The Ghosts of Super Bowls Past

With a massive defensive force and a future Hall of Fame rival leading the charge, many Patriots fans are quick to turn their collective conscience toward the Denver Broncos match up, which will take place during week twelve at Sports Authority Field. To be quite honest, why wouldn’t they?

The New England Patriots have more or less dominated the first half of their season and Denver, despite Sunday’s loss, seems like the only team with enough firepower to present a considerable challenge. Why would, or should the Patriots fear any of their upcoming opponents prior to the battle in Denver?
In 2007, the New England Patriots were  part of a historically significant season. After holding strong in becoming the first team in the post expansion NFL to face and defeat 16 teams in a regular season, they seemed poised to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and celebrate the perfect season. What happened in the Super Bowl was quite possibly one of the darkest moments in Patriots on field history.

After an improbable “helmet catch”  by Giants receiver David Tyree, Eli Manning led the New York Giants to Super Bowl victory. The perfection that so many fans craved was destroyed by one, ridiculously fluky catch.
As if 2007 was not heartbreaking enough, the New England Patriots and New York Giants story was only on the very first chapter. Both teams were able to make it back to the big dance in 2011. The New York Giants had a 9-7 record and got very hot at just the right time making it to the Super Bowl.

The New England Patriots were steamrolling along, enjoying the rewards of their powerhouse tight end set of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Had it not been for Baltimore Raven’s Bernard Pollard crushing Gronkowski’s ankle in the AFC title game, this story might be heading in a different direction. As ridiculous as the 2007 game had been, the Giants were clearly the more balanced and complete team in 2011. The Patriots walked away on the losing end of Super Bowl 46 and many wondered if they’d ever make it back to their Super Bowl winning glory years.

Of course that was 2011, 2015 tells a much different story. The New York Giants haven’t even so much as sniffed a playoff berth since their last Super Bowl victory four years earlier. The Patriots on the other hand have advanced to the AFC Championship game every year since 2011 and came home with the Superbowl in 2014.

The Patriots are an impressive 8-0 this season, where as the New York Giants are barely above .500 at 5-4. New England defensive lineman Chandler Jones has 9.5 total sacks for the 2015 season, that is 1 sack more than the entire New York Giants defense. In both 2007 and 2011,Giants’ defensemen were dropping Brady left and right. Justin Tuck has long since gone, and both literally and figuratively Jason Pierre Paul is not the man he used to be.

Statistically, there is absolutely no reason that the New York Giants should have a prayer against the New England Patriots this Sunday. Football, however, lives off the concept that on any given Sunday any team can beat any other team. Another small but crucial point is that Tom Coughlin run teams have beaten Bill Belichick run teams, 5-1. Tom Coughlin coached the Jacksonville Jaguars to two victories over Bill Belichick’s Cleveland Browns and has only lost to Bill once while the latter has coached the Patriots.

It is entirely possible that Tom Coughlin knows Belichick rather well from their days as assistant coaches for the New York Giants back in the 1980s. Coughlin seems to understand Bill’s planning and execution better than most coaches do.

The New York Giants do have yet another ace up their sleeve. This Sunday’s game will be played at MetLife Stadium which of course puts the Patriots in the Giants’ backyard. The Giants have won three out of their four victories when playing at MetLife this season. Granted, those statistics can be a bit misleading as the Giants three victories were against subpar teams with losing records(Washington, Dallas, San Francisco). Still, home teams traditionally have the advantage.

Yet another factor which can’t be ignored is Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The three-time Super Bowl MVP is playing at an unbelievable level this year as he goes out of his way to ensure that all NFL fans recognize his amazing abilities are not based off of under inflated footballs.

Losing two Super Bowls to the Giants is not something a competitive player like Tom Brady will forget and although it may feel like decades ago it will no doubt add fuel to his vengeful fire.

Overall the New England Patriots biggest threat on Sunday will be the ghosts of Super Bowl past. Will a bit of doubt creep into the usually focused and steady minds of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? In short, unlikely. The 2015 New England Patriots are on a mission to shake the proverbial New York beanstalk to the ground. With one more win and a chance to avenge their history at stake, would you bet against the reigning, defending Super Bowl champions?

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