Most people look at Super Bowl XLVI as a quest for revenge, as if Bill Belichick has spent the past two weeks devising ways to disembowel the entire Giants team. But truth be told, this game isn’t about the Patriots getting back at the Giants. Not one bit.
Plain and simple: the Patriots will never be able to make up for losing to New York in Super Bowl XLII. There is absolutely nothing they can do to the Giants or any other team to reconcile the fact that they lost a perfect season that fateful night. Not even three straight Super Bowl blowout victories over Eli and the Giants could make up for a lost perfect season. That team represented more than just a fourth ring for Brady and Belichick, it represented perfection and the greatest team assembled.
But, of course, we all know how things turned out. David Tyree’s catch has been played approximately fifty billion times on ESPN in the past two weeks alone, and the Patriots went from invincible to shockingly human in the playoffs. But here we are, four years later, and the Patriots are meeting the Giants again in the playoffs.
It’s a nice storyline to say that the Patriots want revenge, but that’s not what’s going on here. Fans almost always overblow professional rivalries, and many of the key players from the 2007-08 aren’t on their teams any more. Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Steve Smith, Randy Moss, and Laurence Maroney are all gone offensively, and that’s not even mentioning the change in offensive philosophies for the Giants. Four years ago, the running game was the focal point of the offense, averaging 134 yards per game behind Earth (Brandon Jacobs), Wind (Derrick Ward), and Fire (Ahmad Bradshaw). Now, Ward is gone, and they average a league-low 89.2 yards rushing per game.
Back in the day, the Patriots weren’t just known for having a potent offense. Behind Richard Seymour, Tedi Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas, Ty Warren, and Asante Samuel, they had the fourth ranked defense in the league. But now? They have a bend-don’t-break mentality with one of the worst secondaries in league history.
Aside from Tom Brady, Eli Manning, and a handful of players on either side of the ball, these teams are completely different. This isn’t about revenge, it’s about which team is the better team. If anything, the motivation factor is the Patriots being called out by the Giants.
Despite being three-point favorites over New York, the Patriots are big underdogs in this game. The Giants are talking like they’ve already won the big game, and even a majority of experts are picking them to win. But that’s not how I see it.
At the beginning of season, Eli Manning said he belonged in the same conversation as Tom Brady in terms of elite quarterbacks. I’ll admit, I laughed at that. But he’s proved that he belongs in the top-10 at the very least. However, he’s still not even close to joining the league of Tom Brady. Brady is deadly accurate with a long history of playoff success.
Brady has a 15-5 playoff record with a 62.1 completion percentage and 30 TDs to 18 interceptions? And Eli? He’s 5-3 with a 57.8 completion percentage and 10 TDs to 7 INTs. Brady also has the pedigree of playing in four Super Bowls.
But that is all the past. The demons of 2008 are gone, and it’s all about who can play the best over 60 minutes.
I don’t expect anything fancy from the Patriots. I expect a lot of easy passes to Welker, Hernandez, and Gronkowski, and lots of handoffs to The Law Firm, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. BJGE has never fumbled the ball, and if the Patriots don’t turn over the ball, they’ve got a great chance to win.
In the end, I don’t think Eli Manning has what it takes to out-duel Tom Brady in the big game. The Giants don’t have the same defense that knocked around Brady last time around–they don’t have the secondary to stop Welker, Hernandez, and the 6’7″ monster named Gronkowski. The Patriots may be weak of defense, but they’ve come up big when it matters worse.
The Patriots aren’t going to win this game because they want to get back for the last time around. They’re going to win because Bill Belichick prepares them better, because Tom Brady will take apart the Giants’ secondary piece by piece, and because they’re fighting for the memory of Myra Kraft.
The Giants are a good team, but they’re not Patriots great.
Patriots 27 Giants 20