Giants, Patriots Super Bowl XLVI storylines
For the second time in five years, the New York Giants and New England Patriots face off in the Super Bowl – this time in Indianapolis on Feb. 5. There will be lots of talk about that earlier meeting, but understand that many of the players from those teams are gone.
David Tyree and his helmet catch are retired. So is former Giants great defensive end Mike Strahan and wide receiver Amani Toomer. Plaxico Burress is a New York Jet. For the Patriots, Randy Moss, Rodney Harrison, Asante Samuel, Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi aren’t around either. Thus, for as much as people will want to draw parallels between those teams, much has changed.
Here’s a look at five big storylines going into next month’s battle for the Lombardi Trophy:
Can New England get revenge for what happened after the 2007 season?
The Patriots who were with the team in ’07 would like nothing more than to prove that Super Bowl XLII, which spoiled their run at perfection, was a fluke driven by a magical catch by Tyree on an improbable throw from Eli Manning. But don’t forget the great defensive effort New York put together to stop the Patriots’ explosive attack. The key in that game was the Giants’ ability to get a pass rush going without having to do too much blitzing.
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Which Tom Brady will show up?
Since the start of the ’07 playoffs, Brady has had two excellent games against lesser opponents (Jacksonville in 2007 and Denver this year), but has otherwise been mediocre. Against Baltimore, Brady admitted that he “sucked” and promised his team and owner Robert Kraft that he would be much better in the Super Bowl. He better or his chance to tie Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most Super Bowl wins by a starting quarterback may slip through his fingers. That’s another notch in the belt for Brady as he tries to improve his Hall of Fame résumé and the argument by some that he is the greatest quarterback of all time.
Can the Patriots’ secondary handle the Giants’ wide receivers?
In the Giants’ 24-20 regular-season victory over the Patriots, New England’s secondary actually did very well, limiting the wide receivers to only one catch of more than 20 yards (a 23-yarder by Victor Cruz). But that game was played without Hakeem Nicks. On Sunday in the AFC championship game, there were far too many times when the Patriots’ secondary made critical errors and allowed big yardage after the catch. Against the Giants’ group of Cruz, Nicks and Mario Manningham, those kinds of mistakes can be game-altering.
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Can the Giants contain wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski?
In the earlier matchup, Welker and Gronkowski combined for 17 catches for 237 yards and one touchdown as Brady threw for 342 yards, but also had two interceptions. The big question leading up to the game will be how banged up is Gronkowski’s ankle. Gronkowski, who broke single-season receiving yards and touchdown receptions records by a tight end this season, had to leave Sunday’s game in the second half, but eventually returned.
Can either team run the ball effectively enough to control the clock?
It’s unlikely, but both teams have had their moments in recent weeks. In the Giants’ case, they wore out opponents like Atlanta and Green Bay over the course of a game after jumping out to early leads. That didn’t happen in the NFC championship game against San Francisco (26 rushes, 85 yards). By contrast, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (15 carries, 68 yards, 1 TD) did a surprisingly good job of running against Baltimore on Sunday, though New England ran out of various passing formations. The Patriots will not be able to just line up and blow the Giants off the line.
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