If the Patriots want to stop the Giants’ pass rush, they can do a lot worse than asking the Saints how they have been so successful at it. Saints starting tackle Jermon Bushrod was here in Indianapolis picking up the FedEx Air Player of the Year Award for teammate Drew Brees, and I caught up with him to ask him how they managed to keep their quarterback clean in their game against the Giants back in late November. Brees threw for 363 yards and four TDs in that game and wasn't sacked (in fact when the Saints beat the Giants in 2009 he wasn't sacked either and threw for 369 yards and 4 TDs).
“I think we had a good scheme of trying to figure out where the biggest threat was,” Bushrod said. “All their guys are good. It’s really all about trying to win the individual battle but still playing as a team. At times, in certain situations, you have to do what you need to do to slow those guys down. Different formations, tight ends in different places, just so those guys aren’t running off the ball every single time. You have to switch it up and help those guys out.”
It also helped them that Osi Umenyiora left the game early with a sprained ankle and Justin Tuck was at just about the lowest point in his season in terms of his psyche.
But Bushrod said the key is to rank the threats and not allow them to know when you are passing.
“You understand that they have Osi who has been in this league for a long time and is very productive, always putting pressure on the quarterback,” Bushrod said. “You have Pierre-Paul who just had a beastly type year. What you want to fight to do is be as balanced as possible and not get in situations where they say ‘OK, we know you’re going to pass it because you have five receivers.’ They can just pin their ears back and run. It’s about fighting to be as balanced as possible, staying true to the scheme, and fighting to get the job done.”
Things might have been very different had the Saints beaten the 49ers in the divisional round. That would have been a bad matchup for the Giants in the NFC Championship Game, and there’s a good chance we would have been interviewing Giants on Radio Row and in corporate pressers, asking them questions about the Saints.
The Giants are the only team that really blew the Giants out this season. Bushrod said he tries not to think about the possibility of facing the Giants.
“It’s hard to win in New Orleans and we would have been amped about that,” he said. “It would have been a hostile environment. … But who knows. If we would have won (in San Francisco) we might have been in Green Bay. That’s the way I look at it anyway. That’s the way I want to look at it. It kind of hurts my heart that we lost and then the Giants pulled it off and we would have had the chance to play them in New Orleans. But I’m just going to continue to say that if we had won, Green Bay would have won so we would have been up there. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”