Tougher than the rest
Giants' grit will overcome Pats' talent in Super Bowl
Posted: Tuesday January 22, 2008 11:41AM; Updated: Tuesday January 29, 2008 6:57PM
I have a chance to settle an old score, right an old wrong, find peace in my old age and apologize, in sideways fashion, to those whom I wronged so many years ago.
The way to do all this is to pick the Giants to upset New England, and that's what I'm doing. Giants to upset the New England Patriots, currently favored by 12½, in the great stormfest known as Super Bowl XLII.
In 1968 I was the beat man, covering the Jets for the New York Post. I was around the team every day. I flew down with them to Miami for Super Bowl III and I stayed in their hotel, the Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdale. The Colts opened as 17-point favorites. By game time, the rush of Baltimore money had pushed the price up to 19½, one of the biggest line moves in Super Bowl history. They were calling the Colts The Greatest Team Ever, or at least the greatest on the defensive side of the ball. Their owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, thunderously echoed that sentiment.
I had a feeling about the Jets, not a strong one, but Joe Namath working against that strong side rotating zone? Gee, he'd never had trouble with it before. Could it be that ... ? Do I have the courage to ... ? Nah, I'll pick the Colts to win, but by under the spread. That'll make everyone happy. So I did and it made no one happy, least of all me when the Jets scored the biggest upset in Supe history. Who was happy? Leonard Shecter of the Post. He picked the Jets. I kicked myself for the coward I was. No longer. Today, I am a man.
I was in Green Bay on Sunday. The Giants clearly were the better team, tougher, more resilient, harder hitting. That bone chilling cold that was supposed to imbue the Packers with strength and sap it from their enemies, kind of like the giant Antaeus from Greek mythology who drew his strength from contact with the ground ... that brutal, minus-24 wind chill cold was brushed aside by the Giants.
Which was all very well, but Sports Illustrated had sent me out there to do a Super Bowl advance, a look ahead, which isn't easy when the magic of the moment is the game just completed. But coaches are always grading film a week or two in advance, and I knew Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnola must have done a complete workup on the Patriots, so I found him in the locker room and asked him about stopping Tom Brady.
That question might be answered by a news flash that seems to be spiraling out of control around the league. A video is making the rounds showing Brady walking the streets of New York with a cast on his foot. This comes right out of the blue, and it could be that he has simply found a more efficient way to navigate midtown Manhattan, or we could have a major story here. More later, but right now I'm back to the mundane task of getting the strategy from Spagnola.
When he began by feeding me the old jazz about how you have to give him a lot of looks and mix it up, I finished it for him. "Give him the same look and he'll kill, no, you have to mix it up, and the important thing is constant pressure because you don't want him, to get comfortable in the pocket ..." etc., etc.
"I guess you've heard this before, huh?" he said, and I nodded, and the separation was amicable. And gradually it dawned on me, as I toured the locker room, picking up a quote here and there -- there isn't a way to stop Brady and Welker and Moss and Faulk and Maroney ... the whole riotous bunch. A team just has to be tougher, more resilient, more able to sustain high-level pressure on both sides of the ball for a longer period. And I honestly feel that the Giants can do it. Just look at what this improbable team has done so far.
They didn't win their 10 straight on the road against stiffs. Five of the teams were favored over New York, including Dallas and Green Bay, the conference's top two, which fell in successive weekends. The Giants had to come from behind in eight of the 10 games, including Green Bay, in Lambeau, in the frigid temperature before all those screaming fans. I saw one article that suggested Brady and the Patriots might have struggled at first because the wind chill at Foxboro was nine degrees. How about Eli Manning and the boys? They were working in a wind chill that was minus-24 in the fourth quarter and OT.
"Having been on a team that won the Super Bowl, from a wild-card spot," said Todd Christensen, the All-Pro tight end who was on the 1980 champion Raiders, "the ongoing confidence gained by continuing to win at other people's houses cannot be stressed strongly enough."