Osi Umenyiora knows what it takes to beat Tom Brady in a Super Bowl: pressure.
The London-born defensive end won two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants, and both victories came against Brady and the New England Patriots.
Brady – now of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – will play in his 10th Super Bowl on Sunday trying to win his seventh ring, with defending champions the Kansas City Chiefs in the way.
STILL can’t believe Tyree did this 😱
— NFL (@NFL) April 12, 2020
The Giants caused a huge upset when they beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in 2008, scoring 14 fourth-quarter points in a 17-14 win that ended New England’s bid for a perfect season.
Umenyiora recorded four tackles in the game as New York focused on getting in Brady’s face.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Umenyiora said: “We know this is the greatest quarterback of all time, but at the time we were playing, I don’t think you could say he was the greatest quarterback of all time.
“To us, he was just a really good quarterback. The thing we noticed really bothered him wasn’t so much pressure off the edges because he was very nimble in the pocket, it was pressure up the middle…
“It was a variation, but for us, our defensive line was the main focus as the whole focus of the defence was getting pressure, and the majority of our pressure came off the edges.
“But because Brady was so successful at manoeuvering and stepping up into the pocket, we had to adjust a little bit to make sure all the pressure came through the middle.”
Until this week, Umenyiora admitted he had never actually spoken to Brady, but he fixed that on Monday during the first Super Bowl media day of the week.
Umenyiora told Brady he had been among those who feared the veteran quarterback would fall flat in Tampa Bay, a big part of his success having been down to Bill Belichick and the New England system.
“You have absolutely obliterated that narrative and I’m just so happy to see what you’ve done down there in Tampa,” Umenyiora said. “Let me just get that out of the way.”
“You’re coming clean,” Brady replied. “Is that what’s going on?”
“Exactly what’s going on,” Umenyiora said.
Calling the shots for the Giants defence in 2008 was coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who will be at it again on Sunday in the same role for the Chiefs.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) February 2, 2021
Umenyiora expects his old coach to run a different game plan on Sunday, tailored to the strengths of a Chiefs’ defensive unit which has some outstanding playmakers but cannot claim to match the front four of the 2007 Giants.
“He’s going to bring blitzes up the middle,” Umenyiora said. “He’s going to start to twist the defensive linemen.
“He’s going to do all these different things because he understands that all he has to do is get Brady to make a wrong decision or at least get him to pump and hold off for a split second.
“Then maybe those defensive linemen will be able to get there.”
There is no question Brady is a different player now to the one Umenyiora went head-to-head with, but he said if he was playing against the 43-year-old on Sunday, his approach would be little different.
“We’d be even more ferocious,” he said. “I think maybe because he might not be quite as nimble as he is in the pocket as he is older, even though he’s not playing like that, he’s playing lights out…
“He’s no different than any other quarterback. Whenever you get pressure on him and you’re able to get people up into space, things aren’t going to be so good for him.”
:: Super Bowl LV is live on BBC One and BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday, February 7, kick-off 11.30 p.m.