Sun, Feb 03, 2008 - Page 24 News List

Patriots can no longer ignore history


This one is for history.

No longer can the New England Patriots ignore it. Beat the New York Giants today and it means more than winning a fourth Super Bowl in seven years. More than reaffirming their dynasty in a league designed to even the playing field.

It means staking an undeniable claim to that most elusive of titles: Greatest ever.

"I think it's the biggest game of all of our lives -- my life, the entire team, our coaches," said Tom Brady, the NFL's Most Valuable Player and the Patriots' poster boy for perfection.

The pursuit of an unbeaten season, surpassing the 17-0 by the 1972 Miami Dolphins that stands alone atop the football pantheon of unblemished excellence, has turned this Super Bowl into even more of a must-see or must-attend event. Resale tickets are going for thousands of dollars above face value. It will be televised in 223 countries and territories in 30 languages.

All those elements make this game quite an attraction -- as if a matchup between two teams that played a 38-35 season finale is not enticing enough.

Throw in all the passing records set by Brady, receiving marks established by Randy Moss, the prospect of another shootout with New York opponents that have won 10 straight road games, and it is enough to make even the casual fan salivate.

Not to mention the whole Spygate affair after the season opener in September that effectively cast a shadow on many of Bill Belichick's achievements as Patriots coach.

The Patriots pretended the historical significance of a perfect season did not exist through their first 17 wins. When they edged the Giants to finish the unbeaten regular season, they took the one-game-at-a-time mantra to exceedingly more boring heights. Same thing after the first playoff victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Then, despite Brady injuring his ankle, the Patriots won the AFC title against the San Diego Chargers. Only after that, and in the days leading up to America's biggest sports party, did the players begin mentioning history.

Oh, and then there is the Giants. They were only 10-6 during the regular season, a wild card in the clearly inferior NFC. Plus, they blew a 12-point third-quarter lead at home in losing to New England on Dec. 29.

The last thing they want to be is a bit player in the Patriots' coronation. They believe the winner today will be the two-touchdown underdog with the "other brother," Eli Manning, at quarterback, trying to match older sibling Peyton a year after he led the Indianapolis Colts to the NFL title.

Wide receiver Plaxico Burress even predicted today's final score: 23-17.

"It's all entertainment. We're all having fun with it," Burress said. "The prediction has gotten so much play ... we can still laugh about it and have fun with it. That was one of the things that made Muhammad Ali great."

And the Greatest -- something the Patriots might be able to say they are come the end of the game tonight.

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