EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Walk through the ground floor of New York Giants headquarters and there are at least a half dozen life-size pictures of the organization’s remarkable Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots in February 2008.
There’s one of Eli Manning’s great escape on the play that led to “The Catch” by David Tyree. Even though he is with the Jets now, there is one of Plaxico Burress’ championship catch in the corner of the end zone. Another one shows Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora making a play and, of course, the obligatory shot of the Lombardi Trophy being lifted in celebration.
Look at them and it feels like yesterday.
The reality is that was almost four years ago, and much has changed as the Giants (5-2) and Patriots (5-2) prepare to meet for the first time in a regular-season game since Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz.
The teams meet annually in the final preseason game, but this will be the first time that it means something again.
“It’s a new year,” said Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee, who was one of 14 players on the Giants’ 54-man roster who suited up for the title game. “There has been a lot of turnover on both teams. It doesn’t make any sense to think about a game four years ago.”
Guard David Diehl, who played tackle in the Super Bowl, says everybody is going to make comparisons to the game four years ago because it was such a great game under extraordinary circumstances.
No one gave the Giants a chance against the Tom Brady-led juggernaut that was looking to become the second NFL team to win the Super Bowl with an undefeated record.
New York found a way to orchestrate “The Great Escape,” ”The Catch” and Plax’s play in posting a 17-14 win.
“They’re a different team. We’re a different team,” Diehl said. “Obviously you’re going to hear all of that stuff throughout the week. We’re focusing on this season and what they’ve been doing this year.
“They’ve been playing defense differently. They’ve been doing different things up front. It’s the Giants versus the Patriots. This isn’t the Super Bowl.”
The Patriots only had seven players from that Super Bowl on their 53-man roster last week in losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If there is a constant for both teams it’s at quarterback. It again will be Manning vs. Brady. And most people would think that’s a clear advantage for New England in the game at Foxboro, Mass.
However, Manning has more than held his own this season. He has completed 156 of 241 passes for 2,127 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. Brady is 184 of 272 for 2,361, 18 and eight. Both have quarterback ratings over 102 percent and are hitting on better than 64 percent of their passes.
“I think this is a whole new environment, whole new situation,” Manning said. “Obviously, an important game, we have to have a great week of preparation. We know we’re going against a great team, a Hall of Fame coach, a Hall of Fame quarterback down the road. We just have to go in there expecting to play sound football like we’ve been doing.
“Eliminate the mistakes, try to execute the game plan, try to get into the fourth quarter and win the game.”
That’s what the Giants did four years ago. But this year, their defense has struggled stopping the run, which might give Brady a second option this time around.
It’s a problem that Tuck says needs to be fixed now.
“If we were still living in the shadow of 2007, then that’s one of our greatest downfalls,” Tuck said. “We have to move on. Obviously they have and we do, too. Obviously, 2007 was a great year in all of our careers, but that’s not going to help us going there this year. A lot of guys are back from those two teams and a lot of guys are gone.
“The better team this year is going to win the football game, not the better team in ’07.”