Keys to Superbowl XLVI

1. Possession football

Given the spirited success the Giants have enjoyed making comebacks late in games, the balance of the game is dramatically asymmetric. With the Pats more delicate, possession approach, they have to take and hold a lead early. As a caricature, the Patriots must win by the third quarter. If they don't score early, a gassed Patriots secondary could break.

2. Two Game Plans on Offense

We will likely see two significantly different attacks from Belichick. Rob "Yo soy fiesta" Gronkowski is likely to be limited in agility and probably will weaken as the game progresses. Using him aggressively early--either live fire or as a decoy with Hernandez and getting patterns downfield. If there are any plays from Chad Ochocinco's repertoire that Brady still believes in, perhaps he can double his scoring on the season.

Coming out of the thirty minute half-time I'd expect a slower, clock-conscious attack, using Green-Ellis and Woodhead to catch and run, using Welker in screens, and possibly Nate Solder spelling Gronkowski in run blocks and outlets. Just as the Patriots pass to set up the run, they may be able to improve protection against a dangerous Giants OL attack with a 2001-style slot and flats attack.

3. Chemistry on Defense

One benefit of the bend-but-don't-break philosophy is that it's often allowed Belichick to get superior collective performances from what the numbers might suggest are inferior individual contributors. By showing their hand only when the situation is optimal (or desperate) they're able to surprise opposing QBs and send the Lawrence Tines onto the field often.

Sterling Moore was the hero of the Ravens game by forcing a mistake at the worst time. If he and the rest of the defense can get two mistakes from Manning--either through the air or off the ground--and limit Victor "Salsa" Cruz--they will have the possessions they need to delivery a third quarter "win."

Bottom Line

From Elias Sports Bureau: The Patriots a minus 3 in turnovers so far in the playoffs. Only the 1975 Steelers had a worse differential entering the Super Bowl, which they won. Of the four previous teams with the worst differentials entering the Super Bowl, three won.

As I told my wonderful wife Doris today, a good template for success would be Andy Reid's "low and slow" 17-10 victory over the Giants. The Eagles held the ball for 36 minutes and sustained long drives. In the final three minutes Manning connected with Cruz for one touch down and got into position for a second. Then the Eagles

"Salsa" or "Fiesta"? One will likely deliver the key winning score in this affair. Belichick has a high rate of success when facing an opponent a second time in a season, especially when they lose the first time.

Posted February 5, 2012.