BNN: Giants get second chance at upsetting perfect season



David Cassilo

As the two weeks of hoopla and hype finally wear down, the light at the end of the tunnel that is Super Bowl XLII appears to be growing brighter by the second. This year the fan is treated to one of the best Super Bowl match-ups in recent memory. Will the perfect team hoist the Lombardi Trophy at game’s end, or will it be a team of destiny that takes the final step from a good story into a legend? For the New England Patriots and New York Giants, immortality is just 60 minutes away, and everything that has led up to kickoff in Glendale, Ariz., will become irrelevant the moment the kicker’s foot strikes the ball into the air.

In what has been a rare occurrence in Super Bowl history, this Sunday’s game will be a rematch of a regular season battle. In their final game of the regular season, the two teams treated fans to an epic battle, in which the Patriots squeaked out a 38-35 victory. The game, which was one of the highest-rated televised games in the history of the NFL, serves as an excellent tool to help break down the Super Bowl because of its high level of play and how recently the game took place.

The Patriots have failed to play their best in recent weeks but nevertheless have earned their spot in the Super Bowl. In order to complete its perfect season, New England will need to move the ball as effectively as it did in its first meeting with New York. The Patriots’ offensive attack in that game centered around short passes to wide receiver Wes Welker, which proved successful as he finished with 11 catches for 122 yards. By forcing the Giants to focus on Welker, it opened up the big play for quarterback Tom Brady, an opportunity of which he fully took advantage by connecting with Randy Moss on two touchdowns as part of Moss’s six catch night for 100 receiving yards.

For the Patriots to win, they must again get the offense going through Welker. The Giants struggled to cover him the entire game, and it allowed the Patriots offense to move down field with ease. However, with the Giants most likely making adjustments since their last contest, the key to this game for the Patriots will be the play of running back Laurence Maroney. The Giants were able to smother him every time he touched the ball, as he finished with just 46 yards on 19 carries last time they played. If New England is able to get the running game going against the Giants, it will inevitably be a long day for the New York defense because it will have to devote extra defenders to the run, making the Giants even more vulnerable to the pass.

On defense, New England must do more to get into the head of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The last time these two teams played, Manning looked extremely comfortable in the pocket and was able to throw four touchdown passes. The Patriots’ defense has been known to bewilder young quarterbacks, and it must live up to its reputation on Sunday. While Manning appears to be at the top of his game right now, some exotic blitzes or confusing coverage could cause the old Eli to make an appearance.

In order for the Giants to pull off the upset, they need to continue what has brought them to the Super Bowl. On offense, they need to control the tempo with their running game. Massive running back Brandon Jacobs gave the Patriots fits the last time these two teams met, and he needs to see a significant role on Sunday. The other part of the Giants two-headed running game has been Ahmad Bradshaw, who could be the X-factor of the Super Bowl. Bradshaw, who was held out of the first meeting with a leg bruise, is the one offensive weapon New England has not seen. His running style is the complete opposite of Jacobs, and because of that he has shown that his explosiveness can play a crucial role late in games when the opposing defense has been beaten down by Jacobs’s physical running.

A strong running game will make Manning’s job a lot easier as he tries to connect with his receivers. If Plaxico Burress can put together another enormous performance and the rest of the receivers can eliminate the drops, the Giants offense will be as deadly as the one on the New England sideline.

However, if New York is to win this game, they need to do it on the defensive side of the football. Their obvious strength in this aspect of the game is their defensive line, and if they are to win the game, they will need to improve greatly on their one-sack performance from Week 17. In addition to strong play from the front four, the Giants must find a way to slow down the passing game. New York must take away either Welker or Moss because if both run wild like their last meeting, the Giants chances of winning the game will fall to zero.

A perfect season hangs in the balance when the Patriots and Giants meet for Super Bowl XLII. For both teams, flawless execution will be needed in order to walk off the field victorious. When the clock hits zero and the confetti comes down, the most important question will be answered: will we be talking about the perfect season or the perfect upset?