Patriots-Giants very different since Super Bowl XLII

Patriots-Giants very different since Super Bowl XLII
November 2, 2011, 7:57 pm
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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."