SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Patriots

February 4, 2012

Local football coaches dissect Sunday's Super Bowl match up

(Continued)

Rudloff, who has a track record of having his defense step up in big games, believes the Patriots need to focus in on shutting down Manning's security blanket — and he's not talking about Hakeem Nicks.

"For the Pats to win they need to take away what makes Manning comfortable and that's Victor Cruz," said Rudloff, who switched gears to talk about Brady and the offense.

"The Pats offense is going to have to find just the right mix of using their tight ends to chip and protect Brady and/or release into a pattern."

Tom was less-than-terrific against the Ravens in the AFC Championship and with the exception of the Bronco beat-down in the Divisional round, Brady's been average at best in the postseason since losing to the Giants in February of 2008.

But like Hamilton-Wenham coach Andrew Morency points out, as bad as Brady was against Baltimore, he's rarely had back-to-back sup-bar performances.

Morency, whose defense has been among the best in the North Shore in points allowed per game the past two years, thinks the return of Brandon Spikes at linebacker has done wonders for the New England front seven. A vicious run blitzer, Spikes brings a bit of an edge the Pats have been missing since the departure of Rodney Harrison. Spikes is seeing more and more snaps in the playoffs and he's earned it. It was Spikes who picked off Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter two weeks ago.

"The front seven is playing as well as anybody. Spikes is a great addition, he's allowed (Jerod) Mayo do more things. They really compliment each other," said Morency. "It's had a domino effect on guys like (Rob) Ninkovich. Spikes has such a nasty kind of play to him, it's something the Pats need."

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