At various times throughout the season Perry Fewell went to a three man rush, which was met with almost universal scorn from Giants fans. However, I'm here to tell you that with the defense teetering on the brink in the Super Bowl, Fewell fearlessly dialed up the three man rush which may have saved the game and the season.
The situation: Giants 12, Patriots 17, 6:37 left in the 3rd Q, Patriots ball at their own 17 yard line.
You all remember that after the Giants jumped out to a 9-0 lead, the Patriots scored 17 unanswered points, including consecutive touchdowns on each side of halftime. Needing points to quell the momentum, the Giants managed a Lawrence Tynes squeaker to cut it to 17-12. But then the Patriots took over once again. Tom Brady had completed 16 straight passes, and the Giants D looked a heavyweight starting to wobble. Reasonable football fans had every reason to think that the score would soon be 24-12 and the Giants would be stuck playing catchup for the rest of the game.
On first down the Patriots pitched it right for Green Ellis, who gains two yards. By the way, Chase Blackburn made a great tackle here, and you also may remember this play because JPP got shaken up and was slow to rise, terrifying Giants fans.
On second down, everyone knew the Pats were going to throw:
2nd and 8, 19 yard line, 6:17 left in the 3rd: Giants send Umenyiora, Canty, and Bernard, dropping Justin Tuck into coverage. Brady fakes a handoff to Green-Ellis, and then looks downfield to his right. Hernandez and Gronk are both blanketed. Brady then looks to dump it to Green-Ellis in the flat, but guess who's all over him 5 yards down the field: Justin Tuck. Brady has nowhere to go, and with Canty chasing him down he wisely dumps the ball into the turf.
3rd and 8: Brady in shotgun. Giants send Umenyiora, Tollefson, and Kiwanuka. Tuck, standing up, shows like he's going to rush before dropping back and eliminating the hot route to Welker. Brady looks left, looks middle, looks right. Nobody is open, at least nobody that will get him a first down. Brady begins to panick, runs into Tollefson, and spins away before Tuck finally rushes the pocket and takes down Brady, possibly re-injuring his left shoulder. Patriots are forced to punt.
We all know the rest. There were huge plays to come and a lot of drama in an eventual 4 point win. But the Patriots never scored again. With a championship on the line and the defense teetering, it was the three man rush that Fewell dialed up twice in a row to get the big stop when they needed it most.