As Giants backup QB for Super Bowl XLVI, David Carr helped the team prep for Tom Brady:
HOUSTON – David Carr didn't play in Super Bowl XLVI, but he helped the Giants win the game.
Carr was then the team's backup quarterback. Not only was he a confidant and sounding board for Eli Manning, but he impersonated Tom Brady in practices before the Giants' 21-17 victory against the New England Patriots. And in part because of that experience, Carr believes the Atlanta Falcons can also defeat the Pats on Sunday in Super Bowl LI.
"That was fun," Carr, now an analyst for NFL Network, said of his experience as the faux Brady. "We tried to mimic him and get (Justin) Tuck and all those guys to jump offside nonstop, and show them their looks. That was a good week.
"They (the defense) had a great plan as far as what they were going to do to get after the passer. If you can get a pass rush with four guys, that's the trick. And the Atlanta Falcons have that. They can come after you with four guys with Vic Beasley and Dwight (Freeney) and those guys on the inside. And they can get to the quarterback that way and play good sound coverage on the back side. They have good team speed. And that's what we had. We didn't have big names in the secondary, guys that are Hall of Famers. But they played good, sound defense, they knew where to go, they were great understanding routes. And that's what Atlanta is going to have to do. That's what they've started to do. That's going to be the show. It's this Atlanta defense, and how they play. That's the wild card. How are they going to show up and play? If they play with enough speed and physicality, they can change the landscape for the Falcons for a long time."
In Super Bowl XLVI, Tuck twice sacked Brady and the Giants were credited with eight quarterback hits – which is exactly what Carr anticipated after practicing against the defense all week.
"Tuck and Osi (Umenyiora) would meet me, and I'd say, 'Okay guys, let me throw the ball so they can get a look down the field,'" Carr said. "We had a special group of pass rushers up front, and that's what changed the game – for both of the Giants' recent Super Bowls (including their Super Bowl XLII victory against the Patriots). If you're going to beat Tom, you can't do it with elaborate blitzes. He's seen it all, and he's going to get the ball out of his hand so fast. If your pass rush can get there with your front four, you have a fighting chance."
Carr, who was the No. 1 overall choice in the 2002 NFL Draft and the first selection ever by the expansion Houston Texans, played 11 seasons in the NFL. In his five years here, the Texans won just 24 games, so Carr appreciates the challenges a team faces in reaching the Super Bowl.
"It's so hard to get here," he said. "We had a good team that year, but so many things have to fall your way, especially playing on the road and battling through. What Tom Brady is doing, getting to this game for the seventh time, is crazy. That's like lightning striking seven times – it just doesn't happen. That alone is pretty fantastic."
One of Carr's most prominent Super Bowl memories occurred not on the field, but in the pregame locker room.
"It was dead silent in that locker room two or three minutes before Tom (Coughlin) came to talk to us," Carr said. "It had never been like that before, even when I was in high school or college. Guys were just so locked in. I think they started to realize the gravity of the moment they were about to go be in. That was a pretty cool experience, because never in my life have I been around 60 football players and it's been quiet. So that moment was pretty neat."
Carr played for the Giants from 2008-09, and again in 2011-12 (he spent 2010 in San Francisco). He played in only 11 games, and threw 48 passes, but enjoyed his time with the team in part because of his association with Manning.
"Before the Super Bowl he was the same as he was when we were chillin' in Mexico," Carr said. "It's fantastic, it really is. Coaches always say, 'Don't ride the roller coaster.' He never did. He'd throw three picks and we're looking at him (saying), 'Dude, you can throw nine interceptions this game. It's possible, there's enough time left. You can be the NFL's alltime leader in picks.' But he's undaunted, he goes back out and rips away, and wins the football game.
"He was like that in the Super Bowl, when he made the throw to Mario Manningham down the sideline. We practiced that 10 times that week, and Eli never threw it to him. But he saw something with Patrick (Chung, a New England safety) not getting to the numbers and made an incredible throw routine. But that's 10 hours of film prep, and not letting the moment be too big for you. He's one of the best."
The Super Bowl XLVI preparation continued for Manning and Carr concluded after the final practice.
"The night before the game, Eli and I were watching the last 10 New England Patriots games," Carr said. "We went back three, four five years, watching every Patriots defense we could see, so we knew how they'd line up against every personnel group and everything they've ever drawn up. So when we went out there, he was as calm as could be, just trying to go about our business. We knew what to expect. We just had to go out and execute.
"I don't think we ever thought we were going to lose that football game. There was never that sense of, 'Man, I hope we get close.' I hope that's what it is for Atlanta here. Otherwise, you shouldn't show up. But I think everybody in that locker room really expected to win."
And they did.