Giants-Patriots Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 02, 2011
Nearly four years ago, Eli Manning upstaged Tom Brady to give the New York Giants a stunning Super Bowl win over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots. That's probably one reason why Manning claims he's in the same class as Brady, and his play this season is backing up that uncharacteristic statement. Manning will try to lead the injury-riddled Giants to another upset of Brady and the Patriots when they meet at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Manning engineered a 12-play, 83-yard drive in just over two minutes, capped by a touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining in a 17-14 win over New England in Super Bowl XLII. He kept the drive going in dramatic fashion on a third-down play by escaping would-be tacklers in the backfield before completing a 32-yard pass to David Tyree, who made the catch by pinning the ball to his helmet while falling to the ground. That memorable performance earned Manning Super Bowl MVP honors, but he's led the Giants (5-2) back to the playoffs just once since, and he threw a career-high 25 interceptions last season. That's part of why Manning's claim this past summer to being in the same class as Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winner and two-time league MVP, was controversial in addition to being out of character for the usually demure quarterback. "Well, the question was if I thought I was an elite quarterback and basically, I was just saying that I did," Manning said. "I'm usually not into the business of ranking and rating quarterbacks and comparing myself to other guys. Looking back, I thought I gave an honest answer, and I don't regret anything." Manning is certainly backing up his statement, ranking third in the NFL with a 102.1 passer rating, trailing only Brady (104.4) and Aaron Rodgers (125.7). "He doesn't get the recognition he deserves," guard David Diehl said. "For us, it's something that we see. It's the way that he works, the way he prepares either out on the field or breaking down film or getting with the wide receivers or checking and making alerts and audibles at the line of scrimmage." New York needed another big effort from Manning last week, and he delivered with a 25-yard scoring pass to Victor Cruz in the fourth quarter of a 20-17 victory over winless Miami. He finished 31 of 45 for 349 yards and two TDs, helping the Giants overcome an ineffective running game. Manning could be in for another big day as New England owns the worst pass defense in the league, surrendering an average of 323.1 yards. Brady and the Patriots (5-2) are also looking to rebound from their worst offensive showing of the season in last week's 25-17 loss at Pittsburgh. "It just wasn't a really good day for us in any phase of the game, in any area," coach Bill Belichick said. "We just didn't do a good enough job. That's really all there is to say." New England was outgained 427-213, while Brady completed 24 of 35 attempts for a season-low 198 yards and two TDs. He'll face another tough defense this week, as the Giants lead the NFL with 26 sacks, totaling 14 in the last three games. New York had Brady consistently under pressure in the Super Bowl, sacking him five times, but the quarterback claims that defeat doesn't weigh on him. "That's distant memory," Brady said. "There's not much you can take from that. This is an entirely different team that they have and we have. "There's other times where you think about it, but this week I'm not thinking about that game. I've had a lot of opportunities to think about that game, but this isn't the week for that." A return to Gillette may be just what the Patriots need to get untracked. They've won 20 in a row there in the regular season, and 31 straight with Brady under center. Facing a banged-up New York team could also help extend those streaks. The Giants are nursing injuries to running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), center David Baas (knee) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (shoulder), who has six sacks. Nicks is the biggest question mark after he was hurt last week. He leads the Giants with 38 catches for 575 yards with three touchdowns. His potential absence could mean more involvement for Victor Cruz, who played his college football at UMass. Cruz has a team-high four touchdown grabs, while his 497 yards and 28 catches rank second to Nicks. "Anytime you get an opportunity to go in there and play and have an opportunity to be the number one or two guy and make some big plays, you always want to be excited," Cruz said. "Myself and Mario (Manningham) and Devin Thomas and Michael Clayton are going to have to step in and fill that void." New England could use more production from Wes Welker. The NFL leader with 57 receptions along with 824 yards and six TDs, Welker has totaled just 84 yards with one touchdown on 12 catches in the last two games - not coincidentally the first two times this season the Patriots have failed to reach 30 points. "These games are fun, when you play against good teams," Manning said. "When you think of the Patriots, you always think of a team that is always in the playoff picture, always a talented, well-coached team. These are easy games to get excited for. You just want to go in there and play the style of football we know we can play."
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