EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—While some of the players may have changed since the last meeting in the Super Bowl, the New York Giants' defensive line has the same goal when it comes to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots -- stop the run and then pressure, pound and pummel the guy who runs the show.
Four years ago, the formula helped the Giants limit the-then undefeated Patriots to two scores and 274 total yards in a 17-14 victory.
New England gained 45 yards rushing in the game and Brady was sacked five times and hit nine other times while passing. He finished 29-of-48 for 266 yards and one touchdown.
How good was that?
Well, the Patriots scored an NFL-record 589 points that season and Brady threw a league single-season record 50 touchdown passes, including 23 to Randy Moss, another milestone. No team had held them under 20 points.
"With a guy like (Brady), it's always a chess match and you try to stay one step ahead of him," said Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck, who had two sacks and two hits on Brady in the title game in Glendale, Ariz. in Feb. 2008.
Linebacker/defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said the defensive philosophy for almost any NFL team is to get after the quarterback.
"For us specifically, we feel that is something we can rely on week-in, week-out so we always say you have to earn the right to rush the passer here," Kiwanuka said. "You have to go out there and stop the run and stop whatever the other team gives you and put them in position where they have to throw the ball and then go have fun."
The Giants have been able to do that at times this season, recording a league-high 26 sacks. However, their run defense has been porous, allowing more than 130 yards per game, which is 28th in the league.
The defensive line might be the deepest in the NFL with Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Dave Tollefson, Rocky Bernard and Kiwanuka moving up to the line in passing situations.
"Most times, a team may have one player that is the caliber of a rusher that you have to game plan for. But the Giants have about five of them," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "They have so many guys and they are all very good. They have great speed and athleticism, great pass rush technique, they get off on the ball well, they are a hard group to block. (Defensive coordinator) Perry (Fewell) does a good job of scheming and putting them in different positions so you don't know where Pierre-Paul is going to be or Tuck or Kiwanuka.
"Sometimes it is hard to find them and it is hard to block them."
The Patriots may not have to worry about Pierre-Paul this weekend. The second-year pro, who has a team-high 8 1/2 sacks, missed practice on Friday with concussion-type symptoms that resulted when he banged helmets with a teammate in practice on Thursday.
He is questionable for the game, the first regular-season meeting between the team since their Super Bowl meeting.
Brady said the Giants probably pressure better than anyone in the league, and they can do it at times with just the front four.
"Obviously you commit more people to coverage and they do a good job of that," Brady said. "They're very good against the pass. We have to go out there and be balanced and execute certainly better than we did last week."
In the Super Bowl, Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, now the Rams' coach, used a game plan in which he hoped to stop the run and get Brady to throw short, hoping his defensive backs limited the yards after the catch.
It worked and it gave the guys up front a chance to pressure Brady.
"You cut the head off the snake," Canty said. "It's really that type of mentality. In order to disrupt what they do, it all starts with Tom Brady and the offensive line. We have to be prepared for that and understand that and prepare accordingly."
Umenyiora, who had a team-high five quarterback hits and also recovered a Brady fumble in the Super Bowl, said the Patriots are not running the exact same offense as four years ago.
"They have different personnel and their tight ends are a lot better now and they have a better offensive line," he said. "So it's going to be a mix-and-match thing. It's not all about pressure. Obviously, you want to do that, but he can hurt you if you do that too much."
Kiwanuka also pointed out that while Brady is not the most mobile quarterback, he has only been sacked 14 times in seven games.
"So when you watch them, we try and go back and watch all the sacks, there is not a whole lot of times," Kiwanuka said. "So you watch the pressures, all the times he has been moved out of the pocket, and there's not a whole lot of those either. He is good in terms of knowing how to get the ball out of his hands fast if he has to."
The bottom line is it should be interesting to see if the Giants can get to Brady as much this time around.
"I don't expect them to give us the opportunities," Tuck said. "We're really hoping to confuse them for a few plays, but we do that against everyone."