by Rick Rockwell
Not many folks, least of all this author, predicted the New York Giants would be in Super Bowl XLII.
That makes the Giants very dangerous. As they prepare for the game, they seem loose, focused, and angry that the world has already pre-ordained the New England Patriots as the champions. Lest folks forget, the Giants came close to ending the Patriots’ perfect season just over a month ago. And the Super Bowl is their second shot at stopping the Patriots’ impossible run.
If the Giants win, the Patriots fall short of perfection and become an argument for the ages: great team or also-ran? How can a team be considered among the greatest (18 straight wins or not) if they don’t take home the championship rings and trophy?
Ever since the Giants played the Patriots in a real classic, the Giants are the team that has been unified, solid, and surprising. The Patriots have been inconsistent. What would have happened to the Patriots if they had faced a healthy Chargers team in the American Football Conference Championship? Could they have survived three Tom Brady interceptions if LaDainian Tomlinson was galloping up and down the field?
The strength of the Patriots though is their concept of team. Quarterback Brady had a poor day (some of it apparently due to an ankle injury) and running back Laurence Maroney steps up and rumbles through the Chargers. Maroney and the Patriots’ offensive line are fairly unsung this year, but they have contributed at key moments when the Patriots’ passing attack sputtered.
If the Giants are going to win, they will need to do something no team has done so far: shut down both the pass and the run.
When these teams met in the regular season, the Giants stopped Maroney, but Brady passed for 356 yards and receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker burned the Giants’ suspect secondary. If the Giants follow the formula of the Chargers and Jaguars, teams that double and triple covered Moss so he barely showed up in the statistics, then the running lanes will be wide open for Maroney.
There are some solutions for the Giants and their defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, but they are risky. The strength of the Giants’ defense is their pass rushing line. They have three tremendous sack artist linemen. The Giants will need to use plenty of line stunts and blitzes from their solid linebacking corps to disrupt the Patriots’ offense. They will also need to hit Moss hard at the line.
On the offensive side, the Giants will need to get their running game going. In the December game, Patriots’ Coach Bill Belichick focused his defense on the run and gambled Giants Quarterback Eli Manning couldn’t beat his team. Manning responded with four touchdown passes and the Giants nearly pulled off the upset. But Belichick is the master of throwing up entirely new defenses against teams the Patriots have to play twice in a season. If the Giants can’t win the battle at the line of scrimmage then expect the Patriots to roll. Belichick likely has some blitzes in reserve that he usually throws at the other Manning brother that will disorient Eli. Belichick will not let Manning have another strong day, at least not without challenging him a bit more this time. However, if the Giants do manage to establish a running attack, watch out, because this will become a shoot-out scoring match.
Others can take much more credit about predicting the Patriots would be in Arizona in February. However, last year, a week after the Colts won the Super Bowl, this column did predict if the Patriots paid for some receivers they’d be in the big dance. With Moss, Welker, and Donte Stallworth that prediction did come true. Also, before the playoffs started, this column predicted the Patriots would win the Super Bowl, although the expected opponent was the Packers. Likely, the Giants will give the Patriots a better game, and this will be close. Still, it’s the Patriots by a field goal, in a very field goal friendly location.
Super Bowl Office Pool Prediction
Patriots vs. Giants (Patriots)
Two Weeks Ago: .500
This Season: .684
New York Giants
New England Patriots
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by Rick Rockwell