Commentary: Pick, don’t pick on, Patriots

  • Sat Feb 4th, 2012 9:25pm
  • Sports

By Bill Plaschke Los Angeles Times

INDIANAPOLIS — You’re wrong.

I know what you’re thinking, what most of America is thinking, and you’re wrong.

You’re thinking the New York Giants are going to win the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots today, and you’re thinking it might not even be close.

After watching the Giants roll through the playoffs by putting a “discount double check” on Aaron Rodgers and a postgame head slap on Jim Harbaugh, you feel it in your gut. After watching the Hoodie slowly wrinkle and Gisele’s husband slowly wilt, you know it in your soul.

The Patriots are officially the favorites here, so it makes everyone feel smug and smarter to pick the Giants, and I understand, because I arrived in Indianapolis this week thinking the same thing.

How could the horrible Patriots defense hang for four quarters against the best New York closer since Mariano Rivera? How could the Patriots offense move against a raging defensive line led by one guy who does Subway commercials and three other guys hungry enough to eat Jared?

But after spending several days here being battered by cabbie-style Giants hype, then after witnessing Madonna literally halt her news conference to perform a Victor Cruz salsa, I thought, how could we all fall for this?

So, um, yeah, you’re wrong.

You’re wrong to give up on Tom Brady.

That is what you are saying by picking the Giants. I can’t say that. History won’t say that. This is a guy who outplayed counterpart Eli Manning throughout the regular season — his passer rating was 13 points higher — and then threw for six touchdown passes in his first postseason game against the Denver Broncos, and yet he’s done?

Yes, Brady conceded that he played like “crap” against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game, but he still pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback drive to win, he has still won 16 of 21 postseason games, he has still won the Super Bowl three times. A victory here would turn him into Joe Montana, and you’re going to pick against Joe Montana?

You’re wrong to discount Bill Belichick.

I don’t like him, but you don’t give up on a coach whose team has just rattled off 10 consecutive victories. And everyone says the Giants, who have won only five straight, are hotter? It’s also hard to quit on a coach who has lost only twice in 11 games after bye weeks. You give Belichick this much time, he’ll beat you. The drab coach showed up this week smiling and laughing and once even wearing a purple shirt, so he’s figured out something.

You’re wrong if you think that Myra Kraft doesn’t matter.

The wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft was an integral part of the team culture, providing the players with a motherly figure whom they constantly reference. Her death this summer from cancer put a resolve in the locker room that has grown stronger over time. Her memory is more than just a patch on their jerseys — it’s a fire under their shoulder pads.

You’re wrong if you think that the Giants’ yapping wasn’t heard.

This week the Indy streets have roared with 500 kinds of Giants trash talk. Antrel Rolle guaranteed victory, Chris Canty told New York fans to prepare for a parade, and Jason Pierre-Paul essentially said that Brady has been playing scared. The Patriots, as usual, have said nothing but have heard everything, if only because Belichick often turns them into battle cries by reading them in the locker room.

You’re wrong if you think the Giants will run all over them.

Vince Wilfork is playing like the league’s best defensive lineman after his defense, on consecutive weeks, held Tim Tebow to 2.6 yards per carry and Ray Rice to 3.2 yards per carry.

You’re wrong if you think the Giants can win this game through the air.

Yes, the Patriots secondary stunk for most of the year, but it has continually improved, Belichick’s halftime adjustments have been as brilliant as usual, and the Pats have not allowed a fourth-quarter touchdown in the postseason. Yes, Manning will throw for 300 yards, but most of it will be early, and without a solid running attack, it won’t be enough to keep Brady on the bench long enough to matter.

You’re wrong if you think the New England tight ends can be stopped.

Even with a bad ankle, Rob Gronkowski will play, and Aaron Hernandez will join him. They burned the Giants for 136 yards and two touchdowns in their first meeting, and they’ve only gotten better. Meanwhile, two weeks ago, the Giants’ 29th-ranked pass defense reeled against 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, allowing him three catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

You’re wrong if you think that first game meant anything.

In the Giants’ 24-20 win Nov. 6 at Foxborough, Mass., the Patriots outgained them by 77 yards, played them equally in the trenches, and lost it only in the final 15 seconds after committing four turnovers. The Patriots haven’t lost since, and history favors them here, as the last three Super Bowls contested by teams that met in the regular season were won by the team that lost that regular season game.

You’re wrong if you think my Super Bowl magic is going to end.

Four years ago when these two teams met in the Super Bowl, I correctly picked the Giants to defeat the unbeaten Patriots in one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history. The upset being, I actually got something right. But when it comes to this matchup, do you really want to go against me again?

New England Patriots 31, New York Giants 28.