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Hobbs turning corner

He eagerly awaits new challenges

Email|Print| Text size + By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / January 30, 2008

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Ellis Hobbs has seen enough recent footage of Plaxico Burress to have formulated a plan for keeping up with the Giants receiver's fleet feet in the Super Bowl.

Hobbs was avoiding specific analysis yesterday during Media Day at University of Phoenix Stadium. But Hobbs seemed confident of the Patriots' tactics, despite Burress's success against them in the final game of the regular season and against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.

"We did a poor job covering in the back," Hobbs said of New England's secondary in a 38-35 win. "But the positive is, we still won the game. I'm not giving anything away; our main focus now is to execute the game plan."

Asked the best way to defend against Burress and other Giants receivers, Hobbs replied:

"You have to get as tight and as close as you can to them."

Which was precisely the Packers' method.

"There were flaws in [Green Bay's] game plan," Hobbs said. "There were errors in judgment. We saw some things that could have been done better and we are looking to take advantage of that."

The Giants had little trouble with the up-close-and-personal coverage of Packers cornerback Al Harris in taking a 23-20 overtime win in Green Bay Jan. 20. Burress either sped past Packers defenders or deceived them, with quarterback Eli Manning delivering passes at just the right moment. Harris often was out of position or penalized while attempting to contain Burress, who caught 11 passes for 151 yards.

The Patriots struggled to keep up with Burress Dec. 29, when he caught four passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

The Patriots likely will vary their coverage of Burress. New England also will limit the number of times Hobbs is isolated on Burress, though that will depend on the success of the Giants' running game.

Hobbs said the Patriots also will have to be physical when defending the run, particularly against bruising tailback Brandon Jacobs.

"You've got to be a man," he said. "This is a man's game, it's a violent game. You can't shy away. You have to go into him with a full head of steam and hope he falls down. It's like chopping wood. You keep chopping and, eventually, they fall down."

The Giants are likely to attack Hobbs ahead of fellow corner Asante Samuel (six interceptions). Hobbs, at 5 feet 9 inches, 195 pounds, has a size disadvantage against Burress (6-5, 232 pounds) and Jacobs (6-4, 264 pounds), but he welcomes the challenge.

"You have to have a quiet swagger," Hobbs said. "All the criticism and comment brushes off, it falls off, it doesn't bother me. I don't tell you how to do your job. I don't let it bother me when people who don't know my job criticize me."

Hobbs started the season spectacularly, a 108-yard kickoff return in a 38-14 win over the New York Jets tying the league record for the longest return, and is concluding it strong. Hobbs made his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter against the Giants and had a second-quarter interception against San Diego in the AFC Championship game.

Hobbs joined the Patriots after the 2005 Super Bowl and did not become a full-time starter until this season. Hobbs seems more than happy to be here.

"You've got to love it," Hobbs said. "This is a great opportunity to show the world what you can do out there. That's all you can ask for. It's what we've asked for all our lives."

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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