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That old familiar feeling (cont.)

Posted: Monday February 4, 2008 1:49AM; Updated: Wednesday February 6, 2008 3:14PM
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The acrobatics of Michael Strahan and his defensive line teammates put an end to the Patriots hopes for perfection.
The acrobatics of Michael Strahan and his defensive line teammates put an end to the Patriots hopes for perfection.

"They were 18-0 and riding high,'' Tyree said. "They were feeling good. But we didn't treat them like an undefeated team. We didn't treat them like some Greek myth. There was no Godzilla out there.''

But the Patriots this season were the NFL's version of Godzilla until Sunday night. They had destroyed everything and everyone in their path, building an aura of invincibility in the process. The Giants were really the first team all season that refused to back down to the Patriots, and believed just as firmly in their own special place in history.

"We all respect the Patriots, but it was our time,'' Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. "We wanted to start our own dynasty. Forget that parade in Boston. We're having one in New York City.''

Maybe the most surprising thing about Sunday's outcome was that despite the Pats' 18-game win streak, the Giants, with their modest three-game winning streak in the playoffs heading into the Super Bowl, played like they were the hotter team. To quote the NFL's rather lame Super Bowl XLII catch-phrase, they wanted it more. They out-hit the Patriots, they out-hustled them, they out-played them at every key moment of the game.

"I think their intensity from the beginning snap to the end of the game was really higher than ours,'' said Moss, with his usual blunt honesty. "We just couldn't meet that intensity. They had the intensity for four quarters.''

One more win and these Patriots would have forced their way into the debate about the greatest NFL team of all time. The discussion may not have ended with them, but New England seemed poised and determined to make us mention them first before including the likes of all those superb Steelers, Packers and 49ers teams -- in addition to those still-unique 1972 Dolphins.

But on this night, it was not to be for a New England team that had not lost in more than a year. The bid for perfection is over, and now these Patriots will be remembered first and foremost for not being able to close the deal history had offered them. Those three, three-point wins in the Super Bowl are still ever so sweet, but the Patriots' three-point loss to the underdog Giants made the kind of history New England had never even remotely fathomed.

"The Giants certainly deserve it,'' said Brady, unaccustomed to the role of gracious loser. "They made more plays than us. We just didn't get it done. Fourteen points, that's our lowest total of the year. That got us beat. It isn't something that any of us prepared for. We're usually on the better side of those three-point wins.''

This time it was the Giants, not the Patriots, who were being hailed for their resiliency, for finding a new way to win every week. In some ways, this New York team is a mirror image of the 2001 Patriots, that plucky first New England Super Bowl championship club that went 11-5 in the regular season and then upset the heavily favored Rams on the strength of a great game plan and more will to win.

"Every team is beatable, you never know,'' Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. "The right moment, the right time, every team is beatable.''

Coughlin's Giants proved it to us all once again. History comes in a lot of different packages, and it doesn't always follow the script. Sunday night wasn't the culmination of perfection we had spent all season anticipating. But it was a perfect ending, nonetheless. We just didn't see it unfolding until it was already upon us.

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