Stage set for thrilling Super Bowl
SUPERSTAR quarterbacks Tom Brady, of New England, and Eli Manning, of the New York Giants, produced the greatest passing totals this season for any opposing quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.
So when the Patriots and Giants meet on Monday morning in Super Bowl 46, the stage is set for an aerial show like no other in NFL championship lore, one that could come down to which team has the ball last with enough time to drive for points.
"The game is going to be won in the fourth quarter," Manning said.
"It's crunch time. That brings out the best in us."
Manning, who threw for 4933 yards and 29 touchdowns, has been the master of late comebacks this season, in part by necessity as the Giants ranked last in the NFL in rushing and captured five must-win games to reach the Super Bowl.
"It's still us against the world and that's how we play," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
"We're still the underdogs and we still have an awful lot to prove."
Brady, who threw for 5235 yards and 39 touchdowns, has been the precision passer, whether to elusive targets such as Wes Welker and Deion Branch or tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
But Brady, who set an almost impossible standard early in his career with three Super Bowl titles and 10 straight post-season wins, has an unremarkable 6-5 record in his past 11 post-season games, including a 2008 Super Bowl loss to Manning and the Giants.
In that historic game, Manning led a late drive for the winning touchdown in a 17-14 Giants triumph to deny the Patriots an unbeaten championship run, New York defenders sacking Brady five times and hitting him on nine other occasions.
"I was holding the ball too long," Brady said.
"They have some blitz schemes that are challenging to handle. As a quarterback, you can't sit back there and think that you're going to have all day to throw the ball."
The Giants also defeated the Patriots last November in a regular-season game. The Patriots have not lost since, winning 10 games in a row. The Giants dropped four in a row after the victory before rallying to reach the big game.
Brady's bid for a NFL career-record 17th play-off victory and record-tying fourth Super Bowl crown in a record-matching fifth Super Bowl start is not lost on the Giants' defenders.
"The more you can affect the guy with the ball, the more of a chance you have to be successful, and Tom Brady will have the ball in his hands every play," Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty said.
MEANWHILE Madonna's halftime show at Super Bowl 46 will stretch the mid-game break to 30 minutes for NFL players who typically have only 12 minutes of rest between halves. To New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who worked a long pause into one of his practice sessions during the week, the gap gives a feel of playing two different games and puts a premium on starting the second half well.
"I tried to simulate what it will be like on game day," Belichick said. "I thought this year the players would benefit from that.
"It's like playing a game, stopping, then playing a second game."