The Giants and Patriots may be in different conferences, but over the years, they’ve become quite acquainted.
Sunday’s tilt will pit two franchises that are very familiar with one another, as they annually play in the preseason finale, and have entertained in two of the greatest Super Bowls in recent memory. New England (8-0) is arguably the best team in the league, as they continue to dominate the AFC East, while New York (5-4) has endured an up-and-down campaign, yet currently sits atop the NFC East.
While the backdrop of this rivalry has been much publicized, neither head coach has any interest in delving into the past – whether to fuel one team (the Patriots) to overcome their pesky nemesis, or inspire the other team (the Giants) in replicating past glory.
“It’s a new year, new scheme, it’s a new team, all of those things. We have some ideas that carry over, but by in large, that’s in the past,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said when asked if he can use past games to key on this week’s gameplan.
The coach did allow that while he’s trying to keep the past separate from Sunday’s game, he’ll try and take bits and pieces and incorporate it into this week’s preparation.
“We might mention it, but as I said, it’s a whole new ballgame,” noted Coughlin.
The last time these teams met in a meaningful regular-season game was in Week 9 of the 2011 season. They came into the game with matching 5-2 records, but the Giants got the best of the Patriots, 24-20, when Eli Manning tossed a one-yard touchdown to tight end Jake Ballard with 15 seconds remaining in Foxboro. And of course, the last time the two teams met in a really meaningful game, Big Blue knocked off the Patriots, 21-17, in Super Bowl XLVI.
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Naturally, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick deflected any queries about the recent losses during his conference call with the New York media, and instead wanted to focus only on Sunday’s happenings.
“Those games were a long time ago. I don’t think it really has any bearing or influence on what happens this week,” Belichick said. “I think this week is about the matchups with these two teams, and so that’s what we’re really focused on.”
Coughlin said all he is concerned about is heading into the Week 11 bye on a high note, as with a win, the Giants would enter their break on a two-game winning streak and winners in three of its last four games. The grizzled coach wouldn’t admit it, but a win over yet another unbeaten Patriots squad this late in the season would have to be a cherished achievement – especially since none of Big Blue’s wins this season have come against teams with a winning record.
As just one of three remaining unbeaten teams, the Patriots offer a unique challenge because they are among the league’s elite, but have also been in some closer-than-expected games. Should they get off to a slow start, the Giants could be in prime position to pick them off and register the upset.
“They have been in some tight ball games. The Jets gave them a good game [30-23], and Indianapolis, a good game [34-17], so there have been some games that have been relatively close, at least for a while,” noted Coughlin. “They’re a good football team and you’ve got to play your best, there’s no other way around it, in all phases because of their ability to score, [and] their ability on defense to rush the passer. … In this day and age, being undefeated at this point of the season is quite an accomplishment in itself. We know the quality of the team. Excitement is a good word for us -- energy in the room kind of thing -- is a very positive thing for us. We simply have to take care of our process, our production, better than we’ve ever done it before. That’s really what the challenge is for our players, both in the classroom and on the field [because] that’s a good football team.”
The Patriots are indeed a very good football team, as their average margin of victory is more than 16 points. But also of note, half of their eight victories have been decided by no more than eight points. So, should the Giants be able to play “keep away” and keep the scoring down, as Coughlin hopes, Sunday could be yet another tight thriller in what’s becoming a rather entertaining series.
Big Blue notes:
- Belichick, a former defensive coordinator for the Giants during their 1990 Super Bowl winning team, had nothing but fond memories when talking about this year’s passing of the Giants’ matriarch, Ann Mara, and Hall of Famer, Frank Gifford: “Just watching the Giants, kind of one of the first things that I noticed is the patch on the jersey and the No. 16. I know that Ann Mara and Frank [Gifford] meant so much to the great tradition of the New York Giants and I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know and work with, in varying degrees, both people. These recognitions of Ann and Frank, to me, just really touches the great tradition the Giants have, have always had, and how important those two people were. That’s a part of this season for them and certainly for me, as well. I’ve recognized, and I know all their friends and all the people that know what those two people have done for our league, as well, their contribution.”
- The Patriots own a 5-4 advantage in their regular-season matchups, but the Giants obviously own a 2-0 lead in the games that matter the most.