One thing is for sure — the next time the New England Patriots play the New York Giants, they will double down on whoever is wearing No. 85.
Three years ago late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII, it was the Giants No. 85, wide receiver David Tyree, who rose over New England safety Rodney Harrison to pull down an Eli Manning pass. Clutching the ball against his helmet as he fell backwards Tyree held on to the pass and, four plays later, Manning found Plaxico Burress in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
On Sunday while attending a friend's birthday party in Irvington, N.J., Tyree watched the Giants again beat the Patriots, this time in a Week 9 24-20 win in Foxboro. It was billed as a Super Bowl rematch, the first time these two teams have met since that game in Arizona, and it was another No. 85, Jake Ballard, who tormented New England late in the game.
"It was a great game and a tremendous win by the Giants. I don't think a lot of people gave them much hope at the beginning of the year but they're surprising people," Tyree told Yahoo! Sports. "Watching that game, it was a very quiet first half followed by all the points after halftime and that explosive fourth quarter, it was like watching that Super Bowl. Comebacks by [Tom] Brady and Eli, it had that same exact feel."
Tyree said that he thinks "God must have a great sense of humor" when it comes to how the Giants once again beat the Patriots.
The unknown Ballard had four catches for 67 yards including the 1-yard touchdown grab on the Giants' final offensive play to give them the lead. Signed by the Giants in 2010 as an undrafted free agent, he bopped in and out of their practice squad and the Eagles team last year, before being signed this past August. Used mainly as a blocking tight end at Ohio State, Ballard had just 34 catches while in college, though he frequently told teammates and coaches that he could contribute to the passing attack with the Giants.
Sunday afternoon, Ballard stepped into the limelight, just like Tyree did in the Super Bowl.
"I think it's a lot like that between the two of us. I was one of those guys who maybe didn't get the ball as much because of all the talent we had at receiver, but when I got that rhythm with Manning, I was given the chance to step up," Tyree said. "I think Jake is one of those guys who knew what he had and when the opportunity came along, he stepped up and performed well. There's a lot of similarities to our story, not just that we both wore No. 85 and had big catches against the Patriots."
Including the win in New England, Ballard now has 23 catches for 395 receiving yards and three touchdowns this season. Tyree sees the win as propelling the Giants and establishing confidence in the now 6-2 team and perhaps the emergence of another No. 85 as a star.
"I've been enjoying watching Jake Ballard this season. He may not be the fastest, he may not be the greatest, but he's stepping up for them," Tyree said. "He showed in this game that he can be a big part of their offense and he will be a big part of what they do for the rest of the season."
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