Giants going overboard with ‘underdog’ talk
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org February 4, 2012 12:28AM
“We’re going to prove everybody wrong,” says Ahmad Bradshaw, who has few doubters. | Jamie Squire~Getty Images
Updated: March 6, 2012 8:14AM
INDIANAPOLIS — The New York Giants have worked the underdog angle like a pack mule.
‘‘Nobody believed in us,’’ defensive tackle Chris Canty said. ‘‘Nobody gave us an opportunity to even make the playoffs.’’
Really? Nobody? Nobody in the whole, wide world?
‘‘We’re going to use it as an insult, and we’re going to play with all our heart,’’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw said. ‘‘We’re going to give it our all, and we’re going to prove everybody wrong.’’
Everybody? Everybody, as in ‘‘the 100 million-plus Americans who will watch Sunday’s game on television’’? That ‘‘everybody’’?
Never mind that a lot of people believe the Giants are going to beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Never mind that the Giants have won five games in a row. Never mind that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski might be limited by an ankle injury, which would be a huge blow.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin has convinced his players that the population of Planet Earth is cackling at their chances. You’d think after millennia of leaders telling their troops that no one believes in them, some poor slob would stand up and say: ‘‘Then why does Las Vegas favor the other side by a mere three points?’’
On the other hand, if you had mentioned that to Mel Gibson in ‘‘Braveheart,’’ you might have gotten a sword through your sternum.
Three measly points is the extent of the Giants’ underdog advantage.
You are not an underdog when you’re the hottest team in the NFL.
You are not an underdog when you use a four-defensive-end set of Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka on passing downs. When you have that collection of talent, you cannot ‘‘shock the world,’’ as the Giants hope to do.
‘NASCAR’ defense noisy as ever
If the Patriots can’t block those guys, Tom Brady is going to feel like he has been run over by a car, which would make sense. The Giants call their defensive-end set ‘‘NASCAR.’’ That nickname didn’t come out of nowhere.
‘‘We had discussed it as a defensive staff,’’ defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. ‘‘I said, ‘Guys, we’ve really got a nice pass rush here. I could put four, maybe five defensive ends on the field at the same time.’
‘‘From a personnel grouping, I thought of race horses at the Kentucky Derby, and then — I’m from North Carolina — I said, ‘Hey, NASCAR. This guy’s like [Dale] Earnhardt, this guy’s like Richard Petty.’ So, I took it into the team defensive meeting room and said, ‘Hey, guys, this is what we would like to do. We’d like to create this package.’’
When the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, they sacked Brady five times and hit him nine times. Look for more of the same Sunday. Vroom, vroom.
‘‘The way to kill the snake is to take off his head,’’ Tuck said last week. ‘‘The way to kill an offense as potent as that one is making sure you take care of Brady. Our defensive front will put a lot of pressure on itself to make sure that we do our best to get after him.’’
Maybe Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s thinking cap will work overtime and he’ll come up with a way to stop the pass rush. If the Giants can rely on their defensive linemen and not have to blitz, they can drop seven defenders into coverage. That would make life more difficult for Brady. With a supermodel wife and millions upon millions of dollars in the bank, he’s due for some difficulties, isn’t he?
Incapable of shocking us’U
If Brady loses Sunday, it won’t be a surprise. The definition of the word ‘‘surprise’’ was supplied four years ago when the Giants, 12-point underdogs, upset a Patriots team that was trying to complete an unbeaten season.
This time, the Giants look like the better team, though you’d better not tell Coughlin that. It was bad enough that Canty declared, ‘‘Get ready for a parade on Tuesday,’’ which is first cousins with a victory guarantee. You can imagine the indigestion it must have caused his tightly wound head coach.
Careful there, Mr. Canty. Underdogs are supposed to sneak up on people.
‘‘Congratulations — that’s his mind-set,’’ Patriots running back Kevin Faulk said. ‘‘That’s his opinion. The game still has to be played.’’
‘‘We’ll do all our talking on Sunday,’’ Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. ‘‘We don’t have to go out and say what we want to do and how we feel. I know we are very confident.’’
Perhaps, but you don’t have NASCAR. Giants in a photo finish, 31-27.