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Super Bowl Nuggetpalooza, Part 1: When the Giants have the ball

02.02.12 at 9:19 am ET
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Super Bowl week. A week when everything is (at least) twice as big, including Nuggetpalooza! I’ve got so much statistical nuggetry that I’m bringing it to you in two parts. Let’s call today’s entry:

WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL:

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* – The Giants had turnover margins of +3 in their win over the Packers and +2 last week against the 49ers. It’s the first time in their 42-game postseason history that they’ve been +2 or better in consecutive postseason games. In their history, New York is 1-16 in the playoffs when they have more turnovers than takeaways. Their only win came in 1986, a 17-0 win over Washington.

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* – Over the last two regular seasons, the Giants (and kicker Lawrence Tynes) have made a total of just six field goals of 40 yards or more, the fewest in the league in that span:

6 – Giants
7 – Bills
8 – Vikings
8 – Jets

Note this: Tynes is 0-for-1 from 40+ this postseason and the Giants are 1-for-7 from that distance in the postseason since 2000.

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* – I saw an interesting “prop” wagering line (you know, for entertainment purposes only) that put the over/under at 10.5 yards on the length of Eli Manning’s first touchdown pass next Sunday. Did you know that only nine of the Giants’ 29 touchdown passes this season came from inside the 10-yard-line (31%)? That was the seventh lowest such percentage in the NFL. Three of Manning’s eight postseason TD passes this season have gone for fewer than 10 yards (38%).

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* – So here are the Giants in the Super Bowl, despite ranking 28th in average starting field position, as they began their drives (on average) at their own 26.4-yard-line. Only the Bills, Cardinals, Chiefs, and Colts were worse during the season. In their three playoff games, their average drive start was the 24-yard-line against Atlanta, 42-yard-line against Green Bay, and 29-yard-line against San Francisco despite two drive starts inside the 49ers’ 30-yard-line. In that game, the Giants began nine different drives at or inside their own 20-yard-line.

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Super Summary: Thursday morning roundup of all things Super Bowl on WEEI.com

02.02.12 at 8:17 am ET
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Only at the Super Bowl could Chad Ochocinco be a significant national story on back-to-back days following his 15-catch, one-touchdown season. Yet even the enigmatic receiver’s comments have been relatively tame. Fear, notes the Associated Press, has rendered the week of Super Bowl hype far, far lamer than a not-so-long-ago era when players would call each other horses and cross-dressers.

Here are the details from WEEI.com’s coverage on Thursday morning, broken up by frequency of Super Bowl appearances:

THE FIVE-TIMERS: TOM BRADY, MATT LIGHT AND KEVIN FAULK ARE HUNGRY FOR MORE HARDWARE

Tom Brady has been dominant this year when facing opponents for a second time. He’d like to continue the trend in the Super Bowl. Chris Price details that point of pride and more from Brady’s press conference on Wednesday.

— Price also looks at the bond between Brady and Tom Martinez, the man who has guided Brady’s emergence from an unimpressive high school quarterback to one of the game’s all-time luminaries. Martinez needs a kidney transplant, and was touched by Brady’s sentiments about him.

— Brady, said Wes Welker, has a toilet in his house that would startle even the Jetsons. (Perhaps Brady attended a Seibu Lions game after that franchise reaped the benefits of the Red Sox’ $51.11 million posting fee for Daisuke Matsuzaka?)

Matt Light is back on his feet after suffering through a gastrointestinal affliction earlier in the week. Now, the left tackle’s goal is to keep Brady on his feet against the Giants pass rush, as Mike Petraglia explains.

Kevin Faulk says that he is cherishing his opportunity to be in a fifth Super Bowl.

THE THREE-TIMERS: VINCE WILFORK AND DEION BRANCH

Jerry Rice is the greatest regular season and playoff receiver of all time. No shock there. But Kirk Minihane says that a strong case can be made that the second-best Super Bowl receiver of all time is none other than Deion Branch. More on that here.

— Price says that Vince Wilfork has the Patriots defensive line playing its best football of the year.

THE NEW GUYS Read the rest of this entry »

When it comes to second chances this season, Tom Brady aims to continue run of success vs. Giants

02.01.12 at 4:53 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Sunday will mark the second time this season the Patriots have met the Giants. New England has won all four of its “second meetings” this season, having knocked off Miami, Buffalo, the New York Jets and Denver.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has had good outings when facing a defense for the second time in the 2011 season. In those four games, Brady went a combined 102-for-154 for 334 yards, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. That averages out to a pretty respectable performance — 26-for-39 for 334 yards with three touchdowns and 0.5 picks.

The first time around against the Giants, Brady went 28-for-49 for 342 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a Nov. 6 loss to New York at Gillette Stadium.

Making improvements between a first and second meeting are a point of pride for Brady and the Patriots.

‘€œOver the course of the season, whether it was from one Denver game to the second Denver game, or the first game of the year to the last game of the year, we’€™ve always tried to make improvement,” Brady said Wednesday when asked about making improvements when playing a team for a second time in a season.

“Maybe early in the year you try out some combinations of players and plays and so forth, and then you realize that they don’€™t work so you don’€™t use them anymore and you go to the stuff that does work and you try to do those things more consistently. I think that’€™s where we’€™re at the point now. We’€™re doing the things that we do a decent job of and we just try to improve those things so we’€™re at our best for this particular game.’€

One way that Brady wouldn’t be able to replicate those numbers is if the Giants are able to get after him in a consistent basis. The New York defenders have dropped hints about being able to rattle Brady by being around his legs and making sure he doesn’t get too comfortable in the pocket, but the quarterback didn’t sound too fazed by the prospect when he was asked about it on Wednesday.

‘€œYou hear that every week from teams that you play that they want to get to the quarterback and hit the quarterback,” Brady said. “That’€™s just what defensive football is all about. It wouldn’€™t be the Super Bowl if they weren’€™t talking about coming to knock me down and trying to knock me out.

“[The Giants have] a very good pass rush. I’€™ve seen it game after game this year. They can get to the quarterback. They can hit the quarterback. They can force the quarterback into some bad decisions and some bad throws. We’€™re going to try to eliminate those. We really can’€™t afford too many of those on Sunday. We had too many of those the last time we played them, and we’€™re not going to be able to win the game making mistakes.’€

In the wake of the AFC championship game, he apologized for his performance, saying he “sucked.” (He was apologetic for the remark on Wednesday, noting that he “didn’€™t want to take away from what the team had accomplished.”) Brady dropped another s-bomb on Wednesday, saying he’s happy to be back in the Super Bowl for the fifth time in his career, saying it “sucks” to be sitting at home and watching the game.

‘€œIt’€™s great. This is everything that you ask for as an athlete and as competitors,” he said. “As a competitor you want to be here, you need to be here. This is why we’€™ve worked so hard over the years ‘€“ high school, college, pros ‘€“ to prepare for games like this. It’€™s a fun game. I’€™ve had an opportunity to be in a few of them, and it’€™s hard to imagine the football season ends in five days for us, but it does. It’€™s been a great season for us, and hopefully we can make it extra special with a win on Sunday.’€

Here are a few other highlights from his Wednesday press conference:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Sr., Tom Brady

Matt Light: Keeping Tom Brady ‘upright’ key to beating Giants, winning 4th ring

02.01.12 at 4:26 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — It may not come under the category of breaking news but Patriots left tackle Matt Light – protector of his quarterback’s blind side – knows keeping Tom Brady upright will go a long way toward determining whether the Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl title on Sunday.

‘€œEvery guy upfront has a job to do,” Light said. “We just go out there and play the game that we learned. Keeping [Brady] upright is a big part of that.’€

Light was actually asked if he feels like Brady’s guardian angel.

‘€œI’€™m not sure how he categorizes me, but I’€™m pretty sure guardian angel is a far cry from that,” Light joked.

‘€œWe are going to do what we have done all season. We are going to have a great week of preparation. We are going to go out there and be technically sound at what we do and we’€™re going to go all out.’€

His offensive line coach – Dante Scarnecchia – has watched Light enjoy one of the more productive and protective years of his 11-year NFL career.

“He’s had a nice year,” Scarnecchia said. “He’s been very consistent and he’s worked really hard. And he’s been a good a leader as he’s always been. And between Matt and Logan and Brian, we have three guys there with a wealth of experience. Very tough guys. Very great workers. The young guys, they would do well to try and emulate those guys, their work ethic and the way they play. And they do. As the result of that they make us all better. They make us all better. They make me a better coach, and they make those guys better players.”

Brady, Light and Kevin Faulk are the last three players remaining from New England’s first Super Bowl title in 2001.

‘€œIt’€™s hard to believe that in one career you can go to this thing five times,” Light said. “It never gets old and is always a lot of fun. To have guys that have been with you the whole time is something you never forget.

‘€œEvery game could be your last go-around, that’€™s why you embrace it all. This is an awesome week for everybody. You want to play this one like it is your last.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dante Scarnecchia, Kevin Faulk, Matt Light, New England Patriots

Warehouse discounter sells Super Bowl tickets

02.01.12 at 3:03 pm ET
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Still looking for tickets to Sunday’s Super Bowl? Well if you’re a member at the wholesale store Costco, look no further than the store’s website. The site already features movie tickets, ski lift tickets and tickets to major sporting events, and now it has not only single Super Bowl tickets available but package deals that includes hotel rooms and a pregame party with Archie Manning.

For $2,999.99, you can get a seat in the upper level of the end zone. That’s $500 more expensive than a ticket in the same area from popular ticket reseller StubHub.com, but Costco does throw in the pregame party with Eli Manning‘s dad, along with other amenities.

“Our goal is to become one of the [ticket] options that pop into our members’ minds when it comes to these types of events,” said Kristin Lovik, an assistant buyer for Costco.com.

Other package deals include two tickets for $9,999.99, which also gets you a hotel room in Indianapolis for four nights, the pregame party, as well as admission to the Taste of the NFL, which is a charity dinner that includes a raffle and player signings. There also a $15,499.99 deal with better seats.

Kevin Faulk ‘thankful’ for another trip to the Super Bowl

02.01.12 at 12:47 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — After this Sunday, only two players in NFL history will have played in more Super Bowls than Kevin Faulk.

Super Bowl XLVI marks the fifth Super Bowl appearance for the veteran running back, who is tied with a handful of players with five appearances (including teammates Matt Light and Tom Brady). He was a part of Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX and XLII, and is now only surpassed by Don Beebe and Mike Lodish, both of whom made it to six.

Whether it’€™s been New Orleans, Houston, Jacksonville, Glendale or Indianapolis, he says he’€™s never taken these trips for granted, and this year is no exception.

‘€œYou’€™re always thankful, because you never know when these moments are going to come again. You have to cherish everything. No matter what’€™s been happening,’€ Faulk said. ‘€œI get calls from people saying, ‘€˜This is your fifth Super Bowl. You must not care about it.’€™ They don’€™t understand how you get to this position. How you work to get to the position where you are. Each and every athlete on both teams, to get to this game, that’€™s why you work for the opportunity.

‘€œI don’€™t care what Super Bowl it is. Just the excitement factor. Knowing what you’€™re about to get into. Knowing what’€™s at stake. Knowing that’€™s what you want to play for at the end of the year, that you’€™re the two teams at the end of the year who are still playing.’€

The 35-year-old running back — the only player on the New England roster who predates Bill Belichick as a head coach — doesn’€™t have the same level of production that he used to. (Aside from his injury-shortened 2010 campaign where he only played two games, after coming off the physically unable to perform list, he posted career-low numbers this year in both rushing and receiving.) But he remains the most well respected player in the Patriots’€™ locker room.

‘€œI think he’€™s a Patriot type of player,’€ Brady said of Faulk. ‘€œHe’€™s tough, smart and he plays well under pressure. He’€™s made some huge plays for us in our biggest games. The last time we played the Giants in the Super Bowl, he had a huge game. If you look at the plays he’€™s made over the years — catching the ball out of the backfield, blitz pickup ‘€“ he can really do everything. It’€™s great to have a guy like that in the backfield who understands what you’€™re trying to do on every play.’€

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Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Danny Woodhead, Don Beebe

Bill Belichick sort of weighs in on the Pro Bowl

02.01.12 at 12:45 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — The Pro Bowl is a joke.

What used to be a semi-serious event has turned into a parody of a parody, with the most recent example being the 59-41 AFC win over the NFC last Sunday. Aaron Rodgers ripped (though did not call out by name) the effort of some NFC players on ESPN Tuesday, calling it “embarrassing” and “disappointing.”

Bill Belichick was asked on Wednesday for his thoughts.

“What I’m going to say wouldn’t be probably what I should say,” Belichick said.

OK. Care to elaborate?

“I’ll just let that one go.”

Last chance, Bill. Won’t be much Death of the Pro Bowl talk between now and Sunday night.

“What it was and what it is now is a lot different.”

We’ll leave it at that.

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