Patriots-Giants very different since Super Bowl XLII

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Patriots-Giants very different since Super Bowl XLII

FOXBORO -- Prior to the Patriots' final preseason game, against the Giants on Sept. 1, Bill Belichick was asked to think back to Super Bowl XLII in Arizona.

On Wednesday, Belichick was asked a similar question, but not just about that Super Bowl loss. It was also about the most recent preseason game, and what the Patriots took out of that while game planning for this Sunday's game.

"I think there's some things you can take from that, obviously," said Belichick. "It's not like a regular-season game. Personnel-wise, there weren't a lot of matchups. They didn't play a lot of the players that will be playing in this game.

"Still, there's some basic Xs and Os, and there's some matchups that are relevant."

The Giants played pretty much none of their starters in that final preseason game, which New York won 18-17. The Patriots, meanwhile, played their starters into the second quarter.

It marked the third time the Patriots and Giants have met, since New York's 17-14 win over New England at the Super Bowl in February of 2008.

All three of those games have come in the preseason, where it's tough to take a team's game plan, and convert it to a meaningful regular-season strategy. The Giants have defeated the Pats in the last two of those preseason games. Just like the Super Bowl, it's all in the past.

But any time Belichick plays Eli Manning and the Giants -- from now until Belichick's retirement -- he'll be asked about the past. Not about the preseason. Not even about the regular season. But about Super Bowl XLII.

If the Patriots had won, perhaps it wouldn't be such an issue. But that's not the case.

The Giants entered the second half of that Super Bowl, trailing 7-3. They then scored 14 fourth-quarter points on Belichick's defense, including Manning's game-winning 83-yard drive in the final minutes that saw a miraculous catch by David Tyree on 3rd-and-5 that kept New York's drive alive and led to a Plaxico Burress 13-yard touchdown with 35 seconds left on the clock.

It wasn't enough time for Brady and the Patriots' offense, and 19-0 turned into 18-1.

Sunday's game against the Giants will be the first time since that Super Bowl, in which the result will matter. It's not the playoffs, but it's no longer a preseason tilt.

Still, memories of that Super Bowl loss will rise to the surface for Patriots fans this week.

As for the team itself? Belichick said he won't think about it more than any other past game.

"We won them, we lost them, but they're all in the past," said Belichick on Wednesday. "They're in the books. Whatever happened or didn't happen, we can't change it. It's part of history. And right now, I'm focused on getting ready for this week's game. That's the way it is every week. Focus on the week that we're playing, not what happened in the past.

"I think we're probably pretty much over that. Whatever the thoughts were after the game, they've come and they've gone. It's what it is. You can't change it.

"That was a long time ago," added Belichick. "There's not really a lot of players. There's a few players, there's not a lot of players that are playing in this game that played in the Super Bowl. There's certainly a lot that are playing Sunday that didn't play in that one, that are critical players to both teams in the game. So I think there's a lot that's changed."

A lot has changed on both sides, with schemes and personnel. And while the memory of that Super Bowl is more pleasant for the Giants, they feel the same way, entering Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium.

It's in the past.

"We're in the moment, very much, just like anybody else that's involved in this current 2011 season," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin in a conference call on Wednesday. "And we are focused on our opponents week in and week out, and that's where our attention goes.

"I don't think about it. I haven't spent a whole lot of time thinking about that. It seems like a long time ago. I certainly was very proud of our players and very happy for our team, our franchise, and our ownership. And I'll always cherish those memories, there isn't any question about that. The New England Patriots were a team that had gone through the regular season undefeated, which is a feat that is very, very, very rare, indeed. And they deserve credit for that. So, that's the extent of it to me. I'm trying to live in the moment."

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

The Patriots should always be motivated heading into games against the Ravens. After all, Baltimore might be the team’s primary rival. 

Yet Monday’s matchup might be about more than past meetings. It could be a revenge game for the Ravens’ role in the Deflategate fiasco. 

As Tom E. Curran notes in the above video, the then-recently eliminated Ravens set off the ordeal when they tipped off the Colts entering the 2014 AFC Championship game. From there, the year-and-a-half-long saga played itself out, ultimately resulting in Tom Brady accepting a four-game suspension from the league. 

Curran and Mike Giardi discussed whether Monday could be a revenge game, with them both concluding that they feel the Patriots are still “pissed off” at the Ravens. 

"I’m just reading the tea leaves,” Curran said. “Bill Belichick will usually throw bouquet after bouquet at the Baltimore Ravens any time they play, from Ozzie Newsome, to George Kokinis, to Eric DeCosta, to John Harbaugh, Dean Pees, everyone. Not a lot of that today. Make of that what you will; I don’t think it’s a coincidence because I do know that when the Patriots were going through the process early on, the fact that the Ravens had dropped a dime -- their assistant special teams coach Jerry Rosburg calling the Indianapolis Colts and saying, “Look there was some foolishness going on with the K balls.’

“Additionally, when that email from the Colts to the NFL was sent to Mike Kensil, it said, 'It’s well-known throughout the league that the Patriots screw with the balls after they’ve been checked by the officials.' So if that conversation was going on during the week between those two teams, one certainly has to surmise that they also spoke about the fact of deflating footballs. 

“So as much as John Harbaugh has tried to dissuade anyone from thinking there was involvement, Dean Pees was interviewed by Ted Wells, Jerry Rosburg was interviewed by Ted Wells. Those are the only two principals from other organizations who were involved, so yeah, I think they’re still probably pretty pissed off about it.” 

What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'

What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'

FOXBORO -- Ever wonder what might've been if Bill Belichick had remained the coach of the Browns, and later the Ravens, after they moved from Cleveland? He says he doesn't.

[And maybe it's a good thing that he doesn't, as his last memories with the organization saw fans literally rip the team's stadium apart and throw it onto the field.]

"I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, no," Belichick told Baltimore reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. "I try to think ahead and make the best of the situation that I’m in, which is what I tried to do when I was in Cleveland. I took a team that wasn’t very good in 1991, prior to free agency and all of that, had a real good team in 1994. The team moved in 1995."

The decision to move the team helped undo the Browns season in 1995, and Belichick was later fired. There's little denying, though, that he left the pieces of a competitive roster behind. And he helped stock the Ravens' cupboard with valuable assets.

Five years after Belichick's tenure in Cleveland had expired, the franchise won a Super Bowl with linebacker Ray Lewis -- drafted with a pick Belichick had acquired -- as its foundational piece. 

"We made a trade that provided two first-round picks that Ozzie [Newsome] did a great job with," Belichick continued. "Ozzie and Ray Lewis were two of the cornerstones of that eventual championship team.

"I have a lot of confidence in my ability, I had a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and the players that we had at that time – 1995 wasn’t obviously a great year for us. I don’t think we need to talk about that. We all know what happened. But yeah, I think we would have been competitive if I had been the head coach there. I think we would have been competitive. We had a good team, we had a good staff, and we had a lot of good players.

"Ozzie did a good job with that team and made it better, and they won a championship five years later [with] some of the same players that we started with. But you know, it wasn’t my choice, Ted [Marchibroda] came in there and was going to transition that for what they needed at that point in time. But I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, no."