-time playmaker late in the season. What do you make of his development? -- Tarae (Ocala)

A. His progress is something they've needed -- a corner that makes big plays. He saved the game. It's as simple as I can put it. Lee Evans had it in his hands. A split second longer and that could have been a TD. This defense is a championship defense. It makes the big play when it counts. That is the biggest compliment I can give it.

Q. What do you think of the job the Patriots offensive line did yesterday? Can they give Tom enough time against the Giants? -- Matt (New Jersey)

A. It's been awhile, but the return of Sebastian Vollmer would be welcomed. Nate Solder was beat on the outside by Paul Kruger and on the inside by Terrell Suggs. Right now, that's a problem. Either Solder has to play a lot better or Vollmer has to get healthy. If that problem progresses, you end up having to take a receiver out of his route to help in protection, removing one of Brady's options.

Q. Hi Tedy! My favorite team is back in the big game and I am fired up! My question: How do you see coach Belichick and the defense stopping the Giants passing attack? Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham look really good and we know Eli Manning isn't afraid of the spotlight. Do you think it's possible to get a ton of pressure on Eli in this game? -- Rob (Manhattan)

A. This Giants team beat the Patriots with two of their best weapons out in Week 9 (Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw). With Cruz, Manningham and Nicks, this is the best receiver/quarterback group the Patriots have played this year. They have the upper hand against the Patriots' secondary. The Patriots' pass rush must be the equalizer. How it attacks Eli Manning will be an important factor to win this game.

Q. Tedy, I don't get the "revenge bowl" idea. The way I look at it, we could play and beat the Giants in the next 10 Super Bowls and I would trade all 10 of those for the perfect season. It's not even close. If the Pats win, does it make you feel any better about losing in 2007? -- Jan (Auburn, N.H.)

A. That's a great question, Jan. A 19-0 record would have been great, but it didn't happen. Every time I talk about it, I give the Giants credit for their victory. There is nothing that can happen that will make me feel better about that loss, but a Patriots win in the Super Bowl is great no matter which team they play. Thanks for opening up that scab.

Q. Tedy, can you say someone else is better at nose tackle than Big Vince again before the Super Bowl? -- Mike (D.C.)

A. He's had big games, but to show up like he did with the Super Bowl on the line puts him in a different conversation. Careers are defined by what you do in the biggest games. Wilfork just wrote his name in the Patriots' history book.

Q. Tedy after seeing you, Drew, Ty and Troy out there yesterday, I wanted to say thank you for all the years of phenomenal football we as Pats fans were able to enjoy. Your core group of guys built this dynasty and hats off to you guys. What do you think about the younger guys the next two weeks, will they be overwhelmed or do you think they will stay the course and be well prepared? Thanks! -- Ryan (Still sitting in Section 311)

A. Thanks Ryan. This team has shown it knows what it takes to win. The Patriots proven that they deserve to be in the conversation with some of the best teams this organization has had. They're in the Super Bowl. They made the plays they had to make, and they know their job isn't done yet. These next two weeks are going to be fun.

Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th anniversary team.