The New York Giants have every right to feel confident going into their Super Bowl XLVI matchup vs. the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this Sunday. Their defense has been relentless since Week 16 and their passing attack has been explosive all season.
A lot of people like the Giants in this game–and you can include me in that precipitously growing faction–because they’re considered by far the more battle-tested and complete team.
Like so many of you, I’ve had visions of Giants receivers Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham running wild and overwhelming the Patriots’ secondary, and quarterback Tom Brady, great as he is, being utterly derailed by New York’s strong pass rush.
That said, it would be foolish to underestimate New England.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is hailed as one of the greatest football tacticians in history. He’s a mad scientist of the gridiron — “Spygate” notwithstanding — whose schemes command a deep appreciation for the strategic aspect of football. And in case you’ve forgotten, no quarterback has been as successful as Brady over the past decade.
Brady’s lone Super Bowl loss, in four prior trips, came at the hands of Big Blue four years ago, back when New England was on the brink of perfection.
A 19-0 mark never came to be, and Patriots fans are reminded of such whenever they’re phonetically assailed by that mocking chant heard in and around New York City on occasion: “18-1! … 18-1! … 18-1!” Brady has heard it and must be sick of hearing it. But there are enough people left on this Giants team from Super Bowl XLII for him to feel an authentic sense of revenge if the Patriots win.
New England’s triumph would inflict the bitterness of defeat on 16 players who formed part of perfection’s ruination in 2008, most notably Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Additionally, Belichick has, in the eyes of both his admires and detractors, a score to settle with Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, the only Super Bowl opponent he’s failed to outwit.
Defensive end Chris Canty told Giants fans to prepare for a victory parade next Tuesday. Then there’s Jason Pierre-Paul telling reporters that, while watching the game film of New York’s 24-20 win over New England in Week 9, he spotted Brady reacting to “pressure that didn’t exist, and he was just throwing the ball places where there wasn’t even a receiver there.”
Added Pierre-Paul, “Imagine us getting there even faster and actually doing our jobs and getting hits on him.” Well, as I confessed earlier, I’ve imagined it. The thing is, Jason, I don’t possess the gift of precognition.
Manningham, when asked about Patriots receiver and makeshift nickelback Julian Edelman, said he doesn’t “take anything from him, but he plays offense. He plays wide receiver. He’s not a real defensive back.”
It gets real in two days, when action replaces words.
The Giants better be ready on Sunday. They better be ready to bring Brady down enough times for those mirages wearing Giants jerseys to manifest in his mind (once again), to exploit a secondary defense using an offensive player and counter Belichick’s game plan, because losing after feeling so confident is particularly deflating. It would sting, perhaps almost as much as “18-1!”