I have deliberately not watched any sports media coverage this last week, nor will I this week. I don’t want to hear every day about how this is a rematch or what happened last time. This is this time.
The Giants and Patriots are both two very different teams now. They have different players in many positions and their games are played very differently. It’s not as if the same teams from 4 years ago are going to play in the Super Bowl next Sunday. Yes, the quarterbacks are the same and a few of the players are the same, but many things have changed since that time.
The Patriots have become the team after which every other NFL team wants to model themselves and every other defensive coordinator has to draw up schemes to defend against. They are the team that has turned offense into a multi-layered, multi-tool side of the ball where just about any player can make just about any play happen. It gives new meaning to the term stretching the defense. There are just not enough defensive players on the field to cover all the possible angles that the Patriots offense can throw at you. Generally, one of them is going to get through and generally, the play gets made in the end.
Now last weekend against the Ravens two things for the Patriots were different. One, Tom Brady was not Tom Brady. He didn’t throw a single TD pass the entire game. That is something that just doesn’t happen. Secondly, Rob Gronkowski was injured. High ankle sprain. Taking away one of Tom’s favorite targets and one of the main offensive tools. I don’t look for Brady to have a repeat performance like that come the Super Bowl and if Gronkowski stays off that ankle for nearly all of the 2 weeks leading up to the big game he might be recovered enough to play.
For the Giants, they still have Eli Manning at quarterback and several other players are the same, but they have added Victor Cruz who has made a huge difference for them on offense. Their defense is still very good and proved that when they were able to take down the #1 ranked defensive team in the 49ers. The Giants still run a balanced attack on teams with the pass and the run and their defense will come after the QB. With the Patriots though, doing that opens up a whole other level of down the field options.
I said that defense wins championships. I still believe it. I also believe that the Patriots defense is much, much better than what the sports media would have everyone believe. The Patriots defense won that game against the Ravens, a team with a very strong defense of their own. As in most really big football games, it will be the team who pushes the QB into the most mistakes and who is able to create mistakes by the other team’s offense. An interception, a fumble, a few sacks that change momentum. These are the things that win big games. This game will be no different. The team that imposes more of their will onto the other will come out victorious.
The only thing that is similar about this game and 4 years ago is that it will be a great, great game. Of that you can be certain.