The regular season is now a distant memory and the only meaningful game remaining in the New York Giants’ sights is the biggest game of them all—the Super Bowl.
And their opponent? The team they upset four years ago in Super Bowl XLII and again Week 9 of this season—the New England Patriots.
As it stands now, the Giants are 3.5-point underdogs to the Patriots, but the Super Bowl—like their last two meetings—is a promising game sure to go down to the wire.
Both teams present outstanding qualities that could lead them to a legendary Super Bowl victory. Unfortunately, neither team is flawless in this matchup either.
Here are six facts about the New York Giants that could doom their championship aspirations.
For a few weeks, the New York Giants appeared ready to return to their old ways with an improving running game just in time for the playoffs.
Unfortunately that was not the case, and the NFL’s worst rushing team in the regular season has continued to run the ball as poorly in the playoffs.
Through three playoff games, the Giants are ranked seventh out of 12 playoff teams with 117.3 rushing yards per game, bloated by a 172-yard performance against the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card Round.
To slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, the Giants need their run game as much as they need their defense. In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants run game is what kept the score low and the Patriots’ high-profile, record-shattering offense off the field.
Sadly, the Giants’ atrocious rushing attack hampered by injuries, poor blocking and disappointing effort from Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs will not be able to deliver the kind of support the Giants will need to overpower the Patriots this time around.
There is no secret that New England Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are popular targets for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, but they will likely play an even bigger role against a New York Giants defense that lacks the linebacker talent to cover both men down the field.
In the NFC Conference Championship Game, Vernon Davis exposed a pivotal weakness for the Giants entering Super Bowl XLVI. He accounted for 112 yards on just three receptions and two huge touchdown receptions.
Gronkowski and Hernandez have tallied close to half of the Patriots offensive output in the passing game this season and average 10.5 catches per game.
In two playoff wins for the Patriots, Gronkowski and Hernandez have combined for 353 yards over 26 receptions with four touchdown receptions.
In the Patriots’ Week 9 loss to the Giants, Brady went 12-of-19 passing for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Giants linebacker was exposed as a major liability in pass coverage as he was targeted 13 times, surrendering nine receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown to New England, according to Pro Football Focus.
At this time, Gronkowski’s status for the Super Bowl is uncertain. With a week still remaining until Super Bowl XLVI, however, there is no reason for concern quite yet.
In Super Bowl XLII, the New York Giants thrived off their ability to get to Tom Brady. Perhaps the biggest defensive play of the night was Jay Alford’s crushing hit on Brady that ignited the Giants and their fans.
This postseason though, the New England Patriots have done a phenomenal job protecting Brady from hitting the turf. In two playoff games against the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens, 10th and third in sack in the regular season respectively, the Patriots have surrendered just one sack.
The Giants’ success, especially in the past against the Patriots, depends on their ability to get pressure on the quarterback and relieve some stress of the shoulders of their coverage team. The Giants recorded two sacks in their 24-20 Week 9 victory against the Patriots, but had a substantial amount of pressure in Brady’s face much of the evening.
The Patriots’ improved pass protection enabled them to overcome stellar defensive units in the Broncos and the Ravens. This fact should be alarming for the Giants and could decide who is able to control the game.
The New York Giants defense did not play like itself during the regular season, falling victim to the big play on numerous occasions. The San Francisco 49ers showed in the NFC Championship Game that with the proper play call, an improved Giants defense is still vulnerable against that big play with two Vernon Davis touchdowns of more than 20 yards.
During the regular season, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots accounted for an NFL-best 71 plays of 20 yards or more and a third-best 14 plays of 40 yards or more. The Giants defense, meanwhile, surrendered an astounding 60 plays of 20 yards or more to opposing offenses—fourth-worst in the NFL.
This postseason, the Giants have already allowed seven plays of over 20 yards and one play over 40 yards—Vernon Davis’ spectacular 73-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
The Patriots offense is built on the big play, relying on talented receivers Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to break something open as much as they depend on Tom Brady and his accurate arm.
In their Week 9 meeting, Welker had four receptions for 20 yards or more while Gronkowski added a 27-yard reception of his own to the mix. Welker and Gronkowski combined for 17 receptions, 237 yards and a 14-yard touchdown reception by Gronkowski that gave the Patriots the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Eli Manning’s heroics combined with a phenomenal catch by tight end Jake Ballard in the final minute enabled the Giants to overcome the Patriots’ offensive onslaught, but how many times must New York place their hopes in some Manning magic?
The Giants’ failure to stop the big play in the past could allude to a forthcoming shortcoming that could prove to be the damaging blow the Giants have managed to evade to this point.
Since the New England Patriots’ Week 9 loss to the New York Giants, the Patriots have won 10 straight games, motivated by that crushing defeat. That motivation has led the Patriots en route to a Super Bowl rematch with a Giants team the Patriots would probably love to beat most out of all the postseason teams.
Surely Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots have not forgotten about their undefeated season ruined at the hands of the Giants in Super Bowl XLII either.
Couple the Pats’ desire for redemption with a playoff run driven by a season dedicated to and inspired by the late Myra Kraft, and you have a team with everything to gain in Super Bowl XLVI.
True, the New York Giants have had the Tom Brady and the New England Patriots’ number in their last two meetings, but there is no quarterback in the last 11 seasons who has been more successful than the former sixth-round draft pick Brady.
Together, Brady and head coach Bill Belichick have combined for an NFL-record 16 playoff wins and an astounding .762 winning percentage. Their appearance in Super Bowl XLVI marks a record fifth appearance for the quarterback-coach tandem.
If there’s one thing Brady and Belichick do well, it’s find ways to win. And with this group of players consisting of the likes of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, combined with the likes of a handful of no-name players mixed and matched to complete another memorable run to the Super Bowl for the Patriots, Brady and Belichick might just win it all again.