INDIANAPOLIS — With legacies on the line in Indianapolis, it’s fitting that two teams with so much history, both this season and in the Super Bowl, face each other in the culmination of the 2011-12 season and playoffs.
Tom Brady can join Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as only the third quarterback in NFL history to win four Super Bowls if he can lead his New England Patriots to a win over the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium today.
Brady, who has 16 career postseason wins, would also pass Montana for most wins in the playoffs if he wins today.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who is tied with his brother Peyton Manning for NFL titles, can one-up his big brother with a win today, doing so on Peyton’s home field.
But, even more important, this game gives Brady a chance to right what was wronged in February 2008, and Eli Manning a chance to solidify the serendipity that occurred in the desert that year.
Four years ago, at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Giants robbed the Patriots of a perfect 19-0 record, stealing the team’s glory after a sensational 2007 season.
Every New Englander knows how it ended. Eli Manning miraculously escaped the Patriots’ pass rush. David Tyree’s supernatural helmet grab. Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone. The final score, 17-14.
Four years later, while the teams are the same, only some of the players remain. Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are back. Eli Manning and coach Tom Coughlin are back. And that qualifies this as a “revenge game,” a theme that has had its drum beat loudly in the buildup to the 46th Super Bowl.
The Patriots are on a 10-game winning streak to get here, besting the Denver Broncos (45-10) and the Baltimore Ravens ( 23-20) in the divisional playoffs and AFC championship to reach the NFL title game. The last time the Patriots lost this season was to the Giants, 24-20, in Week 9 of the regular season. Brady threw for 342 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in that game, leading the Patriots on a fourth quarter drive that ended with a touchdown pass to TE Rob Gronkowski with 1:40 left in the game. But it was too much time for Manning to work with, and he drove 80 yards down the field in eight plays before hitting tight end Jake Ballard with a 1-yard strike to win the game.
The game eerily resembled Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots’ 17-14 loss in Phoenix.
The Patriots are 3-3 in Super Bowls; the Giants are 3-1.
The Giants are on a five-game winning streak, beating the Atlanta Falcons (24-2), Green Bay Packers (37-20) and the San Francisco 49ers (20-17) in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. They finished the regular season 9-7, making them the third team since the introduction of the 16-game regular season to make the Super Bowl after losing seven games.
New York is 3-0 in Super Bowls against teams they faced in the regular season.
Kickoff: 6:29 p.m.
Records: Patriots 15-3 (AFC champions, home); Giants 12-7 (NFC champions, visitor).
TV/Radio info: NBC, WHDH-TV Channel 7 in Boston (Al Michaels, Cris Collinswoth, Michele Tafoya); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti, Scott Zolak); Westwood One Radio Sports (Kevin Harlan, Boomer Esiason, James Lofton, Mark Malone).
Based on information distributed to the media, injuries and the immediate past game’s lineups for each team.
Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Matt Light, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Connolly, RG Brian Waters, RT Nate Solder, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Deion Branch, QB Tom Brady, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, TE Aaron Hernandez.
Patriots defense: LDE Vince Wilfork, DT Brandon Deaderick, DT Kyle Love, RDE Mark Anderson, LB Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S James Ihedigbo, S Patrick Chung.
Giants offense: WR Victor Cruz, LT David Diehl, LG Kevin Boothe, C David Baas, RG Chris Snee, RT Kareem McKenzie, TE Jake Ballard, WR Hakeem Nicks, QB Eli Manning, FB Bear Pascoe, RB Ahmad Bradshaw.
Giants defense: LE Justin Tuck, DT Linval Joseph, DT Chris Canty, RE Osi Umenyiora, OLB Mathias Kiwanuka, MLB CHase Blackburn, OLB Michael Boley, CB Corey Webster, CB Aaron Ross, SS Kenny Phillips, FS Antrel Rolle
Guessing game on Rob Gronkowski’s ankle: Officially listed as questionable for today’s game, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski practiced for the second portion of Thursday’s practice with the Patriots, and then joined the team on Friday for its walkthrough. The Patriots did not practice on Saturday. After suffering a high ankle sprain against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship two weeks ago, he’s been taking it “day to day” in his rehabilitation. It’s anyone’s guess as to how effective he might be with the ankle injury. Against the Ravens, he managed to come back to the game despite the injury.
End of the trash talk?: All the chirping will come to an end at 6:29 p.m. The Giants have responded to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s gentle remarks about hoping for a bigger party than the team’s sendoff last Sunday with gradually more bold boasts of their own. Giants DT Chris Canty said on Wednesday fans should “get ready for a parade on Tuesday.” On the eve of the Super Bowl, the Giants’ official website was hawking Giants Super Bowl championship gear. There appears to be enough bulletin board material for both sides, depending on how you spin it.