The brilliant coach on the sideline and his cerebral leader on the field _ winners of three Super Bowls together _ are still a notch above their NFL championship game opponent. That’s why come Sunday the New England Patriots will beat the New York Giants, a title to be earned with brains as much as brawn.
And as a result of the discipline and preparation that Belichick has stressed in his 12 years as coach of this team.
“Nobody works harder than he does,” Brady said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a time that I’ve shown up at the stadium and he’s not there. He sees everything. He evaluates everything. He watches every bit of film that he can get.
“Over the course of the season, our teams have always seemed to improve.”
“It starts with his heart. The way he reads defenses, the way he directs and takes protections,” guard Logan Mankins said. “I think everyone gets enamored with the talent side sometimes, but Tom might not be one of the fastest guys, but he’s definitely one of the smartest guys and he has a strong arm.
“He can make all the throws. He reads defenses so fast. It makes him a special player.”
The ability of the two-time Super Bowl MVP to instantly analyze what a defense is likely to do is a huge asset against the Giants. They sometimes use four defensive ends at a time and all are aggressive pass rushers.
But the Patriots have a veteran group of offensive linemen who can quickly figure out who to block. Brady was sacked an average of only twice a game in the regular season. In two playoff games, he’s been sacked once. Even guard Brian Waters, in his first season with New England after 11 in Kansas City, has blended in well.
“I think he does a good job of studying the opponent that he lines up against,” New York defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. “He has a plan in his head about how he’s going to block the opponent and he sticks to his plan.”
They led the AFC with 32.1 points per game and are averaging 34 in the playoffs. That offense, which has run half its plays this postseason without huddling, keeps defenses from getting a breather and having the right players on the field for a particular situation.
The Giants couldn’t even get much of a break with Rob Gronkowski’s high left ankle sprain.
The All-Pro tight end is making daily progress and Brady almost certainly will have his most important receiver back, even if he’s not at full strength.