FOXBORO, Mass. -- It's been a long time since we've had a Super Bowl rematch when the teams met in the final week of the regular season, as is the case with the Patriots-Giants (duplicating the 1977 Broncos and Cowboys). But why not? New York and New England played a great game just 22 days ago, and we could do a heck of a lot worse than get a repeat of that performance by both teams.
That game marked the only time I can remember that a team's Super Bowl run was legitimately launched by a loss. The Giants came out of that moral victory of a defeat to the Patriots a better, more confident team than it went in. How strange is that?
• In a rather surprising announcement, NFL commissioner
"Hey, don't get greedy,'' Goodell reportedly said. "Everybody got their way the last time.''
• Thanks to
• I thought it was one gutsy call by Coughlin to even let Tynes try that 47-yard field goal overtime attempt, given his goat-like showing on his previous two misses. I would have gone for the fourth-and-5. Or punted.
Coughlin must have figured the worst already had happened, and New York could only go up from there.
• Get ready for a whole new round of the Boston-New York city rivalry stories. Which is kind of funny when you consider that the Patriots call themselves New England and play more than a half-hour outside of Boston, and the Giants play their home games in New Jersey.
Other than that, it's exactly like the Red Sox-Yankees.
• Note to the Patriots: Giants cornerback
• And the Patriots thought they were done facing Mannings this season when the Colts lost at home to the Chargers in last week's divisional round. On the bright side, they are 2-0 this year against Archie's boys.
• Raise your hand if you had Eli Manning going three consecutive playoff games without an interception. I wonder if Peyton has ever done that.
• Super Bowl storylines that we'll soon be sick of:
• I know the New York media is notoriously tough, but I'm thinking this keeps Coughlin off the coaching hot seat lists heading into the 2008 season. Good for Tommy C., whose personality make-over this year paid off beyond his wildest dreams.
• It's almost not fair. They beat you in so many different ways. With so many different players taking turns posing in the role of weapon. In Sunday's AFC Championship Game against San Diego, you'd have a hard time making a case that anybody was more vital to New England's 18th win of the season than third-down back
"We need everybody,'' Patriots Pro Bowl linebacker
Didn't see Faulk being the difference-maker heading into the AFC title game? Surprised by his game-best eight catches for 82 yards, which included the biggest third-down conversion of the day, an 11-yard diving catch and roll for the first down on third-and-11 from the Patriots 24 with 6:30 left to play? I know someone who wasn't. The AFC scout that I've been using this month for SI.com's playoff Scout's Take told me this on Friday morning:
"The guy who always seems to do something in big games like these is Patriots running back Kevin Faulk. He's the guy who always seems to slip out of the backfield and make a play in the passing game when the other guys are covered. He's got a very underrated role on that team.''
Faulk's about the 12th guy you think of when it comes to the Patriots offense, but he's not underrated in his own locker room. He's a money player, and his teammates know it.
"He is a headliner,'' said Patriots linebacker
• Was anyone but me surprised by
LT last week said it was the first time he has ever hurt either one of his knees, so a certain amount of caution is understandable. It's his career and he gets to decide such matters. But he also can't guarantee that he'll ever have another chance to play for a trip to the Super Bowl, so as I see it, the time to try to play the hero was now. No guts, no glory, and all that stuff.
Seems to me that Chargers quarterback
When asked about Tomlinson's surprising absence from the game, Chargers head coach
I'll say this:
• L.T. wasn't the only NFL MVP who was underwhelming on Sunday. That might have been Brady at his playoff worst. He threw three picks after tossing just eight in his first 17 games this season. Brady hadn't been picked off in the red zone in more than two years -- the last time was that memorable
Brady finished strong, but overall his 22 of 33, 209-yard passing game was far below his 26-of-28 showing last week against Jacksonville. His three interceptions went along with a pair of touchdown passes and a season-low 66.4 passer rating.
• Pretty demonstratively huge game for the two ex-Chargers, safety
"We have shared a lot of years in San Diego, so to have the latter part of our careers to share this, it's special,'' Seau said of him and Harrison.
• How much better did the call by Chargers general manager
Look for Turner to be among the most coveted unrestricted free agents in the league come March.
• Even though I watched him play plenty of times with Miami, I really didn't know
• With a nod toward Green Bay, New England, Washington and whomever else I'm forgetting, that San Diego secondary might be the best in the NFL. Chargers cornerback
Jammer also had a hand in creating the third-quarter interception by fellow Chargers cornerback
And there's Cromartie, a second-year corner, who added another interception to his total, giving him an NFL-high 12 this season. Cromartie picked off Brady in the end zone, and he too helped throw a blanket on the dangerous Moss all day long.
• This league doesn't need a salary cap. If the Patriots keep this dynasty thing up another couple years, the NFL is going to institute a talent cap.
• San Diego didn't play badly, mind you. But you can't beat the Patriots kicking field goals. On those four field goal drives, the Chargers needed to score touchdowns on three of them. Those 24 points would have won this game.
• While the Ravens coaching search wasn't exactly a seamless affair, it's hard to quibble with the end result. Baltimore hired former Eagles secondary coach
Harbaugh spent all but one year of his 10-year Philly tenure coaching the Eagles special teams, and while that's not a very conventional route to a head coaching gig in the NFL, it does give someone a broad range of experiences in that a special teams coach probably deals with more players than any other assistant on the team.
In Baltimore, the ultimate test of Harbaugh's leadership will be how he handles inheriting a very veteran locker room that includes a lot of Ravens defenders who were rooting for Baltimore defensive coordinator
• Speaking of Ryan, his head coaching chances in Baltimore were always a long shot at best, but Harbaugh has already indicated that he hopes to keep Ryan as his defensive coordinator if possible. Ryan remains alive in the Atlanta head coaching search, but if he doesn't land that job, he might have other coordinator options to consider besides Baltimore. And they could both be in New York, as the Giants' or Jets' defensive coordinator.
Current Giants defensive coordinator
The Raiders said they intend to retain Rob Ryan, although there is some thought that a reunion between him and Mangini -- they worked together on Bill Belichick's staff in New England -- could still occur. Sutton is thought to be eventually headed for new Dolphins head coach
• It'll be interesting to watch if the heir apparent label actually ends up helping the handful of assistants it has been attached to around the league. Let's see if
The head-coach-in-waiting thing doesn't always seem to unfold as expected, does it? Last year, neither
• Funny, but I remember twice this season hearing Phillips say the following a Cowboys game: "We don't have a good offense, we have a great offense.'' At the time, the characterization fit.
But that "great'' Cowboys offense failed to put more than 17 points on the board last week in the divisional round loss to the Giants, and in his season wrap-up news conference the next day, Phillips didn't score many points for himself by intimating that while his defense did its part against the Giants, the offense didn't hold up its end.
• The wind chill was 9 degrees at kickoff in Gillette Stadium, and I was at Sunday's "warm'' game. Gotta love it.
• It just didn't feel like quite as big a game without Belichick in his hoodie. He must have some lucrative headband deal in place.