PLAYERS COACHING CHANGES TRANSACTIONS DEPTH CHARTS CURRENT ODDS
Giants defensive line key to another run
By Adrian Fedkiw, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - At one point in his life, Jason Pierre-Paul didn't want to be a football player. But after a broken leg ended his basketball career in high school, Pierre-Paul made a decision that sent him on a path to winning a Super Bowl.
Pierre-Paul played at two junior colleges before transferring to South Florida in 2009, where he was named a First-Team All-American.
Because he played in just 13 games for the Bulls, NFL teams were hesitant to take Pierre-Paul until the Giants finally selected him with the 15th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
The gamble paid off.
Just like the their Super Bowl run four years ago, the Giants got instrumental help from their defensive line during a postseason that ended Sunday in another title at the expense of the New England Patriots.
With fellow defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck plagued by injuries all season long, Pierre-Paul emerged as one of the top players at the position in just his second season in the NFL.
Using unparalleled athleticism, Pierre-Paul recorded 16 1/2 sacks to go with 86 tackles during the regular season and was named to his first Pro Bowl.
After Tuck and Umenyiora finally got healthy once the postseason rolled around, the Giants had another fearsome threesome at the defensive end position.
Four seasons ago, it was Michael Strahan, Umenyiora and Tuck who wreaked havoc in the backfield during the Giants' memorable postseason run. Strahan was in the final year of his career while Umenyiora was still in his prime. Like Pierre-Paul this season, it was Tuck who emerged as a pass rusher that year.
During the magical ride, the Giants recorded eight sacks in the postseason, including five during their Super Bowl XLII win against the Patriots.
Against New England, the Giants at times used all three defensive ends on the defensive line at once, with Tuck playing the defensive tackle position.
Tom Brady, who was sacked just 26 times that season, had no answer as the Giants' persistent pressure knocked him down again and again.
This time, it was Umenyiora, Tuck and Pierre-Paul who terrorized their opponents in the backfield during an eerily similar postseason stretch.
The Giants notched 11 sacks during this year's postseason, with Tuck getting two in the Super Bowl.
New York didn't have the gaudy sack numbers like it had in Super Bowl XLII, but Brady was forced to continually elude pressure all game long.
"We had so many guys on this defense that went out there and made plays today," said Tuck. "And that's what we tell guys to do, go out there and make plays but make sure you do it within the defense, and we did that today."
Pierre-Paul was consistently getting his hands up to swat away passes. Tuck's second sack came on 3rd-and-10 with 39 seconds left in the game, which forced New England to use its final timeout. Umenyiora had a silent game, but led the Giants with 3 1/2 sacks during the postseason.
"We all envisioned it coming down to the fourth quarter," said Tuck. "It was almost relaxing."
02/06 00:56:37 ET