2) Eliminating the Big Play
A standard measuring stick for a “big play” in a football game typically is any offensive play resulting in a gain of 20 or more yards. In week 9 the Giants produced 3 big plays fulfilling said criteria. Tight end Jake Ballard was on the receiving end of two long passes into Patriot’s territory, one for 30 yards and another gaining 28 yards. With these two critical gains, a total of 67 yards receiving, and a touchdown recorded by Ballard, we can expect the Patriot’s defense to adjust with more focus towards the tight end than in the first matchup. A likely result for such a deviation will loosen the coverage on the already dangerous trio of Giant’s wide receivers, and also allow more space for running back Ahmad Bradshaw to work the flats out of the backfield.
The third big play for the Giants was a 23 yard Manning pass hauled in by Victor Cruz that also penetrated into New England territory. Cruz was a huge factor in the first matchup racking up 91 yards receiving to lead all Giants wideouts. This could prove significant as Cruz will receive increased attention in the Patriot’s defensive game plan. With Hakeem Nicks (didn’t play in week 9) back in the fold for round two and focus shifted more to Ballard and Cruz, the always dangerous Nicks could be the lucky beneficiary of single coverage much of the game.
On the opposite side, New England created an extraordinarily large number of big plays in the first matchup totaling five. Wes Welker came up with four long receptions, three of which broke into Giants territory. Catches of 28, 27, 25, and 21 yards were a very impressive accomplishment for the speedster, along with his 131 total receiving yards. New York will undoubtedly adjust coverage giving extra attention to Welker.
From the tight end spot Rob Gronkowski hauled in the Patriot’s other big gain of 27 yards beyond the Giants’ 40, while accounting for 101 total receiving yards and tacking on a touchdown. These hefty numbers are quite common for the massive tight end. However, with a high ankle sprain hindering his powerful planting and running motion, expect a New York defender to be in Gronk’s face early and often at the line of scrimmage, jamming his release and forcing him to exert maximum pressure on the injured ankle while laboring to achieve separation. In general, the Giants will rely on their extreme pass rush to make Brady release the ball quickly, and also roll back coverage to keep the New England receivers underneath attempting to avoid costly gains like those surrendered in the first bout.
See step three on the next page…