A Super Bowl Rematch With History on the Line

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, January 27th, 2012

byDANNY CURRY
SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR

Special to Sports Page Dallas

New York Giants (9-7) vs. New England Patriots (13-3)

Sunday, February 6, 2012
Lucas Oil Stadium
Indianapolis, Indiana
5:20pm, NBC, Channel 5

Line:  New England -3, 55

All-time series:  RS – New York 5-3; PS – New York 1-0

For most Patriots fans, the last four years since that unpredicted loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, which ruined New England’s perfect season, is a memory that has been hard to let go.  The Patriots now have a chance to wash away that dreadful memory when they face the Giants again on February 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis home of Super Bowl XLVI.

FAMILIAR FOES
There are only eight Patriots on today’s active roster from that 2007 squad: QB Tom Brady, K Stephen Gostkowski, RB Kevin Faulk, OL Dan Connolly (practice squad that year), LG Logan Mankins, LT Matt Light,  DT Vince Wilfork, and WR Wes Welker  and C Dan Koppen and DL Mike Wright who were on injured reserve.

However, the Giants still have many of the same personnel, like head coach Tom Coughlin, QB Eli Manning, RB Brandon Jacobs, DL Justin Tuck, K Lawrence Tynes, not to mention 11 other players.  There is a very familiar feel to this game already, especially considering how the Giants got there again, winning in overtime by a field goal.

The Quarterbacks

Passing:

Eli Manning – 359-589 (13th), 4933 yards (4th), 29 touchdowns (6th)

Tom Brady – 401-611(4th), 5235 yards (2nd), 39 touchdowns (4th)

This has been one of the most intriguing seasons at the quarterback position in recent memory, it’s only fitting that we get to watch two of the very finest playing in the final game of the season….and that’s the way it should be. The main story related to the quarterback position in the 2011 season is that three quarterbacks reached the 5,000 passing yard benchmark. In fact, Dan Marino’s all-time record for yards passing in a season was surpassed by 2 QB’s: Drew Brees and Tom Brady, and Eli Manning came close, and was as good as anyone in the NFL in the fourth quarter. Brady and Manning met four years ago in the Super Bowl, with Manning connecting with David Tyree and Plaxico Burress on a game-winning touchdown drive.  After two dramatic and close championship games, we can only hope for more of the same.

HOW THEY GOT HERE
In the AFC Championship game last weekend, Brady wasn’t quite Brady, and the Pats had to have some good fortune go their way to secure the win. After Ravens receiver Lee Evans couldn’t hold onto a touchdown pass in the final minute and Billy Cundiff missed a field-goal attempt he normally makes, the Patriots secured their seventh Super Bowl appearance. Brady and coach Belichick are on the cusp of more history together. All the talk about the last two years of first-round playoff exits has been forgotten.

For the New York Giants, it was a great performance by Manning, who set franchise marks for completions (32) and attempts (58) in a playoff game and more late game heroics …not to mention a little good fortune as well.   After punt returner Kyle Williams’ first miscue, Manning converted the turnover into a touchdown. Then Williams muffed another punt in overtime which put the Giants in field-goal range which led to the ultimate game winning field goal by Lawrence Tynes (for the second time by the way).

So here we are, the Patriots vs. the Giants in the Super Bowl. Again. What’s interesting to point out is how these two teams got to this point. The Patriots were a team on a mission all season.  They came out clicking like a well oiled machine in Week 1, and never stopped. Remember the Monday Night game against Miami and the 99-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Wes Welker….and throwing for 517 yards? New England gave up 24 points to a sub par team that night but this was a bend-don’t-break defense and the template for New England’s season was established right from the start.  In the divisional round playoff game Tim Tebow and the Broncos were blown out of Gillette Stadium by the end of the first quarter.  Followed by the Patriots holding off Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game by the skin of their rabbits foot.

The Giants, on the other hand, took a more streaky and winding route to the postseason. They opened the season with a loss to the a bad Redskins team. After week 9 and a victory over the Patriots, they stood at 6-2. But the team started to struggle and the questions about Tom Coughlin’s job security emerged yet again as in years past after such performance.  New York entered the beefy part of their schedule against San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Green Bay, going 0-4 during that stretch. Injuries to their pass rushers depleted their defense, and they allowed 87 points in losses to New Orleans and Green Bay. They were 7-7 following an embarrassing, lackadaisical loss to the Redskins, but came back to kill the Jets’ season the following week. In Week 17, they won a huge game against a marginal, but desperate, Cowboys team at home to clinch the division.

Although they won the NFC East with a mundane 9-7 record, it appeared they were really beginning to play their best football. New York beat the crap out of Atlanta in the wild-card game, 24-2, and then shocked everyone by beating the Packers, in Green Bay, convincingly 37-20.  Then held off the 49ers, giving Manning his  fifth road playoff win, an NFL record by the way.

WELCOME TO INDIANAPOLIS
Which brings us to the biggest game of the season in Indianapolis which closely resembles the 2008 Super Bowl all over. The Giants defense is healthy again, especially their pass rush and will be putting a lot of pressure on Brady. Although they will not have the “perfect season” accomplishment on their mind this go round, they will have revenge.  Brady does have the luxury of two tight ends, which is different than the last meeting, however, many of the strengths and weaknesses are the same.

New York is blessed with better depth at receiver, and Manning has a lot more experience and confidence after bring his team back to the Super Bowl when everyone thought they were done.

Eli Manning would love nothing more than to wion the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, home of the other other great Manning QB, and get a second ring which makes him the number one ring holder in his family…..with Payton falling behind for the first time ever.  On the other hand, Brady is primed to perhaps enter that Joe Montana stratosphere, with a fourth ring putting him even with one of the top 5 greatest QB’s of all time.

Both defenses will be tested.  Both quarterbacks are playing for history, accomplishment and pride and someone will rise above it all and make the story line completely different in the end than was predicted in the beginning.

Bring it on!

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