Memory hasn’t faded
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Though he and his team are very much in “that was then’’ mode going into Sunday’s road reunion with the Patriots, Giants coach Tom Coughlin was prompted yesterday to share a few confettied memories from the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.
“That was very, very rare in our league to go through the entire season undefeated, which they did,’’ Coughlin observed. “Certainly a tremendous challenge for us at the time because of the quality of their football team, both offensively and defensively. All the things they represent. How well they played. The number of Super Bowls that they have won. Same basic unit still together. Sure, it was a heck of a win for us, no doubt about it.’’
Only 14 Giants who played in Super Bowl XLII against the Patriots are still on the active roster and only half of them started against Miami last Sunday - quarterback Eli Manning, running back Ahmad Bradshaw, guards David Diehl and Chris Snee, tackle Kareem McKenzie, defensive end Dave Tollefson, and cornerback Corey Webster.
“Obviously, everybody continued to talk about that [Super Bowl],’’ said Diehl. “It’s hard not to because of the memories that you have from that game, the type of Super Bowl that it was. Everybody talks about the [David] Tyree catch and stuff, but this is a completely different season. We’re playing a different football team in New England and I feel like we’re a different football team.’’
The Giants watched with admiration how the Steelers starved the Patriots into submission last Sunday.
“Pittsburgh did the formula that anybody would like to copy,’’ said Coughlin.
Keeping Tom Brady a sideline spectator is the not-so-secret element, which is what the Giants did to set the tone in Super Bowl XLII, controlling the ball for the first 10 minutes.
“We’ve got to keep the ball in our hands,’’ said Manning, who was the man who did it four years ago. “We can’t make mistakes, can’t turn the ball over. Have to convert on third downs. When we get into the red zone we’ve got to score touchdowns; we can’t settle for field goals. Our defense has a great challenge going against a high-powered offense, so offensively we know we have to do our part.’’
When he takes his first snap on Sunday, Manning will tie Brady for the fourth-longest streak of consecutive starts (111) by an NFL quarterback. Brett Favre holds the record (297 for the Packers, Jets, and Vikings), followed by Peyton Manning (208, all for the Colts) and Ron Jaworski (116, all for the Eagles) . . . The Giants’ top rusher and receiver both sat out yesterday’s workout, with Bradshaw nursing a sore and swollen foot and Hakeem Nicks dealing with an uncooperative hamstring. “He tells me he’s better and says all the right things,’’ remarked Coughlin, who said that Nicks will be day to day. Also sitting out were defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee/shoulder), tackle Stacy Andrews (back), center David Baas (knee), and receiver Mario Manningham (illness). Defensive end Justin Tuck (neck/groin), fullback Henry Hynoski (neck), and cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) had limited participation.
After an untaxing stretch against opponents with an aggregate record of 15-34, including St. Louis (1-6), Arizona (1-6), and Miami (0-7), the Giants have a nasty obstacle course ahead, including road trips to New England (5-2), San Francisco (6-1), and New Orleans (5-3), and a home date with Green Bay (7-0) that will pit them against the league’s top three quarterbacks in Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. “We’re playing one game this week, not the other ones,’’ observed Coughlin, whose motto is “Respect all and fear none.’’ “We play it one at a time. Everyone is aware of the schedule, but we’re excited about that.’’ . . . After a series of late-season swoons the Giants have resolved to “Finish Better’’ this season, starting with better fourth-quarter conclusions. So far this year they’ve scored 21, 15, and 10 points in the final frame to overtake the Cardinals, Eagles, and Dolphins, and beat the Bills on a field goal with 1:32 to play . . . While Coughlin may not be in Rex Ryan’s class as a standup comic, he can be the King of Tart. He skipped his setup soliloquy at the beginning of yesterday’s news conference and went directly to questions “since you don’t listen to anything I say anyway.’’
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.