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Perfect ending?

Pats have date with history -- or infamy -- vs. Giants

Posted: Saturday February 2, 2008 10:20PM; Updated: Sunday February 3, 2008 10:30AM
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With a win, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots would join the 1972 Dolphins as the only teams to finish a season undefeated.
With a win, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots would join the 1972 Dolphins as the only teams to finish a season undefeated.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The New England Patriots and their fans have spent the last few weeks acting as if a victory in Super Bowl XLII is a fait accompli.

According to one story, the team already has applied for the "19-0" trademark, which would represent its record with a win over the 13-6 New York Giants. In another article, Boston officials were said to have already decided on a day and a route for a victory parade.

New England has the league MVP in quarterback Tom Brady, the single-season record-holder for touchdown receptions (23) in wideout Randy Moss, and the unprecedented opportunity to finish 19-0 -- which would put them on hallowed ground with the Dolphins as the only clubs to go undefeated in a season. Miami finished 17-0 in 1972.

The flip side of history, of course, is infamy. That's the place the Patriots will find themselves should they lose. The players acknowledged as much during the week, saying there can be no middle ground Sunday night when the game concludes. It will be agony or ecstasy for them.

"We have to finish for this season to be special," linebacker Junior Seau said. "The 18-0 record means nothing without finishing."

The game will mark the second meeting between the Patriots and Giants since Dec. 29. New England rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to win that game 38-35. New York has been on a roll since, winning three straight on the road behind quarterback Eli Manning, who has not committed a turnover in the postseason, and a defense that has not allowed more than 20 points.

Linebacker Tedy Bruschi says that, unlike the team's business people and fans, the players and coaches are taking nothing for granted.

"We don't consider ourselves invincible," he said. "The minute you consider yourself invincible, you are letting your guard down. If you think you can't be beat, that's the wrong thought to have. I think you have to respect your opponent, first and foremost. If you don't, you will be beaten."

Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress already has predicted a New York victory, by a score of 23-17. Should the score hold up, it would represent a season-low in points for the Patriots, who scored a league-record 589 points this season.

New England's players and coaches refused to bite on Burress' motivational offering, but they did take the bait when asked about the possibility of a perfect season.

"We have an incredible opportunity as a team," Brady said. "We have been dealing with a very difficult schedule all season; I think a difficult conference. I remember when we were 15-0 and playing the Giants. We said as a team, as great as you hope these seasons go, you never quite expect for them to turn out the way they have this season.

Being 18-0, I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished thus far and I think we have talked as a team that for the rest of our lives we'll all remember this week, win or lose. We are all going to do our best to hopefully make that one of the weeks that we remember for all of the great reasons and not a week we would like to forget. ... This week will have an impact on the rest of our lives."