With support from bettors, bandwagon-jumpers and the national media beginning to swell, the Giants are becoming a trendy pick to make Super Bowl XLII a competitive, nail-biting, whoever-has-the-ball-last-wins affair.
However, the Giants’ chances this Sunday come down to one thing and one thing only: how well they perform in the first 10 minutes of the game.
This isn’t just one aspect of Sunday’s game — it’s everything.
If the Giants match the Patriots or at least keep the score within 3 for the first 10 minutes, they will be in this football game. If they let the Patriots score first, go 3-and-out, then watch the Pats march right back down the field, this one is over.
Simple as that.
The whole key to playing the Patriots — and this isn’t just true for the Super Bowl, it’s been the case for the whole second half of the season — is making sure you’re within striking distance after the first couple possessions.
Want proof? How else do you explain how decent teams like Buffalo and Washington got waxed by 40+? The Pats score first, create a turnover or force the other team to punt, score again, and now it’s 14-0 and the opposition has officially packed it in.
They have no chance after that. They’ve already been psychologically defeated.
Against the Chargers in Week 2, it was 7-0 Patriots before you could sit down and 14-0 just seven minutes later. Think about it. Just 11:05 into the game and this one was over. Not pretty much over, or looks like it’s over, but truly and unequivocally over. The Pats went up 17-0 after 20 minutes and 24-0 after 25. Good night, San Diego. You stay classy.
Against Miami in Week 7, the Pats went up 14-0 just 10:32 into the contest after two Tom Brady TD passes. I was at that game. New England scored on its first possession a little over five minutes into the game and you could see the reactions of the Dolphins’ players. “Here we go…” They were already taken out of the game. It felt like someone sucked the air out of that putrid stadium. The fans thought it was over (they were silenced already), the players played like it was over (it was 42-7 at HALF!) and the Pats kept marching on.
Look at the close games the Pats had this year. Indy. Philly. Baltimore. The G-Men in the last game of the season. In each case, the opposition was leading after the first quarter — except the Eagles, who were actually trailing, 14-7, after the first 15 minutes, but scored twice in the second frame to go up a score heading into halftime. These teams all felt like they could play with the Pats for 60 minutes.
Because let’s face it. Playing an undefeated team that’s stacked on both sides of the ball, has already won three of the past six championships and is routinely referred to as the Greatest Team of All-Time HAS to have some sort of mental effect of players, no matter what they may say.
If you can score first or at least keep up in the first 10 minutes of the ballgame, all of a sudden you’re saying to yourself: “Hey, we can play with these guys. They’re just another team in the NFL.” After that, the key to winning is reduced to the most rudimentary and fundamental prism of the NFL: limit turnovers and get 7 instead of 3.
If you keep it close early, you think you can win the game. That’s why the Giants, Colts, Eagles and Ravens all came close to knocking off Tom Brady and his stable of all-world wideouts. They were that little blue locomotive that had to tow the much larger train up a huge hill — they thought they could.
The Giants certainly aren’t lacking confidence. But we’ll have to reassess that after the first few possessions.
You don’t have to score first if you’re playing the Pats. But if you don’t, then you damn well better stop them. Or make sure you match them on the next drive.
Otherwise…you’re in for a long day.