NFL Hall of Famer and New York Jets legend Joe Namath has been contributing to Shutdown Corner through the postseason to break down the key games, players and moments. Make sure to like the Official Joe Namath page on Facebook and visit the Broadway Joe site for plenty of other insight and gear from Namath, including video commentary from the legend.
Keeping an edge and guarding against overconfidence is a key that just isn't being talked about much this week. There has been plenty of Super Bowl talk surrounding the New York Giants and the New England Patriots for sure, with everyone wondering about the health of Rob Gronkowski and focusing on the Giants' pass rush. And for sure, the pundits are breaking down the personnel matchups, and who doesn't love that stuff, but what is happening away from the practice field is just as important in a game like this. This game will likely be won or lost days before the teams walk out for the national anthem.
If there is an edge involved, and I'm not talking about talent, I think it goes to the underdog depending on how the favorite approaches things during the two weeks leading up to the game. When I won Super Bowl III with the New York Jets, it was of course the Baltimore Colts who were confident — too confident, there's no doubt about it. This impacted everything they did.
After 45 of these big games, coaches have developed a different method of course. My coach in our game, Weeb Ewbank, told us exactly how we were going to approach things that week. I remember him saying, "Fellas, we're not going to change anything. You're going to conduct yourselves like you have throughout the season. We're going down there a little early and you need to be responsible, like you have all season." And that's what we did; it gave us a sense of familiarity and we didn't focus on the hype as much.
His words allowed us to embrace the moment but also continue with what we were used to throughout the season. That was a big help.
In this game, the New England Patriots are favorites, but their demeanor and the way they are approaching it, well, they're not acting like favorites and I am liking what I see from them in this regard. They're not acting like the game should be theirs. It is actually the Giants who are acting a bit cocky.
Now let me explain. The way that I'm looking at this game, the way the two teams are approaching it … well, the Patriots' demeanor is focused. They're looking at things on a daily basis and thinking about this game. The Giants seem to me to still be celebrating those wins over the Atlanta Falcons, the Green Bay Packers or the San Francisco 49ers. Those were great wins for sure, but they won't help you win this game.
The Giants are looking back rather than keeping their eyes on the trophy. This can be dangerous.
When you think you're better than the other guy, it results in preparation where you might be lacking in some intensity and not know it and it takes that edge away. In games that I was a part of when we had a good team and you play, say a last-place team, I was convinced the week before that we were ready to take the field. We weren't and we went out there on the field and lost.
I went out in one of those games, convinced I was ready, and went out there and threw five interceptions. My play showed a lack of urgency and you can't fool it mentally or physically if you're lacking that edge. If the Giants are looking back to their playoff wins or their win at New England earlier this year or even that Super Bowl win a few years ago over the Patriots, then they're going to lack the right approach to win this game.
Those guys are spending a lot of time enjoying those wins. The way the Giants are carrying themselves -- I'm being upfront -- well, it's dangerous.
Let's Talk Halftime in the Locker Room: This halftime is going to be 30 minutes in length because of the musical show that is going to take place. But while hundreds of millions of people will be watching the performance, the game's direction is being decided in the locker room underneath the stadium.
I like the fact that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is even practicing the halftime routine and how his team will handle it. I wouldn't doubt that Tom Coughlin on the other sideline is doing the same thing with the Giants. Every other game during the season and playoffs, you have a set amount of time to get off the field, get your team into the locker room and have your talks and that length is 15 minutes. The Super Bowl is different because the players have an experience that they won't go through in any other game with a halftime break twice in length.
The timing is different and the activity all around you is different. These coaches are very smart to prep for this.
So even this elongated break is being practiced these days, and it is smart that you can rehearse what those players are going to go through on Sunday evening. That familiarity helps when they really have to handle it. So we know Belichick is interrupting his practice to simulate this longer-than-usual break in the game action.
There's going to be distractions and that will be tough for the young players and those who haven't been there before, but dealing with them proactively is the best way to minimize the negative effect that can be had.
Joe's Focus Point: That offensive line for New England will be under tremendous pressure. Both of these defenses know that they need to harass the quarterback, but the Giants must do that in order to win the game because their defense is built and predicated on a strong pass rush. The kind of stunts the Giants will be running, the ways they'll try to fool the offensive linemen and making sure their assignments are right are all things New England will have to account for.
If Tom Brady has time with the receivers he has, there will be big plays, but going against the Giants' front four, the Patriots line must step up and have an impact performance. If they win this battle, they win the game. This game is won or lost in the trenches.
Joe's Super Pick: The Giants were helped along the way by Green Bay and San Francisco; those were two teams which gave the game to the Giants. I really believe that the Patriots' offense, even with all the talk about this two-tight end offense, still has Deion Branch and Wes Welker as big keys. That's a tough assignment for the Giants to minimize.
I changed my pick mid-week, and I see the Patriots getting their fourth Super Bowl win.
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