Each game is its own evolution. We know that the Giants-Packers and Giants-49ers games from the regular season ended with a loss, and yet completely different games unfolded in the playoffs. So what value is there in taking a look back at the first Giants-Patriots game? Well, you certainly get a lot of ideas about what will happen on individual plays. The overall game will be different, but you see individual players who will make their mark again.
Gronkowski (high ankle sprain injury for Super Bowl)-Welker-Hernandez are the Patriots' three-headed monster. The Giants saw them. But the Patriots did not see Nicks in the Nicks-Manningham-Cruz three-headed monster. That is a huge difference. To be fair, Jake Ballard was all-world in that Week 9 game, and his presence in the Super Bowl will unfortunately be tepid, given the knee injury that he will be playing with. The Giants were also without Bradshaw. Interestingly, Bill Parcells, in reviewing the matchup Wednesdayy on ESPN, singled out Ahmad Bradshaw as a player who could change the balance with his running and pass-catching. Given how well Bradshaw can do in space, we agree wholeheartedly that #44 must be given opportunities to go 1 on 1 vs NE's LBers, who are weak in pass coverage.
Someone (Simms?) earlier this week said that high ankle sprains mean that you get enough medical attention to come out in H1 and play somewhat (with varying degrees of effectiveness), yet at halftime the ankle stiffens up and you are done! And let's remember that this is a 30 minute half, not a 12 minute half, so the thinking here is that the Giants Safeties will have to contend with Gronkowski for the first half, and thereafter he is not going to make an impact. THIS IS HUGE. Combined with the way the Giants typically get off to slow starts offensively, if they can just stay in the game and come out with a push by halftime, they will have a very BIG halftime advantage if the Patriots' TE is no longer able to make an impact. With only Hernandez and Welker left to cause problems, the Giants defense should be able to assert itself and tip the scales. The Giants offense was shut out in the first half of that game, but Fewell's defense kept them in it. Earth to Gilbride, earth to Gilbride, please attack and play with urgency in H1 instead of the typical shadow boxing we always seem to get in H1.
I know that Glenn is a big law firm (BJGE) guy. To me, let the law firm run all day. Just like when you play against Brees or Rodgers, their running game is not the enemy. Every time they run is one less opportunity for Brady to make a big play. In the NFL in 2011, it is the passing game that causes problems because of the rules changes. So let BJGE run.
Brandon Jacobs ran well in Week 9. If he runs that well in his complimentary role to Bradshaw, the Giants will get a big lift. Yes, this is still the 2011 NFL for the Giants offense too, so it is not to say that we need to be running all day. But when Jacobs and Bradshaw get the ball, they should at least get some yards and make it easier on Eli.
Belichick is sure to put pressure on the Giants weakness at LBer. In the Week 9 matchup, Boley and Kiwanuka had 10 and 12 tackles respectively, so you have to expect that the short passing game of the slot and TE receivers will put these players in a position to make tackles. With Jacquain Williams hurt, his status will be important. Make the tackles. Make them earn everything.
The Week 9 contest had a lot of sloppy play. Plenty of turnovers. Ross and Thomas both fumbled on Special Teams. Ffffrightening. Along with an Eli INT in the endzone, the Giants had two turnovers. The Patriots had 4. If the Patriots have 4 turnovers, the Giants are winning this game. I highly doubt that that charitable gift is happening again on Sunday.
Here it was that we lamented the loss of our Center, David Baas, coming into Week 9. Yet this was when the running game came back to life. Just a little confirmation and we were all in agreement that we liked it better with Petrus and Boothe.
So what are the major takeaways from the Week 9 game?
1) Protect the ball (Bradshaw fumbled in Supe XLII, don't do it again)
2) Bradshaw plus Nicks minus Ballard is a nice advantage over the first meeting
3) The Giants LBers are sure to be tested. As Michael Strahan explained to us after SB XLII, do the ordinary things (tackling) and become extraordinary.
What are the general objectives needed to win this game?
1) Pass the ball to Bradshaw in space and expose the NE LBers
2) Keep Eli upright
3) Attack and play with urgency in H1
4) "Man up" and continue to play with much less zone, as has been done the past 5 games
5) The obvious> pressure Brady
6) Copious amounts of press coverage, especially on Wes Welker
7) Gronkowski rates to be a non-factor in H2, assuming his injury is legit
8) Minimize the special teams advantage of the Patriots with solid tackling
If the Giants play their 'A game' they win, if they play their A- game, they win. If the Giants make stupid mistakes/turnovers, that is the way they'll lose this game. If I had to pick two things that I could ask for to assure a win, I would just want no turnovers and Eli kept upright. If we see those two things, the Giants win this game.