The Patriots coming off the perfect season were expected to brush aside baby Manning and his New York cronies in Miami four years ago but a miracle scramble from Eli and then a catch from the gods themselves helped set up the game winning drive with only 00:00:35 left on the clock.
Fast forward to the present day and once again we have the New England Patriots hosting the New York Giants in Superbowl XLVI in Indianapolis. This time, nobody really knows who will win so Fight For The Yard will try to dissect the facts and stats giving you a better idea of who will be victorious.
If you was to sum up the Pats offence in one word it would be Brady. The future Hall of Fame quarterback has had a special season even for his standards. Surpassing Dan Marino’s regular season passing record (albeit not the only one this year) would have been a boyhood dream but under the guidance of head coach Bill Belichick, it seems all of Tom’s fantasies have become reality.
Career high totals of 611 passing attempts and 401 completions are impressive but could he have done so well without the man of the moment Rob Gronkowski?
Gronkowski along with his position partner Aaron Hernandez, have revitalised the Tight End position and become one of the most feared double acts in professional football. The tight end has previously been used as an extra blocker for the run game and occasionally thrown to for short gains but in more recent times and with athletes such as these two beasts, they have become the primary attacking option for New England and have caused defensive coordinators massive headaches.
Gronkowski finished the regular season with an NFL record 17 touchdowns for a tight end with Hernandez adding another seven. Unfortunately for Patriot fans, reaching the showpiece event has not come without a heavy price to their main man. Big Rob suffered a nasty looking ankle injury in the win over the Ravens and is officially listed as questionable. Should New England come out on top, you would think that Gronkowski would need to play a key role.
Quietly going about his business and having a very good season is wide receiver Wes Welker. He is another player who has had a career season, leading the NFL with 1,569 yards and 9 touchdowns although his production slowed down towards the back end of the campaign.
Jason Pierre-Paul has become one of the most feared pass rushers in the National Football League in only his second season. His production has been remarkable with 16.5 sacks and 86 tackles in a ferocious New York defence.
Fellow lineman Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck have contributed with nine and five sacks respectively. If the Giants are to disrupt the Brady passing machine then these three will play a crucial role.
One of the more touching stories to grace this year’s finale is the life so far of linebacker Mark Herzlich. Diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2009, he was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent last summer. Now fully recovered and a fully fledged NFL professional, he enters his first Superbowl having played eleven games, making 12 tackles.
For years New York head coach Tom Coughlin has been a run first man but for one reason or another, the passing game has become his new bread and butter. One reason for this could be the emergence of wide receiver Victor Cruz who before the season began was used sparingly but has since become the surprise star man.
Posting figures of nine touchdowns and 1,536 receiving yards Cruz has become the go to man for Manning. Hakeem Nicks has been the only other noticeable contribution in the receiving ranks with seven touchdowns and 1,192 yards.
Eli Manning has a Superbowl to his name yet people are still hesitant to categorise him as an elite quarterback. Constantly in the shadow of elder brother Peyton of the Indianapolis Colts, he has had an uphill battle to prove himself and add to that the media spotlight of playing in New York, you start to feel sorry for the guy but this season has been a turning point.
Throwing for 4,933 and 29 touchdowns, Eli propelled the G-men into pole position in the NFC East but a min crisis when they allowed the Dallas Cowboys to have a say in the title race but consecutive wins orchestrated by Eli over the Cowboys saw them dominate the end of the regular season and power through the post season.
The running game suffered early on but in recent weeks it has become more prevalent with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs scoring 16 touchdowns between them in a hard hitting running game.
With the 31st ranked defence in the NFL, it is miraculous that the Pats were in the playoffs never mind the Superbowl … well that’s what you would have said a year ago but with the 15-1 Packers being ranked 32 and dead last it, appears to be a recipe for success and the old saying that ‘Offence wins games and Defence wins Championships’ seems to be, well, old.
Giving up 21.4 points per game may have been semi acceptable in the regular season but if they do the same in the big game, they’ll be no victory parade in Foxborough come Monday afternoon.
Vince Wilfork has been the stand-out performer on the line this year weighing in with a career high 3.5 sacks and a modest 29 tackles. A pass rush will be crucial to disrupting the flow of Manning and Wilfork will be the one the Patriots will be looking to to supply that pressure.
- Michael Gill, 21, Staffordshire Stallions OG, believes moving Brady from the pocket will be key to a Giants victory, “I reckon it will be 22-17 to the Giants. Eli has become a clutch quarterback and when it matters he delivers. The pass rush is key because if they give Brady too much time then he’ll pick them off”.
- During a recent interview Fight For The Yard conducted with Sky Sports analyst Neil Reynolds, he predicted a New England victory, “I am quite proud of myself after backing the Patriots in pre-season although I am shocked that neither the Packers or Saints will be playing against them. Patriots for me”.
- Terrance Martin, 21, Staffordshire Stallions OLB, can only see one winner, “Giants. Eli is determined to win in Peyton’s house. I cannot wait!”.
Half time show
Madonna has been selected to perform in the world famous halftime show. She joins acts such as U2, The Who, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Tom Jones in featuring in the prestigious twelve minute slot. Other acts LMFAO, Cee-Lo Green and Nicki Minaj will also be performing at some stage.
While most of the world will be admiring the pyrotechnics on display, former Colts head coach and NBC analyst will watching a three minute video about adoption and has encouraged everyone to download it. I won’t be but feel free to at http://www.adoptionjourney.com/share/dungyhalftime/
The New York Giants go into the game as the ‘hot’ team beating the likes of the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers on their journey to the big game while the Patriots have only had one real test coming against Baltimore Ravens after breezing past the much hyped Denver Broncos.
Brady’s main offensive weapon has been wearing a medical boot all week and his practice limited so for the Pats to realistically trouble the Giants defence they will have to try and get some sort of running game established to halt the impressive New York pass rush. Having said this, if one man can win it for New England then Brady is that man.
Being a Peyton Manning fan myself, I won’t begrudge his little Eli from winning this one and getting one over his old nemesis Tom Brady.
Giants 24 – 17 Patriots