By Alex Wagner
Assistant Sports Editor
When the New York Giants and the New England Patriots meet on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, the nation will look on as the familiar foes seek to settle an old score.
For the NFC champion Giants, a trip back to the big game brings back fond memories from only four years ago when they stunned the unbeaten Patriots by beating them 17-14 in Glendale, Arizona.
Despite their ultimate success, the G-Men didn’t have an easy road to the championship in 2007–and, as any Giants fan knows, the road was not any easier this year. It all began well, with a 6-2 record after the first nine weeks of play, including a close win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. But from there things went downhill and eventually hit rock bottom. Only a month ago, the Giants seemed destined for an early end to their season after they lost five of six games, culminating in a loss of 23-10 at home to the subpar Washington Redskins.
But they turned things around for good the next week by beating the confident New York Jets and Rex Ryan to reclaim their status as kings of the Big Apple. A win in their season finale against the Dallas Cowboys allowed them to clinch the NFC East and gave them their first spot in the playoffs since 2008.
The opening playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons did not prove to be much of a challenge, as the Giants rolled to an easy 22-point victory. The next game against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers was not nearly as easy, but New York managed to come out on top 37-20. Finally, the Giants won 20-17 in overtime against a San Francisco 49ers team that had a lot of momentum going into the NFC title game.
The Patriots’ return to the Super Bowl is their first time back since their defeat four years ago, which feels like a long time for a team that lifted the Lombardi trophy three times between 2001 and 2004.
On their road to the big game, the Patriots once again proved that they are one of the elite teams to beat in the NFL. They began the season 5-1, winning three of those games by double digits. The regular season ended on a similarly high note with an eight-game win streak. The most significant game during that stretch was arguably the win against the Denver Broncos, which game them a good preview for later in the year.
After a bye in the wildcard round, the Pats were very convincing when they ended Tebow-mania by defeating the Broncos 45-10 in the divisional playoffs. A botched field goal late in the next game by the Ravens’ Billy Cundiff gave them a 23-20 win and a ticket to the Super Bowl.
Perhaps the most notable feature of this matchup is that it has the same quarterbacks and coaches as four years ago. Patriots coach Bill Belichick will undoubtedly be looking to rely on the consistent play of quarterback Tom Brady, while Giants coach Tom Coughlin will hope that Eli Manning can seal his status as an elite quarterback with a second championship ring in his young career.
Besides the two quarterbacks, Rob Gronkowksi and Victor Cruz will be the players to watch come Sunday. At tight end, Gronkowski has become one of New England’s biggest offensive threats. He had 10 catches for 145 yards and three impressive touchdowns against the Broncos. Cruz has similarly helped the Giants in the postseason. He had 10 catches for 142 yards against the 49ers. Whichever player sees the most touches this Sunday will bring his team closer to victory.
Super Bowl XLVI is sure to be a great game, no matter who you are rooting for.