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Diary of a Giants Fan: Giants-Patriots Super Bowl Preview Part III

And Here.  We.  Go.  In just a few days, the Giants and Patriots will take the field in the ultimate battle for football’s ultimate crown.  In this final edition of our Super Bowl preview, we break down the keys to the game and give the official prediction.  It’s Giants-Patriots, for everything the sport has to offer.  

So it all comes down to this.  A thrilling crescendo that has played out over five months of as emotionally trying a football season as I’ve ever been apart of reaches it’s unequivocal peak on Sunday.  Super Bowl XLVI.  Giants.  Patriots…And Madonna.  Let’s not forget Madonna.  Side note: Madonna?  Really?  We couldn’t find someone relevant to music in 2011-2012?  I’m sorry, was Cyndi Lauper not available?  Bell Biv Devoe have a previous engagement? Anyway…

Defiant.  It’s a word I’ve used so often to describe this Giant team, because, it’s the only word that applies to the entirety of the 2011 New York Giants.  You could test the bounds of any thesaurus collecting the vast amount of verbiage needed to portray this Giant season.  At any one point this year they were good, they were brilliant, they were bad, they were down right awful.  They’ve thrilled us, and they’ve killed our spirit.  They’ve been as difficult to figure out as any team that I can ever remember.  But through it all, one word has always rung true.  Defiant.  What but a honed sense of defiance would have pulled the Giants out of a four game losing streak in which they looked all but dead in the water?  What else helps a 9-7 team go on the road and demolish the prohibitive Super Bowl favorite?  We all know the Giants have great players.  But so did the Packers.  So did the Falcons.  There’s something else with this team.  There’s an attitude, a swagger; a “What?  Who the hell are you?” spirit that has helped the Giants raise the level of their game to its absolute best, and ride into the Super Bowl on an indisputable high.

And so here they are.  The Super Bowl.  One final game.  A win means the utter elation that comes with having stormed the NFL and stolen its championship from teams that others will deem more deserving.  A loss?  Well…

…The gut-wrenching regret of having come so close, and fallen ever so short (it was a nice effort Ron Dixon, but 2000 is still a rough memory).  One of these teams,  Giants or Patriots, Manning or Brady,  Coughlin or Oliver Twist-I mean Bill Belichick (I get them confused what with the similar wardrobes and all) is about to make their mark on NFL history.

If it is to be the Giants, we know where the effort has to start.  That’s right.  The effectiveness of Mitch Petrus…I kid.  It’s the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with this.  But of course it starts with the Giant pass rush.  It always does.  It’s no secret that while the Giants have spent the year riding the milky-white arm of Eli Manning, the momentous turnaround only came when this pass rush got healthy and came to life.  They represent, in my mind, the single most important aspect of this game.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  We know what the Patriots are.  They are Tom Brady.  As the Ugg-Boot model and occasional weird goat-enthusiast cowboy goes, so do the Patriots.  And with Gronkowski, Hernandez, Branch and an assortment of under 6’0, really fast white guys, he has a lot of ways to beat you.  Conversely, the Giant secondary has shown a lot of ways to be beaten.

Elsa, Getty Images

But this is a timing offense.  And there in lies the way to beat them.  First?  Like we’ve all been saying: Put Brady under pressure.  The Michigan man has shown that he doesn’t always handle pressure well.  He makes errant throws, he gets petulant, he becomes a shell of the legendary quarterback that we all know.  Specifically, Brady likes to step up in the pocket, so the Giants will need to focus their attacks on the center of that Patriot O-Line.  Osi is an edge rusher, we know this.  Therefore, I think Tuck, Pierre-Paul and Canty become incredibly important in this game.  Canty has to be the force inside that he can be, and I think you have to see a lot of stunting between Tuck and Pierre-Paul to confuse the Patriot O-line and get those two into one on one match ups. If whichever of them ends up on the inside can get any kind of penetration, I think this will be a long day for Brady.  That pressure up the middle, even if they don’t get a sack, will disrupt the offense’s timing enough that the edge rushers will be able to track Brady down and end the play.  To me, it’s the most important facet of this Super Bowl.

Additionally, the Giant secondary has to play physical football.  The Patriots love to burn you with short out and crossing routes that rely heavily on timing.  That timing is thrown into an awful lot of flux if Wes Welker starts the play on his butt.  Look, I could drag on for hours about everything you want to see the Giants do.  You want them to stuff the run – Which the Patriots could have success with, though I seriously doubt that BenJarvus Green-Ellis (is that really his name?) is winning this game.  You want to see them shut down the seam route to the tight ends – Specifically Hernandez.  We know about Gronk, but the lesser known TE’s speed could be huge in this game – and the list goes on.  But I think it all boils down to two things: Put pressure on Brady up the middle, and play physical, bump coverage on these receivers.  You won’t shut-out the Patriots.  But with that formula, I think you can do enough to let Eli win you the game.

Andy Lyons, Getty Images

And that right there is the key to this game offensively for the G-Men.  Eli Manning.  Look, I definitely think the Giants should show a balanced attack; you want to see them run the ball off tackle, particularly with Bradshaw.  You won’t find success running anywhere near the monster that is Vince Wilfork, so run away from him, attack the Patriot linebackers with speed and force those safeties to honor the run.  If the G-Men can do that, you’ll see the Giant pass game find a lot more space in the secondary – But let’s be honest folks:  Any Giant win is coming by way of Eli Manning and his band of merry men.  This Patriot secondary is…not good.  Big Blue?  Dynamic.  The G-Men need to take advantage of that.  Protect Eli – which starts with doubling, perhaps tripling Wilfork – and turn Manning loose.  Let Eli be the clutch, elite quarterback he’s been all season, and let Cruz, Nicks and Manningham go make the plays that they’ve made all season.  The game is being played on an insanely fast track in Indianapolis.  Let these receivers run, and I think you could see some fireworks in this game – It’s how the G-Men need to play to win this game.  Let Eli be Eli.  No emotion.  No mistakes…No mistakes.  Don’t give this Patriot team extra chances.

As for the game?  I don’t have a damn clue.  Every now and then the better angels in my head are shouted down by the reckless fan that I am and I make outrageous claims like “GIANTS 74- PATRIOTS 2″…But they’re called better angels for a reason.  This is the very definition of a toss up game.  The Giants come in with all kinds of momentum, playing their very best football.  They won the first matchup against the Pats without Nicks, without Baas and without Bradshaw.  A lot of that says Giant advantage.  But the Pats are winners of 10 straight and turned the ball over four times in that game, do you see that happening again?  I don’t.  I just think that we’re destined for a hard-faught, bitterly close game that could very well be decided by whomever has the final possession.  And what else could you possibly ask for?  This is gonna be fun, folks.  Vegas likes the Pats, the media likes the Giants – which would normally mean disaster for the G-Men, but I think the Giants are too well coached to shrink from this stage.  They’ll be ready.  And if they’re not, I’ve got some help.  As a man who loves his obscure movie references that really have nothing to do with football (as evidenced above), I offer this:

(It’s the Free Willy clip at the end that makes it art)

Yes.  YES!  EMBRACE THE RECKLESS FAN!  72-4!!!!!

Hold up.  Let me insert some objectivity. As hard as this game is to handicap, let me say this: If the Giants play the way they have for the past month, if they bring their game to Indianapolis, can you see them losing?  I can’t. Defiance!  27-24 Giants.

Check back here following the game for a Super Bowl recap – hopefully with a parade re-cap forthcoming – and as always, GO GIANTS!

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