By: Ian Logue
Ask any Patriots fan about the last meaningful New England played against the New York Giants, and most of them will likely shake their head and request a subject change.
Wilfork’s the last defensive starter from that afternoon in Arizona. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
On a certain afternoon in Arizona a little over four years ago was the last time these two teams faced off in a game that mattered, and unfortunately that day the Giants did just enough to win the game.
That’s about all you can say. There’s no point in rehashing history or throwing out any more “what if’s”. What’s done is done, and that’s about where Bill Belichick was on Wednesday when reporters tried to get him to go back and ponder what could have been that afternoon.
“Probably not really much more than any other game,” said Belichick when asked how often he reflects on that game. “We’ve won them, we’ve lost them, but they’re all in the past; they’re in the books. Whatever happened or didn’t happen, can’t change it, it’s part of history.”
It certainly is. Oddly enough there are still some people calling Sunday’s game against New York in Foxboro a “rematch” between the two teams, and it’s kind of a foolish notion. Sunday’s game means about as much as the regular season game they won that same year. Granted it was obviously the game that earned them a perfect regular season, but ask any player who was in that locker room if they would have rather lost the first meeting and then won the second, and it will be hard to find anyone who doesn’t feel that way.
Speaking of which, the majority of the roster that was on the field that afternoon has moved on. There’s just one defensive player left here in New England who started that game, and that’s Vince Wilfork. The other starters from that game are long gone.
That afternoon it was Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Ty Warren, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Adalius Thomas, Ellis Hobbs, and Asante Samuel who started that game against New York.
“It was a long time ago,” said Belichick. “There aren’t really a lot of players – a few players – [but] there are not a lot of players that are playing in this game that played in that one. There’re certainly a lot that are playing that didn’t play in that one that are critical players to both teams in the game. I think there’s a lot that has changed.”
Comparing that list of defensive players to the current replacements makes you wonder when that next opportunity is going to come. Now this new group will have to battle a tough offense lead by Eli Manning, who has played well so far this season.
The last time they met in that “non-exhibition game” in Arizona, Manning finished 19-of-34 for 255 yards, with one touchdown, and one interception.
A reporter asked if Belichick would look at the film from that game and use it for Sunday’s match-up.
It doesn’t sound like that will be the case.
“I look at the recent games that they’ve played: Miami, Buffalo, Seattle, games they’ve been playing,” said Belichick.
The highlights have played over and over on ESPN and NFL Network, and as close as they were to winning the game, it was just a play or two that didn’t get made that was the difference.
A lot of fans who were in Arizona that day will be in the stands in Foxboro when the Giants come to town this weekend. Most of those same die-hards who witnessed it – who many of which are season ticket holders – aren’t exactly keen on the thought of seeing Tom Coughlins bunch make this visit. The mere mention of the Giants is probably something that will always bring fans back to an afternoon that marred what was an incredible year.
In the end fans may still wonder what could have been, but Belichick claims what’s done is done. He’s over it.
“I think we’re probably pretty much over that,” said Belichick. “Whatever the thoughts were after the game, they’ve come, they’ve gone and that’s what it is. Can’t change it.”
It’s O.K. Bill. We don’t like talking about it either.