Super Bowl XLII Preview

Super Bowl XLII A Truly Super Rematch
By David Lane

After two very competitive games in the conference championships, the New England Patriots (18-0) are set to play the New York Giants (13-6) for all the marbles February 3 at University of Phoenix Stadium in lovely Glendale, AZ, where it definitely will not be below freezing. The two participants will be most grateful for that after record cold endured in games played last weekend. If this game at all resembles the classic the two played earlier in the final game of the season, were in for a dandy!

Eli Manning and company have played football this last month like, well, they should have played it all season long- as the Patriots have, perfectly. Many point to that Giants-Patriots game played on December 29 in East Rutherford, NJ, in which the Pats narrowly escaped with a 38-35 victory, as a sort of coming out party for the young Eli, and it seems to have been. Most teams haven’t been able to pick up their games after being beaten by a foe as great as this New England squad, but the G-men have used it as a springboard to knock off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Green Bay Packers, in succession and all on the road. A mighty feat if there ever was one!

Whats most impressive is how many different times these Giants have been able to overcome adversity in this most improbable of seasons. Winning on the road, including an extra long road trip to London, England, will do that to a team and now the road winning streak stands at 10. Since traveling to Glendale is definitely not a home game for these guys perhaps they stand a chance against these super Patriots?

Las Vegas books were quick to install the Pats as a 13 point favorite
which seems a bit on the high side. Not that the Patriots have any real
weaknesses because they just do not. They wouldn’t be going for a perfect
19-0 season at the Super Bowl of all things if the weren’t almost perfect.
The Giants however, seem to be peaking and doing it as a team. They fought
an inspired battle against these same Super Foes when Manning (22 of 32
for 251 yards and 4 touchdowns) really rallied his team in a game that although
it had little significance in real life, has made all the difference, apparently,


Head Coach Tom Coughlin went out on the proverbial limb in that game- the Giants having already cinched a playoff birth in Tampa at the time, the game could easily have resembled a bye week- a terrific opportunity to rest his starters. Instead, unlike most of his conservative NFL coaching brethren who would have rested their starters instead of risking any possible injury, he used this time to remind wily vets and young players alike what the game is all about- that football is still fun and is also all about rising to challenges. Not that this Giant team hadnt overcome its share of them already this season.

Keep in mind that last seasons leading rusher Tiki Barber had retired last off season although he was in the prime of his career. Do you think hes having any regrets about now? Finding a replacement in Brandon Jacobs or anyone else seemed a bit unlikely- not for someone as good as Barber had been. The leading pass rusher- End Michael Strahan- had threatened retirement, held out from training camp, and expressed dissatisfaction over most everything Giants. The franchise quarterback, Manning quickly was losing the confidence of his teammates, a restless fan base, and perhaps even himself. Even as head coach, many believed Coughlin lucky to have kept his job from the season before. To make things worse, in week 15 star Tight End Jeremy Shockey went down for the season with a broken fibula against the Washington Redskins.

Despite all these obstacles, they held together for the most part playing just well enough to compete for a wildcard spot in the playoffs. That is until they played New England at home in an attempt to put one last blemish in their 15-0 record at the time. It was there when Manning stepped up by carrying the team, the defense gave Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady the most intense pressure hed seen all year, and the Giants played like a team possessed.

Since then, they’ve overcome the Buc’s stifling defense and beaten them in Tampa. From there they went on to Dallas to play a team that had beaten them in two regular season meetings, and beat the Cowboys at home 21-17. Then finally going to the frozen tundra of Green Bay and winning 23-20 took an awful lot of courage, fortitude, and inner strength. In that 3rd coldest NFL game in history, they overcame turnovers, a game changing 90 yard TD pass, penalties that led directly to points, non calls, and two missed field goals that would have won the game earlier, only to fight back as a team and win it on the third attempt in overtime.

What the Giants have done is turn around an almost forgettable regular season and reclaimed it while they’ve gelled together as a team in the playoffs, which is inspiring by any standard. Never saying die while proving that they have not one but two go to backs in Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, a terrific pair of defensive ends that anchor a tough front four in Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, and a more than capable starting quarterback who happens to have a last name of Manning- and this one has taken only four not six years to arrive at the Super Bowl- it has all come together quicker than most fans could have imagined.

This particular Giants team has come a long way before arriving in the Valley of the Sun. The way theyve played its awfully hard to say they have no chance of winning this Super Bowl. From the chance their coach gave them to play out the season against the best the league has to offer, everything will have come full circle on that early day in February. The sunshine of the Sonoran Desert will provide a peaceful backdrop to one of the most hyped games ever that will actually, amazingly enough, live up to the hype for a change.