INDIANAPOLIS — As the Giants and Patriots go through their on-field warm-ups for Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium, here are my pregame observations.
Strategy: I think both teams will try to run the ball, and it’s going to be a close-to-the-vest game. I had an opportunity to talk to Patriots coach Bill Belichick on the field, and he was very loose, atypical for him, and their feeling is they can run on the Giants. I also talked to two Giants coaches, one offensive assistant and one defensive assistant. The offensive coach, Mike Pope (tight ends) said they don’t know what to expect from the Patriots because the last time they played them, New England came out with an entirely new defense and shut them out in the first half. The Giants don’t know if Patriots will continue to do that same defense or use something completely different.
Also, Pope led me to believe the Giants will try to run the ball and force the Patriots’ safeties to come down and play against the run to open up their passing game. The Giants believe when they go with three receivers on one side and one on the other side, the Patriots would try to take Hakeem Nicks out of the game or lessen his ability to make big plays. When the Giants use twin receivers on each side, then the Patriots will try to take Victor Cruz out or lessen his impact. The Giants aren’t going to look at a lot of different formations. They’re going to see what they do against the run more than anything.
When will we see Gronk? I didn’t see Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, but he’s going to play. The feel is that they’re going to wait as long as possible and then shoot up his ankle so that the injection won’t wear off early. He hadn’t been on the field working out.
Penalty situation: One interesting item is that there have been just eight holding penalties called on over 700 pass attempts through the playoffs to this point. I think that probably helps New England just a little bit because the lack of calls slows down the pass rush. Expect the Patriots to go real fast and try to get the play off before the Giants can call their defenses.
The Giants believe the Patriots will go all no-huddle and snap the ball quickly so they can’t rotate their defensive linemen. New England RB Danny Woodhead is a real concern for New York because he’s so quick and can do a lot of things coming out of the backfield.
Rags to riches: Patriots safety Malcolm Williams was working in a Dallas Walmart two months ago. Now he’s in the Super Bowl.