As we wait for the Giants and Patriots to take the field in Indianapolis, we're going to be running down the 10 biggest reasons why the Giants are headed to Super Bowl 42. Coming in at No. 7 are the team's defensive tackles.
Everyone likes to talk about the Giants pass rush.
It's good enough to merit that kind of mention. The only problem with all of that talk is that it focuses almost exclusively on Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
They are the glamor guys, the ones who come around the end and chase down a quarterback from behind while sometimes causing a fumble. When they do, they gesticulate and celebrate enough to grab tons of camera time for themselves.
Good stuff, to be sure, but there needs to be a little more attention paid to the guys who play next to them and help create the kind of pass rush that really makes life impossible for opposing quarterbacks. We're talking about the defensive tackles -- Rocky Bernard, Chris Canty and Linval Joseph -- because their work makes it possible for the big names to run roughshod on the pocket.
If your pass rush is entirely from the outside, it will get to the quarterback from time to time but it isn't going to rattle a passer to the point that he can't even think in the pocket. Good quarterbacks will step up, find their receivers and make you pay down the field because they can feel the outside rush and adjust to it.
If you can bring the rush right into the face of quarterbacks, though, you can fundamentally alter their approach to your favor. When a quarterback has to look away from his passing lanes, even for a split-second, the advantage goes to the defense.
Once you've done it enough to get him looking down on every play, the battle has already been won. That's what turned a close game against the Packers at halftime into a rout, it's what made Mark Sanchez an even sadder version of himself in Week 16 and it is going to be crucial to any attempt at making Tom Brady fall apart a week from Sunday.
Bernard, Canty and Joseph don't wind up with gaudy stats like the defensive ends and they can go whole games without anyone noticing their work, but that shouldn't be mistaken for an accurate read of their importance to the defense. The Giants need to generate pass rush with their front four and they need to do it with players who have a hope of stopping the run instead of simply running four defensive ends out there with their ears pinned back.
The stopping-the-run thing hasn't gone all that well this year, but the trio of tackles have done enough to make that a fairly minor consideration. The NFL is a passing league and making quarterbacks uncomfortable isn't easy unless you have guys that can consistently put on pressure up the middle.
The Giants have such guys and that's a major, if underappreciated, reason for their defensive success this year.