Every word Antrel Rolle spoke was laced with swagger.
Maybe it was the question after question he was asked about how good Tom Brady, Wes Welker and the Patriots are.
Or maybe it’s the 8½ points that New England is favored by when it hosts the New York Giants on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
But whatever it was, Rolle and fellow Giants safety Kenny Phillips were defiantly clear this week that they are not afraid of the big, bad, high-flying Patriots. And they do not fear Welker even if he does lead the NFL with 57 receptions and is second with 824 receiving yards.
In fact, Rolle said he’s not the guy to ask why the 5-foot-9 Welker is so difficult to cover.
“You’d have to ask those guys he’s giving trouble to,” Rolle said. “I don’t plan on having to answer those questions.”
Rolle is just plain confident going into Sunday — or as he described himself, “a cocky (blank).”
“I handle anything. I’m up for all challenges,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s may the best man win.”
But this isn’t just any week.
The Giants (5-2) face the NFL’s third-ranked offense (437.1 yards a game), second-ranked passing game (324.7 yards a game) and fifth-highest scoring team (28.9 points per game) in the Patriots (5-2).
And this, of course, is the first time the teams have met since the Giants’ upset of New England in Super Bowl XLII.
But Phillips, like Rolle, also isn’t concerned, even if coach Tom Coughlin called Welker “extremely difficult to cover” and “very, very quick.” And even if Welker told reporters, “When I am on top of my game, I feel like I’m pretty tough to cover.”
“We’re not really worrying about what the outside people feel about us..” Phillips said. “But I can say if we win this — which I feel we will — the outside world will say, ’The Giants are now a great team.’ “
The confidence of the secondary may seem a bit misplaced given how they have been picked apart at times this season.
And Brady (2,361 yards, 67.6 completion percentage, 18 touchdowns, eight interceptions) has more weapons than just Welker at his disposal. There’s also BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Rob Gronkowski. Deion Branch. Aaron Hernandez. Stevan Ridley. Kevin Faulk.
But the Giants’ pass defense does rank a respectable 13th in the NFL (225.1 yards per game). And they plan to employ their top-ranked pass rush — they lead the NFL with 26 sacks — to try to disrupt Brady.
“I think we can get out there and rattle him up a little bit,” Phillips said.
And as Rolle pointed out, the Steelers shut down Welker who he did call “a monster elite receiver” who “makes a lot of things happen” — last weekend.
They held him to just six catches for 39 yards in Pittsburgh’s 25-17 victory. Welker missed practice Wednesday with a sore neck.
“They didn’t do anything spectacular, they weren’t double-teaming (him). They weren’t doing anything,” Rolle said. “They just lined up and kicked their (butt). Bottom line.”
Although cornerback Corey Webster has drawn opponents’ top receivers this season, he may not cover Welker. The assignment could fall to Aaron Ross or a combination of Ross, Rolle and Phillips in a zone, Phillips said.
He thinks the Giants will do just fine.
“They have guys like Branch, who’s playing well, Welker, their two tight ends,” Phillips said. “We have Ross, Antrel Rolle, Deon Grant, Corey Webster, myself. We’re not too shabby (laughs).”
Meanwhile, Rolle isn’t just unconcerned with the Patriots. He’s not bothered by approaching games against the 49ers, Saints or Packers, either.
“I don’t worry about our schedule,” Rolle said. “I think our schedule needs to worry about us.”