Super Bowl 2012: How These New England Patriots Are Different from 2007

Tony Santorsa@@TonySantorsaSenior Writer IIJanuary 24, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  The New England Patriots celebrates with the Lamar Hunt Trophy after their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The New England Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens 20-23.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Go ahead—call Super Bowl XLVI a rematch of Super Bowl XLII.

I mean, it technically is as it's the same two teams, the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.

However, it's really not.

Believe it or not, the 2011-12 version of the New England Patriots is extremely different from the 2007 version. Both certainly relied heavily on their offense, but the way their offense is structured is much different than it was back in that record-breaking season—that's just one of many reasons why this team is different from the '07 one.

In that spirit, here are some reasons why the 2011 Patriots are very different from the Super Bowl XLII-losing, 18-1 Patriots. 

Not as much pressure

I could have just said that the 2007 Patriots were undefeated and the 2011 Patriots aren't, but that would be far too obvious.

The point is, the '07 Patriots almost looked like they were mentally drained by the time they got to the Super Bowl to face the New York Giants, and that is something this group of Patriots is not reflecting whatsoever.

This year's team plays with new energy and looks to be real fired up coming off its incredible 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship. 

Rob Gronkowsi and Aaron Hernandez

Back in 2007, Tom Brady may have thrown for 50 touchdowns and arguably the greatest season to be ever played by a quarterback, but he did not have his pair of lethal tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Gronk and Hernandez both had one remarkable season together as they combined for 169 catches, a whopping 2,237 receiving yards and a total of 24 touchdowns. 

The way Gronk and Hernandez play is simply remarkable and is one of the many reasons why New England's offense has been so productive in 2011. 

No Randy Moss

Go ahead and disagree, but Tom Brady and the Patriots are much better off without the services of Randy Moss.

I know, I know—what Moss did in 2007 was incredible as he reeled in 98 passes for 1,493 yards and scoring an NFL-record 23 touchdowns—but Brady relied on him far too much. In fact, Brady relied on him so much he'd often get in trouble for it by forcing ill-advised passes in his direction. 

Completely different defensive unit

Tedy Bruschi is not walking through that door, Rodney Harrison is not walking through that door, and Mike Vrabel is not walking through that door—this defensive unit is completely different and much worse.

This unit, led by Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork, finished as the second-worst defense in the NFL this season and is by far the worst defense I have ever seen in the Bill Belichick era—but they're still winning games, and that's all that matters. 

Wes Welker and Deion Branch

Four years ago it was Randy Moss and Wes Welker; now it's Gronkowski and Hernandez and then Wes Welker and Deion Branch. 

Welker is no longer the top weapon for Tom Brady anymore, as his top weapons are his pair of tight ends, which has certainly benefited Welker so far.

As for Branch, he's a Super Bowl-winning MVP that brings some much-needed experience to this offensive group. 

A much more reliable running game

In 2007, the Patriots hardly had a running game as they ran mostly with Laurence Maroney.

Now the Patriots have quite the combination in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, a duo that put up nearly 100 yards against the Ravens defense in the AFC Championship. 

With a much more reliable running game, this makes the 2011 offense much more balanced compared to 2007. 

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