Who are the New York Giants?
So, which of these two Giants teams is the real one? Well, the answer truly does vary. That’s what makes this team so fascinating and frustrating.
In both 2007 and 2011, the Giants were a team that nobody in New York believed in. In both seasons, Tom Coughlin’s head was on the chopping block. In both seasons, no one expected them to make the postseason, let alone find playoff success.
Who are the Giants? Well, the Giants are a great team. But there’s a caveat. The caveat is that the Giants only play great when drama is involved. They use it to elevate their performance. The game itself isn’t enough; they need something outside of the game to stimulate them.
Whether it’s Rex Ryan’s big mouth, the Packers’ amazing season or the Patriots’ quest for perfection, the Giants find great teams on a mission and crush them.
But against the Patriots, there’s a reason for the Giants to get mad and play great. The drama was there in ‘07 when they spoiled New England’s perfect season and now there’s the drama of the potential to add insult to injury.
That’s the worrisome aspect of this game. There’s a fresh refill of lighter fluid in this zippo. Like the Jets and the Packers, the Patriots make the Giants go berserk and play balls-to-the-wall, lights-out football.
Whether it’s Justin Tuck insisting his team is still the underdog or Mario Manningham insulting Julian Edelman, this whole build up is about the Giants exploiting drama. They’re preparing themselves for war. They’re preparing themselves to win.
As usual, the Patriots are lauding their opponent with respect and focusing on the football game. Bill Belichick’s signature as a coach is his ability to strip the drama from his players and mold them into football players. He’s been extremely successful at it and that’s why Patriots fans love him.
But I wonder if that’s the wisest approach right now. Like it or not, drama is involved. To ignore the drama is to ignore the truth of the situation.
The Giants are an extremely confident bunch right now. If you took a poll of that team, you’d have a hard time finding a guy who doesn’t think they’ll win.
If you polled the Patriots, you probably wouldn’t get a straight answer from any of them; you’d hear them saying that the best team will win, they’re going to go out and play their best, they respect the Giants, yada yada.
The basic fact is that the Packers are a better team than the Giants, and the Giants slaughtered them. The Patriots were better in ‘07 and the Giants smacked Brady around and won the big game.
In the NFL, the better teams lose all the time. In those situations, the mindset of the inferior teams is so brash and confident that they overpower the superior teams who rely strictly on their Xs and Os.
What we have here is a virtual recreation of the build up to Super Bowl XLII; the Patriots are respectfully bowing to the Giants like a samurai before battle, and the Giants are running into this mess with the us-against-the-world thing.
The Patriots seem excited to play, while the Giants seem excited to win.
If you look at Tom Brady from 2001-'04 and you look at Tom Brady from 2005-'11, you’ll see a difference. The difference isn’t in his level of excellence (one could argue he’s even better now), but in his demeanor. He’s not angry anymore. In some ways, he’s the most respectful guy in the league.
If you’ve seen the three Patriots’ installments of NFL Network’s America’s Game: the Super Bowl champions, you get an intimate glimpse of Brady during the dynasty years. Brady was a brash punk with a chip on his shoulder. He thought he could play every position; he even insisted he was the best punter on the team. He strutted around with confidence oozing off his skin. He yelled and screamed like a banshee as he walked through the tunnels. He had a deadly look in his eyes before big games.
He doesn’t do any of that stuff anymore. Now, he lets his game speak for itself. That’s commendable. Clearly, he’s still the best quarterback in the NFL; in fact, he’s the best of all time. But in a game like this, against this specific opponent, his whole relaxed demeanor is slightly worrisome.
It’s worrisome because the Giants have no respect for him or his cool and calm persona. They hate him. The Giants love hitting him. Like the Jets, they live for the days when they get to beat Brady. When Rex Ryan gets up in the morning, he thinks, “I’m one day closer to playing the Patriots again.” That’s how the Giants think too.
In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants took advantage of the Patriots’ lack of extreme killer instinct. It never once appeared the Patriots were willing to die for that game, but it looked like the Giants were ready to move heaven and earth to get that trophy. They wanted it more and there is some early indication that they want it more again.
Patriot Nation is apprehensive about this game. That's partially due to the lingering ghosts of Super Bowl XLII. But more specifically, it’s due to the fact that the Patriots don’t seem too confident about this game. They seem satisfied with the notion that the better team will win. Well, the only thing worse than making that mistake is making it twice.
In the recent flood of interviews with both teams, the Giants are definitely the more confident bunch. Is it overconfidence? Maybe, but it’s still confidence. They look ready to play right now. If the game was tomorrow, they’d be there in a heartbeat. They know they can win. They believe they will win.
Recent interviews with players from the Patriots run within their organization's strict code of conduct: they don’t bash anyone, they don’t discuss injuries, they say nice things about their opponents, they talk about how excited they are, they stress the importance of preparation—you know the routine.
We all love and respect Brady’s nice guy image, but I’m starting to itch for a more vicious version. I’m not looking for grandiose statements or overly obnoxious behavior, but I’m seeking something intangible. I’m looking for a look in his eyes that assures me. Patriot Nation doesn’t need a guarantee, but Patriot Nation could certainly use a dose of confidence.
Brady recently made a promise to Robert Kraft that he would play better in the Super Bowl than he did in the AFC Championship. I believe him. But playing better is only half the battle; in order to beat the Giants, the Patriots will have to intimidate them.
Throwing a few touchdowns and getting Rob Gronkowski involved will be huge, but it's also about attitude. The Patriots need attitude. They don't need to totally focus on the revenge factor, but it wouldn't hurt to get a little mad.