By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
The New York Giants.
The very thought of them on the same field as the Patriots brings me back to the 2007-2008 season. It was so close for the Patriots. So close to 19-0 and probably being considered the greatest team of all-time. Even had they won by a mere 14-10, the consensus historically probably would have included that moniker. And yet a dropped interception, a missed sack, a fallen on fumble that wasn’t, a bizarre, circus catch and the whole scenario changes. Now instead of the greatest NFL team ever assembled, the greatest single season ever, those few plays turn the Patriots into worthy of being mocked by idiots who can’t see that was an incredible, hell of a team. You absolutely have to hand it to the Giants. They played, on that one day, one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen a team come up with. But the fact is, they lose 9 of 10 matchups to that year’s Patriots squad. Not on that day. They didn’t when it counted. That was the 1 in 10 and they did it when needed. No doubt about it, they deserved it.
But the memories of how close the Patriots came to immortality come back with this matchup. Oh well. On to the present day. Lets take a look at this matchup and key players and stories:
Eli Manning, #10, Quarterback: If you look back on the Super Bowl versus the Patriots, Manning came very close on several occasions to going down in NFL lore as a goat in the game. Instead, he ended up as MVP. It took an amazing sequence of events for that to happen. An Asante Samuel dropped interception. Missed sacks by Adalius Thomas, Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green. Rodney Harrison unable to knock a ball down and, instead, David Tyree making the most improbable catch in Super Bowl history on top of his helmet. Another missed interception by Brandon Meriweather. And more. Finally there was the TD pass to Plaxico Burress and Manning went from zero to hero just like that. From loser to victor. And the Patriots perfect season ruined.
Moving forward to present times, that game was supposed to propel Manning into the elite among quarterbacks. But despite his claims to the contrary, it hasn’t happened. He has been up and down since the Super Bowl and the Giants have, like the Patriots, not won a playoff game in the years since that game. But this year, Manning is having probably statistically his best season. His completion percentage, yard per attempt and TD/INT ratio are all at their highest career levels. Given the Patriots struggles in the secondary this year, that can’t be good new for the locals.
Victor Cruz, #80, Wide Receiver: Cruz attended the University of Massachusetts, so this is something of a homecoming for him. He ranks 4th all-time on the school’s all-time receiving lists and made all Colonial Athletic Association Honors both his Junior and Senior years. Despite that, Cruz went undrafted when he came out last year. He had a huge preseason in 2010, leading the NFL in preaseason yardage. That lead to him surprisingly making the Giants final roster out of camp, but a early hamstring injury put him out for the year. This season, with injuries striking the Giants’ receiving crew, Cruz is getting his opportunity and producing. Thru 7 games, Cruz has 28 catches for 497 yards and has become a big weapon for the Giants. A big receiver at 6’0″ 204, Cruz figures to be difficult for Patriots corners to handle Sunday.
Justin Tuck, #91, Defensive End: I gotta admit, I never saw it coming. I never thought that Tuck and the Giants could disrupt the Patriots record-setting offense that season. I knew Tuck was a pretty good pass rusher and the Giants had others. But never did I think they could totally throw off the rhythm and timing of that prolific offense. I never thought they could win the game. There was actually some pre-game chatter Tuck was doing special things and I remember dismissing it. Wouldn’t happen this game, I thought. I was wrong. Tuck had two sacks and forced a fumble versus Tom Brady. The Giants d-lined pressured and pounded him all game. And in the end, that alone was probably the single biggest factor in pulling off the monumental upset of the undefeated Patriots. It wasn’t long after that Tuck signed a large contract extension with the Giants and he has been very good, if not great, since. This year, he’s been very limited by groin and neck injuries. He’s only played in 3 games. But he is practicing this week and it looks like he’ll play versus the Patriots. If he’s anywhere near healthy, it would be wise for the Patriots to pay a lot more attention to him this time around.
Greg Jones, #53, Linebacker: Jones is a rookie linebacker who inherited a starting role in the middle of the Giants defense almost by attrition. Injury after injury decimated the Giants crew early this season and now its Jones’ job. A 6th round choice out of Michigan State, Jones has played competently. Still, the lack of solid play at linebacker is a big reason the Giants have struggled versus the run. They’re 28th in the NFL defending the run and give up a whopping 4.7 per carry. This would seem to be an area the Patriots would want to exploit.
Injuries: It seems very likely the Giants will be without starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw as he has a cracked bone in his foot. In addition, Hakeem Nicks hasn’t practiced yet this week due to a hamstring injury. Other significant injuries include center David Bass, defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul with a neck injury. All could miss the game. It does appear Tuck is progressing, however, as he is practicing without limitation. For the Patriots, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Shaun Ellis, Kevin Faulk, Sebastian Vollmer and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are among the more significant Patriots nursing injuries. This time of year, its always a matter of attrition as every team is going to be limited or without some guys. Its usually the deepest teams that come thru it the best.
Pre-Game Chatter: There have been many questions put to both teams about the Super Bowl rematch from four years ago. For the most part, both teams have preferred to focus on this year’s game and teams. That isn’t to say there hasn’t been a little bit of trash talk. Eli Manning spent the week telling reporters he feels the Giants can operate very efficiently on offense versus the Patriots defense. He also spent time proclaiming himself an elite Quarterback in Tom Brady’s class. Brandon Jacobs, a Giants running back, told the media he was on the verge of scoring a lot of touchdowns. Victor Cruz felt after watching the Patriots defense on tape he saw a lot of holes and was excited about playing their defense.
On the Patriots side, they had a week with the distraction of Wide Receiver Julian Edelman being arrested. They’ve largely strayed away from talking about that. And is their way, they’ve largely strayed away from talking about, well, anything. Mostly the focus has been on themselves and how they’re coming off a very bad game.
Giants fans feel pretty good, but are cautious, about this game. Here is a sampling of thoughts from their official website forum:
barran21 sees the Giants with their own defensive problems:
People keep talking about there defense being horrible, but with our run defense being garbage, I think it will open the passing game with a lot of play action from Brady, it might be Eli Manning sitting on the sidelines watching Brady eat the clock away Sunday…
BK07071 feels the Giants will be just fine without Ahmad Bradshaw and will catch the Patriots off-guard:
After hearing the news about Bradshaw being out, I bet the Patriot”s fans are jumping for joy thinking that it’s a big blow to our game. Little do they know what’s waiting for them in the wings with Jacobs, Ware, and Scott. They won’t know know what hit them!!!
GIANTSACK is feeling confident Sunday is a money making opportunity given the Patriots are favored by 9
Im putting some dough on giants.. Why not.. Going to break the bank on this
Prediction: Well, yours truly got the first one wrong last week. At least it was called to be a close game and the “Patriots own the Steelers” hype wasn’t bought into. This week, the Patriots will rebound. Both teams are fairly injured but it’ll be the Patriots run game that surprises and takes pressure off the defense. They’ll control play throughout and win 30-16.