Pats-Giants in Super Bowl again, 4 years later

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A Super Sequel.

Four years after New York stunned previously undefeated New England in the Arizona desert, the Patriots and Giants are going at it again at the Super Bowl _ this time in Indianapolis.

Brady and Belichick. Eli and Coughlin. Both teams rolling through the playoffs.

Yep, here we go again.

New England, which lost to New York 24-20 in early November, opens as a 3-point favorite for the Feb. 5 game. The Patriots have won 10 straight, with their last loss being to _ you guessed it _ the Giants.

“We know they’re a great team,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “We played them already this year. They’ve been playing great football recently. Celebrate tonight, have fun, then start getting prepared and go to Indy and play our best football.”

It’s familiar territory for Tom Brady and the Patriots (15-3), who are playing in the Super Bowl for the fifth time in 11 years.

“Being in this situation is a great moment,” Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “You have to cherish this moment.”

It’s the Patriots’ first appearance since Manning and the Giants (12-7) upset New England’s pursuit of perfection in 2008. Back then, New England was a 12-point favorite, but New York’s defense battered Brady, and Manning connected with Plaxico Burress on a late touchdown to win the Giants’ third Super Bowl.

That TD came, of course, a few moments after one of the biggest plays in playoff history: Manning escaped the grasp of a few Patriots defenders and found David Tyree, who put New York in scoring position by pinning the football against his helmet for a jaw-dropping catch.

New England hopes to avoid that sort of drama this time around. Unless it goes in the Patriots’ favor, as it did in the AFC title game.

Brady was unusually subpar in the Patriots' 23-20 victory over Baltimore, throwing for 239 yards with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no TD passes. But he got some help from the Patriots’ much-maligned defense, which made some crucial stops down the stretch.

A few mistakes by the Ravens helped greatly, too, as Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left _ a few minutes after Lee Evans had a potential winning touchdown catch ripped out of his hands in the end zone.

New England last won the Super Bowl in 2005, a long drought after the Patriots took home Lombardi trophies three times in four years. There are only a handful of players left from that team, with guys like Corey Dillon, Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison replaced by young up-and-comers such as Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Jerod Mayo.

The constants, though, are Brady and Bill Belichick. And that’s been a winning combination for New England.

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