NEW YORK—As they come closer to their Super Bowl clash with the formidable Patriots—the team they nearly defeated in late December—the Giants are confident that they can come close to beating the undefeated AFC champions on football's biggest stage.
"This team has already tasted victory against the Patriots," head coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "By which I mean we were so close to victory that we could taste it. True, we did not actually experience that victory, but we came as close to beating them as anyone else has this season. That's the kind of team we believe we are, and I think the Super Bowl will prove that."
Couglin and his assistant coaches have been painstakingly breaking down game films from their Week 17 meeting with New England, analyzing every vital, near-victorious second for anything that might help them come that tantalizingly close to winning for the second time in as many months. They acknowledge that the Patriots are very good indeed, but the Giants believe they can draw on the experience of that near-victory, the confidence they discovered in barely losing to undefeated New England, and the lessons learned in forcing Bill Belichick's juggernaut to come from 12 points behind and beat them in the final minutes.
"This team really believes they can come close to winning the Super Bowl—very, very close," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said Tuesday after spending the morning watching film of his Dec. 29 home loss, film that laid bare the crucial interception he threw to Pats corner Ellis Hobbs. "We can come so close to beating them, so very, heartbreakingly close, that every player here will take it to their graves."
"This will be one to tell my kids about, that's for sure," Michael Strahan said. "If we can pull it off and almost beat these guys, they'll be showing those highlights until the end of time. When I die and come before those Pearly Gates, St. Peter himself will look down at me and say 'So, Michael, what was it like to be an eyelash away from winning that Super Bowl against those Patriots?' And Heaven itself will hold its breath while I tell them how we almost did it."
Meanwhile, in Foxborough, the Patriots are being careful not to give the Giants any bulletin-board material.
"Yeah, they good, they good," wideout Randy Moss said when told of the Giants attitude. "They got a good team. I guess we can't get too upset if they think they can nearly pull it off. Plus, hey, you got to admit, it ain't bragging if it's true. And they did nearly almost come close to practically beating us, come to think of it."
"Didn't, though," Moss added. "18 and oh, baby!"
Still, the Giants refuse to be completely intimidated.
"We stood up to them once, hit 'em in the mouth, and made them beat us," Coughlin said, noting that in the previous meeting, the Giants defense put the Patriots in the challenging position of having to score three times over the last 20 minutes of the game, which the Patriots naturally did with time to spare and without apparent effort. "And mark my words, that's what we're going to do in the Super Bowl—meet their strengths with ours, play as hard and as fast as we can, and force them to eventually beat us."
"Oh, crap," Coughlin added. "Crap. We're going to lose the Super Bowl."