Barry Cofield knows from experience what it takes to beat Tom Brady in a Super Bowl. He was a member of the New York Giants in 2007, when the G-Men beat the previously unbeaten Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII.
New York won that Super Bowl largely on the strength of its defense, especially its front four.
Cofield believes the Falcons can do the same.
“The good thing is I think they are kind of built to do it,” Cofield said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think the main thing is obviously your front four. You’ve got to pressure. Vic Beasley had a breakout season. He’s in a good position to maybe be able to hit and harass Tom Brady. You got Dwight Freeney, the old vet. In my opinion, a future Hall of Famer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came up with a big game. I think they also have talent on the edges and in the back end – a lot of speed and aggressive guys that can play man-to-man. A lot of times when you sit back in that zone, as we saw with Pittsburgh, Brady will pick you apart. If you have the man-to-man defenders that can disrupt those receivers just for a split second, that’s about all you’re going to get with Brady. Up front, you got to capitalize.”
Ideally, teams want to get pressure with their front four – and only their front four – on every play. But sometimes blitzing linebackers or safeties is the way to go as well.
“I think you can mix it up a little bit,” Cofield said. “I think it is kind of a misrepresentation that you can never blitz (Brady), but you definitely want to try and survive off those front four guys. You need to keep as many guys as possible back in coverage and a lot of times if you just sit in that base shell, he doesn’t really know what’s coming – and a lot of times, it’s nothing coming. That’s probably your best-case scenario because he’s going to make that read, he’s going to make you show your hand pre-snap. That’s why he’s probably the best quarterback ever.”
Cofield was asked if teams talk about hitting Brady more frequently or with greater force, just to get him off his game and let him know that the pressure is coming.
“Just being honest, that’s the message every week in the NFL,” said Cofield, who played in the NFL from 2006-15. “Teams don’t play as well with their back-up quarterback rushed into duty, so that’s just a dirty little secret of the game. You’re not dirty. Nobody talks about hurting anybody. But you just talk about beating up a guy to the point where he doesn’t even want to take another snap – or he physically can’t take another snap. So as legally as you can within the whistles, you want to beat up a quarterback every week. Needless to say, with a team that’s built around a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer, you definitely want to have him picking himself up off the ground. Brady gets frustrated. He’ll let his offensive line hear it and have it when they’re not getting their job done, and if you can have that frustration creep in, I think that’s a good way to get to that offense.”