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Hefferon: Patriots-Giants rematch will be another classic (Jan. 24)

Jack Hefferon | Monday, January 23, 2012

Thanks to a Sunday afternoon full of sloppy play and shoddy special teams, the New York Giants and New England Patriots are headed to Super Bowl XLVI. The game will be a rematch of the epic Super Bowl XLII, when Eli Manning led a late touchdown drive to secure the Giants’ 17-14 victory.

For the Patriots, the opponent may be the only similarity between this year’s Super Bowl team and the squad that dominated the NFL in 2007. Whereas the 2007 team bulldozed through a perfect 16-0 regular season and set league records for points scored and point differential, this year’s team was able to sneak into the AFC Championship game without beating a single team with a winning record. Vince Wilfork is the only remaining standout from the staunch defense of four years ago, and the speedy Randy Moss has been replaced by the gargantuan Rob Gronkowski as Tom Brady’s primary target. Even the notoriously grim Bill Belichick was downright giddy after besting the Ravens on Sunday, cracking his best attempt at a smile and laughing it up on camera.

For the Giants though, this season looks eerily similar to that magical run to Super Bowl XLII.

Much like in 2007, the Giants were not expected to make the playoffs this season. The lingering stench of DeSean Jackson’s punt return to end last year’s campaign was compounded early in this year’s preseason by the loss of six defensive players to season ending injuries. Coupled with the hype surrounding the “Dream Team” Philadelphia Eagles, New York was expected widely to be an also-ran in the NFC East.

In both 2007 and 2011, the Giants got off to hot starts before slowing down in the second half of the season.

The relentless New York media blamed Tom Coughlin, ever the angry grandfather, for losing the team’s support and causing the collapse. Both seasons were turned around, though, when the Giants ran into the league’s undefeated powerhouse. They stuck around to the end of shootouts with the 15-0 Patriots in 2007 and the 12-0 Packers in December, losing both games by the same encouraging score: 38-35.

Those losses gave New York a boost in morale, and the team used that momentum to carry them through tough road playoff games to the NFC Championship. There, the Giants survived weather-beaten, fumble-filled games. Coughlin’s face was stop sign red in Green Bay snow in January 2008, and was soaked in a driving San Francisco rain Sunday, but both games ended in overtime, with Lawrence Tynes’ right foot sending the Giants to the Super Bowl.

One week from Sunday, this year’s Giants and Patriots will square off in Indianapolis, with fame, fortune and football immortality on the line. Much like the matchup four years ago, the Patriots will try to overwhelm the Giants with Brady’s passing and Belichick’s genius. The Giants will try to hit Brady early and often, and hope that Manning can once again win the game in the fourth quarter. The Patriots will be looking for revenge, and the Giants will try to make history repeat itself and party like it’s 2008.

As fans, we can only hope that we are treated to a game as unforgettable as their first Super Bowl meeting. A game decided by clutch plays, two-minute drills and miracle catches over the middle. A game that comes down to the wire and pushes us to the edge of our seats.

A game that we’ll still be talking about, four years from now.


Contact Jack Hefferon at [email protected]. The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.