The 2012 Super Bowl is already being defined by what happened in the 2008 Super Bowl. The New England Patriots and New York Giants will hear about their last Super Sunday battle for the next two weeks straight – even though not everyone on the current Patriots and Giants teams were around four years ago. But football fans like myself will be drowned by rematch talk as well – although this is also a rematch of another more recent game.
Back when my Philadelphia Eagles still had hopes to win the NFC East, they hoped that the Giants would lose to the Patriots on Nov. 6 and that the Birds would then tie for first place by beating the Chicago Bears on Nov. 7. But none of those things happened, as New York first went into Foxboro and proved that it still had New England’s number, with a 24-20 rally that ended with another last-minute Eli Manning winning drive.
This Patriots-Giants game was more of an indication of what to expect in the Super Bowl than the 2008 title game was. For one thing, this battle put the current Patriots and Giants together – and for another thing, it was the last time that New England has lost a game this season. Since then, the Patriots have been perfect although they haven’t faced competition that was as strong as the Giants – and when they did on Jan. 22, the Baltimore Ravens almost took the AFC championship right out from under them.
As such, this Super Bowl rematch is more of a measuring stick to how good this New England team really is, which is quite different from how things were in 2008. No one had any reason to doubt the 2008 Patriots until the Giants became the first team to stop them, yet this New York team isn’t sneaking up on New England this time. Especially since unlike in 2007-08, it beat the Patriots in their first regular season meeting.
When the Giants knocked them off in Foxboro, it was the first time that they beat an elite team after a relatively easy 5-2 start. It was the beginning of a very tough part of their schedule, but this win seemed to prove that they could handle it. Four weeks later, it looked like more of a last hurrah after New York lost its next four games and appeared ready to implode. But about eight weeks later, it is a different story.
New York defeated New England before it truly became an NFC championship level team, as it went through a gauntlet ever since. As for the Patriots, they have had it a little easier since then, but perhaps not being battletested like the Giants will come back to haunt them. It haunted the perfect Pats of 2007-08 when the hardened Giants ran into them, so what hope does the 2011-12 version have to do better?
Yet the 2011-12 version already knows what it is like to lose to the Giants, in virtually the same manner that the 2008 edition did. Given that this New York club has been repeating history every step of the way in the last month, it doesn’t appear to bode well for New England. But if the Patriots want to turn it around, they will do better to learn whatever lessons they can from losing to the current Giants on Nov. 6 than from looking back to Feb. 3, 2008.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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