One of those blemishes came against the Giants, who like ’07 flirted with irrelevance for much of its season, despite the win in Foxboro. Now, just as then, the switch got turned on in late December, leading to an easy-first round win, a conquest of the top seed and a tense overtime road victory in the NFC title game. Doesn’t all of that sound familiar?
In the search for different factors (aside from personnel), one is, of course, the fact that, for all they accomplished, both the Patriots and Giants benefited from a lot of good fortune in the championship games.
A touchdown pass broken up at the last millisecond, a hooked field goal, two fumbled punts – for the Ravens and 49ers, those defeats will hurt for a long time without anonymous idiots using social media to post inflammatory comments and death threats. With them, it’s even worse, and says more about us taking this stuff way too seriously.
Still, the focus is on the two sides that did get to Indy. There’s the Giants’ Eli Manning, in the city where his older brother has been gainfully employed for 13 years, trying to get that second ring Peyton doesn’t possess, helped by a defense just as physical and ornery as the one in XLII. Funny, no one is questioning Tom Coughlin’s job status now, are they?
With the Patriots, it’s Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski emerging as prime targets for Brady’s precise throws, proving just as dependable as Wes Welker. New England’s defense, maligned for most of the autumn, has played its best in the winter, coming up with timely turnovers or, in Sterling Moore’s case, the hand that kept Lee Evans from cradling that go-ahead TD.
As always, when it gets to this time of year the most healthy thing a football fan can do is tune out the mass quantities of nonsense that accompanies this particular event. The game is compelling enough without them, something the NFL conveniently forgets in an inane attempt to draw in casual fans who don’t watch during the year.