Eight years ago, the Giants showed the world how to beat the Patriots: Get to Tom Brady, early, often, repeatedly.
It’s easier said than done, since it requires defensive players with the ability to get to Brady before he can get rid of the ball quickly. But the Broncos did it, and did it well, on Sunday, hitting Brady 20 times, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. That’s more than any quarterback was hit in any game for the 2015 season.
It’s more than twice the number of hits the Broncos applied to Brady in a regular-season overtime win over New England. But that happened without receiver Julian Edelman and with tight end Rob Gronkowski exiting late due to a knee injury. With both Edelman and Gronkowski available this time, it was supposed to be better.
Via Pro Football Focus, 12 of the hits came in 39 pass plays with a four-man rush. Pressure was created on nearly half the pass plays with only four players rushing Brady — allowing Denver’s defense to blanket Brady’s five options in the passing game with seven players.
“We really talked about it all week that it’s going to be one of those quick-passing games,” linebacker DeMarcus Ware told reporters after the game. “Somebody asked me a question, they said, ‘If he gets the ball off in 1.9 seconds, what are you guys going to do if you can’t get any rush?’ I said, ‘Well, we’ve got to be a little bit faster and get there at 1.8.’ There was in the meeting last week — the game was going to be won in the trenches, and we said as the defensive line, we have to be able to get pressure on him in all situations. It might not be a sack, but we have to let him know that our presence is there. He felt that tonight.”
Tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon felt it, too, with Ware and Von Miller repeatedly beating them. And that will likely keep Panthers tackles Michael Oher and Mike Remmers up at night for the next 13 of them as a Broncos team with a much better defense heads back to the Super Bowl, intent on winning it this time.
But it will be a different challenge for the Broncos against the Panthers, it will be harder to catch, grab, and knock down Cam Newton.