BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — They have had the conversation.
“I’ve spoken to Osi about it,’’ Fletcher Cox said, “and he did stress to me what it took to get after Tom.’’
Osi, of course, is Osi Umenyiora, the former Giants defensive end. Tom, naturally, is Tom Brady, who all these years after Osi and Co. chased him down is still fading back in the pocket, looking down the field and gunning for another championship. Cox is the Eagles’ terrorizing defensive tackle and, quite possibly, the fulcrum on which this game rests.
If Cox and his defensive line teammates can replicate what Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck did to Brady in Super Bowl XLII and what Umenyiora, Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul unleashed on Brady in Super Bowl XLVI, the Eagles can pull off the upset and defeat the Patriots on Sunday in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. If Brady is afforded the time he needs, without fearing every second he holds the ball his well-being is in peril, well, another Lombardi Trophy will be making its way to New England.
“That’s the only way they can do it,’’ Umenyiora told The Post. “You have to put pressure on Brady. He can get a step up in the pocket, because he handles edge pressure really well. When you have a guy who pushes the middle, similar to how Tuck was rushing and Brady can’t step up it makes it a lot more difficult for him.
“They have good edge pressure, they have Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Chris Long. If Fletcher Cox in the interior can push the pocket, I think they have a good chance.’’
In Glendale, Ariz., 10 years ago, the Giants sacked Brady five times and tenderized him with nine quarterback hits. Six years ago in Indianapolis, the Giants were not quite as terrorizing, but they did sack Brady twice and hit him eight times. More important to the actual pressure was where the pressure came from.
Paging Fletcher Cox.
“I told him he was going to be a big key if they’re going to win this game because the pressure has to come up the middle at Brady,’’ said Umenyiora, who is London-based but is in town to call the game for the BBC. “The edge pressure, he can deal with that. Up-the-gut pressure is something he doesn’t like. A guy like Fletcher, if they’re going to win that game he’s going to have to have a big impact.’’
Tuck, a defensive end, was often positioned at a defensive tackle spot by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to take advantage of Tuck’s rare blend of power and pass-rush ability in a confined space. As a result, Tuck owns four Super Bowl sacks of Brady.
“We can’t go out and just let him bake pizzas back there,” Cox said. “If we do that, it’s going to be a long game for the back end.”
This is an uncommonly deep group of defensive linemen, which is why no player reached double-digits in sacks. Graham led the way with 9.5, followed by Cox (5.5), Long (5), Derek Barnett (5) and Curry (3).
Cox, at 310 pounds, is uniquely capable of collapsing Brady’s pocket from the inside and there is little doubt the Patriots will assign two blockers to him whenever possible.
“Cox is as good as anybody in the league at his position,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s a very disruptive player, hard to block, run, pass, no matter what it is, good edge rush, and they come hard every play. There’s no plays off so you have to block them hard every play.”
As much as the Eagles need to take a page out of the Giants’ Super Bowl manual, they cannot simply hit “print’’ and expect to achieve a perfect duplication.
“I mean, we just got to do us, man,’’ Curry said. “We can’t look at anybody else and copycat stuff.’’
The Eagles do not have to copy the Giants, but they do have to produce a reasonable facsimile.
“When you want to win the game, you got to disrupt the leader, and that’s the quarterback,’’ Graham said. “That’s the one who’s going to distribute the ball to everybody, I think we got our hands full because we’re playing against the best and we got to make sure we prepare as such.
“We know that’s what it’s going to come down to, the defensive line play. With us, we want to be able to rush four, because that’s what we pride ourselves on, being able to rush four without having to blitz and get pressure. We take on that pressure.’’
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