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Sports Then and Now



Super Bowl XLVI Preview: Part 4 31

Posted on February 04, 2012 by Dan Alper

Belichick knows the value of special teams. He signed Nick Koutouvides in week 9 to sure up the Patriots coverage units.

When analyzing a football game like this one it’s all too easy to forget about the impact of special teams. We all seem to acknowledge big special teams plays after the fact, but by the time the next week rolls around the pundits are right back to talking about offensive and defensive match-ups. Maybe it’s a simple numbers game. There just aren’t many special teams plays in any given game, and the kickoff rules instituted this year have turned a significant number of those plays into non-plays.

And then a week last week comes along and reminds everyone just how important special teams are. Danny Woodhead’s fumble on the kickoff following a Raven scoring drive that gave them the lead for the first time in the game seemed to seal the Patriots’ fate. Instead New England battled back to take a three point lead, a lead that kicker Billy Cundiff had every opportunity to erase. The 32 yard try should have been trivial for Cundiff, but he missed, and New England punched their ticket to Indianapolis.

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Super Bowl XLVI Preview: Part 3 3

Posted on February 03, 2012 by Dan Alper

It's been a frustrating year for Sebastian Vollmer, but his return could bolster an improved Patriots running game.

In Super Bowl XLII Tom Brady attempted 48 passes. In the week eight meeting between these two teams Brady attempted 49 passes. It is easy for fans, media types, and even coaches to become overly enamored with the Patriots passing attack, and it’s hard to blame them. But against a Giants team whose hallmark remains the ability to generate pressure with only a four man rush it’s damn near suicidal to drop back that many times. The Giants pass rush is too good to give them that many opportunities to get after the quarterback.

To keep Brady clean the Patriots must be able to run the ball. The Giants are exceedingly likely to dare New England to run. In their first three playoff games defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has called for a rush of four or fewer men over eighty percent of the time, and given their past success using four-man pressures against Brady there’s little reason to believe this strategy will change.

The Giants front four of Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and Chris Canty are the best pass rushing unit in the league, but they lack a true run-stopper. They simply don’t have the beef on the interior of the line, and their aggressive up-field rushes leave a lot of the run responsibilities to their linebacking corps, the weakest unit on their defense.

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Super Bowl XLVI Preview: Part 2 28

Posted on February 02, 2012 by Dan Alper
Especiall Cruz

Previously, we touched on the unknowns of Rob Gronkowski’s ankle injury, but there are some things we know about these teams for sure. The Patriots secondary is very bad, and the Giants wide receivers are very good. The single largest mismatch in this game belongs to Eli and the G-Men, and if the Patriots are to win their secondary will have played no small part.

For a lot of Patriot fans that declaration may be disconcerting, but let’s not forget the first meeting between these teams in 2011. Their week eight match up was deadlocked at zero at the half, and the Giants entered the fourth quarter of that game with all of ten points. Granted the Patriots had only scored three points, but that’s beside the point. A shutdown defensive performance just isn’t in the cards for Belichick’s gang, but they proved capable of slowing Eli Manning in that game.

Manning completed just over 50 percent of his passes on the day, and the Patriots limited him to 250 yards through the air. Such a yardage total is not normally something to write home about, but when you consider the talents of Manning and the talent he has it’s a little more encouraging.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
      January 29, 2022 | 4:43 pm
      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

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