17 - 14 Final
  for this game

Giants to get second shot at Patriots

Jan 30, 2008 - 7:30 PM NY Giants (13-6) at New England (18-0) 6:18 pm EST

GLENDALE, Arizona (Ticker) - Do not try and convince the New York Giants that nothing good comes out of a loss.

A narrow 38-35 defeat to the New England Patriots in the regular-season finale may have been the best thing to happen to the Giants - even if the game was essentially meaningless to them.

Not only did it show New York that it could compete with the league's best team, the loss served to spark a slumbering offense that had produced more than 21 points just once in the previous eight games.

Armed with a renewed confidence, the fifth-seeded Giants ripped off three consecutive road victories, including revenge games against the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, to earn a most improbable berth in Super Bowl XLII.

Their opponent, appropriately enough, is the Patriots, who capped off the first 16-0 regular season by overtaking the Giants, rallying from their largest deficit of the season (28-16) in the second half to do so.

"I don't really think there is such a thing as a moral victory," veteran Giants receiver Amani Toomer said. "I think we played them tough and they know we played them tough."

Indeed the Giants' demeanor is decidely upbeat this week - to the point where wide receiver Plaxico Burress predicted a 23-17 victory for New York and did not back down from the statement when pressed on it at Media Day.

"Are predictions guarantees?" Burress asked. "We want to win the game. It's OK to want to win, think big, and dream. We're going to take this thing back to New York."

Quarterback Eli Manning, however, was quick to caution that as well as the Giants played in the regular-season finale, the final outcome still resulted in a loss.

"We were able to put up a good bit of points and move the ball at times against them," Manning said. "Even as well as we played, we didn't win. That tells us if we expect to win this game, were going to have to play even better than that and play a near-perfect game.

Manning has been steely efficient in the postseason, throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions - a marked turnaround from the regular season in which he threw 23 scoring passes and was picked off a career-high 20 times.

Ironically, had the Patriots not been trying to etch their names in the record books with the first unbeaten regular season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Manning likely would have viewed the game from the sideline.

Locked in as the No. 5 seed, the Giants had nothing to play for but coach Tom Coughlin elected not to rest his players in a game of such magnitude.

"When we were preparing to play the Patriots the first time, the idea was that we were going to play to the best of our ability," Coughlin said. "It was all going to be positive, we had nothing to lose, we were going to go do the very best that we can, we were going to have some fun with it, and looking back on that it became a continuous theme with this group of people; of playing as hard as we can, having fun with it, and letting the athletic ability of our players step to the front."

Now the question is, do the Giants have it in them to take that next step and take down the undefeated Patriots to capture their first Super Bowl championship in 17 years.

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said his team learned a simple but valuable lesson from that game: "The Patriots are pretty good."

Patriots guru Bill Belichick, who is seeking to become the second coach in history to win four Super Bowls - all since 2001 - shares a similar sentiment about the Giants, particularly after seeing their play in the last month.

"It was a very competitive game. We knew when we played the Giants down there they had a very physical football team," Belichick said. "We felt they were as good as any team we had played and they have gone on to play even better than that in the playoffs and I clearly feel now they are the best team we have played all year."

The challenge presented by New York would be greater if the ankle injury of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is worse than the team is letting on.

Already a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, Brady was spotted wearing a medical walking boot in New York City on Monday, setting off a media frenzy in the Northeast.

When Brady failed to show up either in the locker room or at portions of practice which the media was allowed to view on Thursday and Friday, the furor escalated - everywhere but in New England's locker room.

Brady put such concerns at ease Tuesday when he said the ankle felt great one day after going through a light practice.

"It's doing good. I'm feeling better each day," Brady said. "I'm glad we had the week off and I had the chance to rest a little bit. I really feel that by the game it's going to feel great, and there will be no issues.

"Not that I can run anyway, but hopefully I'll be able to skirt around some of those guys who are trying to tear my head off."

Brady, who has made 126 consecutive starts, is coming off his finest season, setting the league's touchdown mark with 50 scoring passes and throwing just two interceptions.

The youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl at 24 years, 184 days old in January 2002, Brady owns a stellar 14-2 record in the postseason.

"We expect the Tom Brady to come out that was the MVP of the league, that put up one of the best seasons all-time for a quarterback this year, and that is what we expect," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "We are not looking at that whole hoopla that was about that boot. We expect the best from Tom Brady."

The Giants also must be concerned with containing Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss, who broke an NFL record with 23 touchdown passes in the regular season but has been limited to just two catches in the playoffs.

Still, although Brady threw for 356 yards and two TDs to Moss in the first meeting, the Giants since have bottled up three Pro Bowl quarterbacks in Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo and Brett Favre.

They will hope to do the same in the Super Bowl by applying constant pressure on Brady and then controlling the clock with the two-pronged running attack of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

"Most definitely," Jacobs said. "That's any offense. If their offense is not on the field, then they don't have any opportunity to score points."