I just finished watching the week 17 game between the Giants and Patriots, which was still on my DVR, coincidentally. Most will remember that this game went right down to the wire, with the Patriots winning 38-35. At the time, this was pretty surprising, the Patriots being the historic team that they are, and the Giants being the NFC’s lowly fifth seed. After watching the tape, here are my three points that led to the Giants keeping this one so close:
1. Domenik Hixon’s kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Not to take anything away from Hixon or the Giants, but this was the one freak play that you can’t really plan for, and ended up having a huge impact on the tone of the game overall. Hixon’s return was a result of a Patriots’ celebration penalty on the preceding touchdown. (And by the way, that penalty was on Laurence Maroney, not Randy Moss.) The touchdown was one of the Giants’ three in the first half, which led to them being ahead 21-16 at halftime, which led to . . .
2. The Giants came out of halftime looking incredibly emotionally charged. We’ve heard some stories leak out, concerning the Giants’ halftime decision to keep their starters in the game. Whatever went on in there, the Giants came out looking inspired. Their defense forced an immediate three and out, something unheard of against the Pats, and their offense went down and staked a 12 point lead. They looked dominant.
3. Eli Manning played nearly flawless. From what I saw, Eli only made two mistakes in this game: he took a twelve yard sack in the third quarter which may have cost his team a field goal, and he threw an interception in the fourth after the Patriots had taken the lead. But he more than made up for these mistakes – he completed some passes that can only be made if your last name is Manning – specifically his third quarter touchdown to Plaxico Burress. I would be tempted to say something like “Let’s see if this Eli shows up on Sunday” – but given the way he’s played throughout the playoffs, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt – I expect this Eli to show up on Sunday.
So what was it that eventually made the difference in this game? The turning point came with the Patriots first score in the third quarter, which put them within 5 points of the Giants. When the G-men got the ball back, all of that emotional momentum they’d been playing with vanished – and to make matters worse, they responded by playing conservatively. This basically sealed the game for Brady and co.
So with that history under our belt, here’s BiCoastal’s keys to the Super Bowl:
- The Giants offense plays with emotion. The last match up saw plenty of scuffles between the Giants offense and the Pats defense. It seems clear that the Giants really need that fire, and need to control it, in order to hang with the Pats. In the Super Bowl, it’s hard to say how this will turn out. Usually, the first quarter of the Super Bowl feels like an exhibition game, what with all of the hoopla surrounding the week, and the fact that it’s played on neutral turf, the crowd doesn’t play such a role. Nonetheless, at some point, the fact that this is the championship game will kick in, and we can expect to see plenty more chippy behavior when the Giants have the ball.
- The Giants defense isn’t good enough to play conservatively. Both the Jaguars and the Chargers played conservatively on defense against the Pats, which involved double teaming Randy Moss and rarely blitzing Tom Brady. The Giants aren’t good enough to do this – it appears their secondary couldn’t even contain Moss with the double team. So if they aren’t pressuring Brady, they can expect he will find the open receiver, as they are just not good enough to keep up with both Moss and Wes Welker. My Giants gameplan would be to aggressively pursue Brady in all four quarters – be willing to take the risk of giving up the long ball if it means they have a chance at forcing a big sack or even a fumble/interception.
All in all, if the Giants are going to have a chance in this game, they must be willing to make it a shootout. They can’t allow Brady to put together the long drives with pass after pass underneath to Wes Welker. If the game is full of quick scores and turnovers, the Giants will stay emotionally charged.
My prediction? The Giants will make it happen for a half, maybe even three quarters, but eventually the Patriots will put it away. Final score 40 -28.