What’s the reason the New England Patriots are in line to lose their first game of the season on Sunday?
Does 69-year-old Tom Coughlin really, truly have Bill Belichick’s number?
Oh, it’s a cute little wrinkle to put on the game, the fact that it was the New York Giants who just so happened to deny New England the perfect season the last time it was this far into a campaign with as many as eight wins on their resume. You might remember the last time. The number was up to 18. It was a little bit of a bigger deal.
“Those games were a long time ago,’’ Belichick said on Wednesday. “I don’t think it really has any bearing or influence on what happens this week. I think this week is about the matchups with these two teams, and so that’s what we’re really focused on.’’
Eight years may not seem like long, but indeed, the Giants have another chance to say they denied the Patriots greatness once again. Big deal.
A win at the Meadowlands Sunday afternoon does little but potentially knocks the Patriots down a seed in the AFC playoff push. If the Giants really want to call themselves the Patriots’ Daddies, then do it where it counts.
Again. Perhaps in Santa Clara, come February?
It’s not like this is out of the realm of possibility. At 5-4, the Giants lead the NFC East standings, and if the season ended today would host a home game. That’s the same situation the Giants found themselves in back in the 2007 playoffs, except they had to travel to Tampa Bay for a 24-14 win before moving on to Dallas, Green Bay, and…well, Glendale.
In the 2011 postseason, they hosted the Atlanta Falcons in a 24-2 win before traveling to Green Bay, San Francisco, and…gulp, Indianapolis.
In neither season were the Giants an NFC juggernaut, finishing 10-6 and 9-7, respectively, before winning their last two Super Bowls. If they lose to the Patriots this weekend, they still face a very manageable finish of 5-1, assuming a loss to the Carolina Panthers and wins over the Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins., Minnesota Vikings, and Philadelphia Eagles. Barring a push by the Eagles, 10-6 should be good enough to win that division. As of this moment, that would set a home wild card date with the St. Louis Rams, a game New York could realistically win.
And off we go…
No, if Sunday means anything for the Patriots, it’s not keeping perfection intact, it’s giving the Giants a much-needed loss in order to make the likelihood of seeing them again in another two months less of a possibility. They can only do so much on that front, though, leaving the rest to the likes of the Jets, Redskins, and Dolphins.
“They’re a good team,’’ Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “I mean, they’ve always played us pretty tough, so we’re expecting their best. They’ve got some really good players. They’re obviously really well-coached, so they’re just a tough team. We’ve always played them, I mean, we’ve always had very, very close games against them even when we’ve won. We just haven’t won as many of them as I would’ve liked to have won.
“I’d much rather have won [the Super Bowls] than lost them, but they won’t have any bearing on this week or what the matchups are. It’s a totally different team and game and situation and so forth, but they just have a great organization. They’ve had a great organization for a long time. They’ve got a great history with a lot of players, one of the oldest franchises in the NFL, so there’s just a lot of history with the team. And we’re pretty familiar with them because we play them in the preseason every year. I don’t think I’ve played against them in the preseason in a long time, but I know our team does. So like I said, it’s a very good team and they’re tough on defense, so we’re going to have to play well.’’
Well, sort of. The Giants currently sit dead-last in the NFL in terms of yards allowed, with 3,803, almost 1,700 more than the Denver Broncos, though about 987 of those might be from when Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints released their arsenal a few weeks back. New York is allowing 307.8 passing yards per game, 114.8 rushing yards per game, which will be of note seeing as the Patriots have lost running back Dion Lewis for the season. But the Giants are allowing only 25.1 points per game, 19th in the league and perhaps, again, a number skewed by that epic, 52-49 loss in New Orleans on Nov. 1.
They’re also opportunistic, leading the NFL in takeaways with 20 (13 interceptions, seven fumbles). The way things go against the Giants, can’t you just see…you know, right?
“They do a real good job of standing the runners up,’’ Belichick said. “A lot of times they don’t tackle them. They just bear hug them and wait till the second or third guy can come in and poke the ball out. In the passing game, they do a lot of trapping where they’re kind of in a zone but they really have another zone. It looks like they’re in one zone but they’re actually in another zone and they’re very fast to converge there, things like that. It’s one thing when the offense just fumbles the ball, they fumble a snap or they drop the ball. They’re turnovers, but they’re not really caused turnovers. It’s just poor ball handling by the offensive team.
“It’s a combination of the individual techniques and also I’d say some scheme things that lend themselves more to possibly creating opportunities where they kind of give you something but then they take it away quickly. If they get there in time, it’s their ball.’’
Just feels like that’s something that could doom the Patriots, doesn’t it?
Not on Sunday. The Patriots will more than likely go to 9-0, while the Giants keep fighting for their playoff lives. If they really want to put a dent in perfection again, they know when and where to find them.
Significant Boston sports injuries