The Washington Times - February 1, 2012, 09:38AM

There have been plenty of rematches in the Super Bowl – games, that is, between teams that had already met in the regular season (a dozen by my count). But this is only the fourth time the two finalists have crossed paths in the preseason (Giants 18, Patriots 17), regular season (Giants, 24-20) and postseason (to be determined). 

The others:


2007 – The Patriots won the first two (27-20 and 38-35), but the Giants made off with the grand prize (17-14).

1994 – The 49ers ran the table against the Chargers (30-24, 38-15 and 49-26).

1980 – The Eagles and Raiders took turns beating each other (24-23 Raiders, 10-7 Eagles and, in SB 15, 27-10 Raiders).

What are we to make of this? Not a whole lot, probably. Note, though, that the Pats were going for the sweep in ‘07 – and lost – and now the Giants are going for the sweep. Will history repeat?

Speaking of rematches, this is also just the fourth time two teams have met twice in the Super Bowl in the same decade. The company the Giants and Patriots keep:

1970s: Steelers and Cowboys. The Steelers won both, 21-17 in Super Bowl 10 and 35-31 in SB 13.

1980s: 49ers and Bengals. The Niners took the pair, 26-21 in SB 16 and 20-16 in SB 23.

1990s: Cowboys and Bills. The Cowboys swept, 52-17 in SB 27 and 30-13 in SB 28.

What are we to make of this? Well, the first three times, the club that won the first game won the second. 

Scanning the stats, I noticed that Logan Mankins, the Patriots’ Pro Bowl left guard, is averaging minus-9 yards per catch for his career – one reception for 9-yard loss. It came in a 2007 game at Cincinnati. Tom Brady’s arm was hit, and the ball wound up in Mankins’ meaty hands. (Fortunately for the Pats, no damage was done. On the second-and-19 play that followed, Brady fired a 23-yard completion to pick up the first down. Anybody want to guess who his receiver was? Answer: Current Redskin Donte Stallworth.)

Another offensive lineman who averaged minus-9 yards a catch for his career: erstwhile Redskins guard Pete Kendall. You no doubt recall the play in question. Jason Campbell had a pass tipped in the last few seconds of the first half against St. Louis in ‘08, and Kendall grabbed the fluttering pigskin and …  fumbled. O.J. Atogwe – yes, that O.J. Atogwe – scooped up the ball and ran 75 yards for a touchdown, enabling the previously 0-4 Rams (led by interim coach Jim Haslett) to pull a 19-17 upset. (Sorry to make you relive that.)

Anyway, inasmuch as Mankins is averaging minus-9 yards a catch, I’m guessing the Giants won’t cover him.

If the Patriots win, it will be the fourth Super Bowl ring for Tom Brady, matching Joe Montana’s record for a quarterback. (Terry Bradshaw also had four in the ‘70s.) Another interesting parallel between Brady and Montana: They had similar three-year lulls later in their careers before returning to the Super Bowl.

Remember what happened to Joe? After the Niners routed Dan Marino and the Dolphins in Super Bowl 19, he went 0-3 in his next three playoff games, losing to the Giants in 1985 (17-3) and ‘86 (49-3) and the Vikings (36-24) in ‘87 (when San Francisco was 13-2 and a first seed).

Compare that with Brady’s last three years. After losing Super Bowl 42 to the Giants – his fourth Super Bowl in seven seasons – he missed virtually all of 2008 with an injury, then was quickly knocked out of the playoffs in both 2009 (by the Ravens, 33-14) and 2010 (by the Jets, 27-21, when the Patriots were 14-2 and seeded first.) Sound familiar?

Montana didn’t play well at all in those three games, posting passer ratings of 65.6, 34.2 and 42. And Brady wasn’t in top form, either, in the losses to the Ravens (49.1 rating) and Jets (a garbage-time-inflated 89).

But …

Montana got his second wind after that and, in the next two years, won his third and fourth Super Bowls (20-16 over the Bengals and 55-10 over the Broncos). And now here’s Brady, back in the Super Bowl for the fifth time – with a rebuilt Patriots club that might not be done carting off Lombardi trophies.

Of course, the Montana-Brady parallel will be a lot stronger if the Pats come away with a victory Sunday. But I thought I’d mention it regardless. It’s the Plutarch in me.