By Jason Keidel
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Sometimes we get so lost in the lingo, between nickel packages, pass routes, and ankle sprains, that we fly past the far more basic answer in a game that is still about blocking and tackling.
Most agree that the Giants and Patriots are evenly matched, and that Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin will have their teams schematically sound for kickoff.
So what will decide the Super Bowl?
The 2007 Patriots were quintessential bullies. They punched first and opponents pulled away. Tom Brady threw bombs to Randy Moss until you flew the white flag. Then Big Blue gave them a black eye, plowing New England’s offensive line into Brady’s facemask.
So, in honor of the late Angelo Dundee, I’ll revisit a boxing analogy I used when the two teams won their respective conference titles.
In 1997, I cleaned house by betting on Evander Holyfield against Mike Tyson in their rematch. For some reason, Tyson was still favored, and it was one of those rare gifts in gambling and beyond: a sure thing. Since Holyfield had already done the one thing Tyson hadn’t trained for – stare back, push back, and punch back, and thus destroying the seemingly invincible “Iron Mike” – Holyfield had something that couldn’t be measured by a rigorous, statistical ruler: mojo. Two chomps and a missing earlobe later, it was time to collect.
And while the average length of an NFL player’s career is shorter than the four-year bottleneck between that Super Bowl and this one, many of the key players are still in place from the first fight between these clubs – particularly the coaches, quarterbacks, and half of the Giants’ pass rush that battered Brady in Arizona.
Scott Pioli said something yesterday that’s hard to shake, and it had nothing to do with cover 2 or walking boots. He told Mike Francesa that the Giants were faster and angrier than his Patriots in that Super Bowl.
We can revisit the reasons: 18-0 and 12-point favorites are good places to start, and the sense that the Giants, like Holyfield, had a nice run but now it was time for the adults to take over.
And that collective sense of indignity, of resounding rancor over being counted out, must stick like emotional gravy to the Giants. This year, we dismissed them after 14 games. And why not? They were awful, starting 6-2 before going 1-5. Then Victor Cruz made a catch and run against the Jets, and a football revolution resumed.
And that’s the handle. We hear the “us against the world” mantra so often it becomes sterile. But it must be an authentic chorus among the G-Men, who have been bitter since Rex Ryan said the Jets were better. And thus the Giants must feel that Tom, Bill, and Gisele get all the love, that pedigree trumps performance.
Eli Manning, for the purposes of this game, is just as good as his counterpart. So this game will be decided by the physical (pass rush), and fueled by the metaphysical (anger).
This Brady Bunch isn’t as potent on either side of the ball as the 2007 team, and the Giants are just as good as the 2007 iteration. So why can’t the Giants win on Sunday? Francesa, among many, said that the Giants are just a better team. Agreed. Ms. Bundchen wants you to pray for her pretty hubby. He will need it.
Giants win, 24-21.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.firstname.lastname@example.org
What do you make of the anger factor? Let Keidel know in the comments below…