The last time the undefeated New England Patriots faced the New York Giants, things didn’t exactly go in Bill Belichick’s favor. Big Blue pulled arguably the most stunning upset in NFL history derailing the Patriots' perfect 18-0 season with a dramatic 17-14 victory in Super Bowl XLII.
Belichick was reluctant to discuss that painful loss in February of 2008 and didn’t buy into the notion that Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have been his kryptonite over the years.
“Those games were a long time ago,” said Belichick of his Super Bowl losses to the Giants. “I don’t think it really has any bearing or influence on what happens this week. I think this week is about the matchups with these two teams, and so that’s what we’re really focused on.”
Nearly eight years later, Belichick has buried those disheartening defeats deep in his subconscious and refused to discuss any parallels between the Week 10 battle and any of the prior head to head matchups with Big Blue.
When asked to reflect on the 1990 New York Giants team that captured the Lombardi Trophy, Belichick was happy to take a trip down memory lane and detail the personal bonds he formed with the defensive unit.
“Well I mean there were a lot of great things about that team, but for me it was really about the defensive players that I was most closely associated with,” stated Belichick. “And that’s not taking anything away from Phil [Simms] and the job that Jeff [Hostetler] did and all the other great players and great plays that came from that season on offense and special teams. But the group that I was with defensively was really a special group. They worked well together and we got a lot of leadership in the secondary from Everson Walls – I mean, the tackle he made on [Thurman] Thomas in the Super Bowl was a huge play. But [Carl] Banks and Pepper [Johnson] and L.T. [Lawrence Taylor] and our front, we had a lot of good days defensively that year and particularly in the postseason. I was proud to coach that group and we had a good coaching staff, guys I really enjoyed coaching with, and the players, it was good chemistry. It was an amazing year.”
This year the Giants are honoring the 25th anniversary of that Super Bowl Champion squad, and somehow Belichick found it in his heart to look back a quarter century into the past on a great postseason run, yet he referred to the crushing defeat he suffered back in 2008 as ‘a long time ago.’
The Patriots enter Sunday with an unblemished 8-0 record, but haven’t dominated teams in the same fashion they did during their historic 2007 run.
Belichick turned his attention to the only quarterback that stood between him and football immortality, not once, but twice. The cantankerous coach admitted that Manning is still playing at a high level and poses a challenge for his defense.
“I mean, he’s been a good player,” said Belichick. “He’s still a good player. The offensive system has been modified a little bit. We saw that system in preseason, different players, but still their basic system and basic plays. He continues to do a good job, and as I said, he has got a lot of good players around him and they’re very productive.”