Tag:Super Bowl
Posted on: February 2, 2012 12:11 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 12:13 pm
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Former Jet Ihedigbo only looking ahead to Giants

                                        (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS -- James Ihedigbo spent his first three NFL seasons with the Jets playing for Rex Ryan and trying to beat the Patriots' brains in. Now with New England and about to play in his first Super Bowl, the fourth-year safety isn't interested in talking about the past.

"I've refrained from talking about the Jets because that's not what this games about," Ihedigbo told CBSSports.com. "This game's about us, the hard work we've put in to get to this point."

While many of the storylines have been about the state of Rob Gronkowski's ankle and how Tom Brady will deal with the Giants' pass rush, the Patriots' defense has their own issues. Chief among them: stopping Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, as well as a revitalized New York running game.

"The Giants are a very explosive team," he said. "Nicks and (Ahmad) Bradshaw didn't play the last time we saw them and that adds more explosiveness to their offense. You look at how well (Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs) have run the ball in the playoffs and it's been very effective for them. They may not have run the ball well in the regular season but in the playoffs they really stepped that up so our ability to stop the run is going to be key in this game."

For some perspective, the Giants ranked 20th in rushing efficiency during the regular season, according to Football Outsiders. Against the Falcons in the wild-card game, New York rushed for 172 yards, but just 95 against the Packers the following week, and 85 against the 49ers in the conference championship game.

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Clearly not the same running attack the Giants brought with them to Super Bowl XLII (they ranked fourth in the league in rushing efficiency that season), but Jacobs thinks he and Bradshaw will be an important part of any success the offense has this Sunday.

“We can keep them off balance. I think we’re good enough for any team… to prove that we can go out there and make a difference in this football game," he said. "Everyone’s been talking about tight-ends, wide receivers, quarterbacks and so on and so forth and it’s kind of good for the first time being a part of the New York Giants football team that the running backs are being talked about. We as running backs are going to embrace that, because it never has happened. We’re going to try to take it and stay under the lights for a little bit and be on top of the lights on Sunday.”

The Patriots defense has been maligned for much of the year but that unit has played better of late, too. As the unofficial leader of the secondary, Ihedigbo knows that the previous 20 weeks don't matter. Just the next three days. 

“I definitely have taken on a leadership role," he said Thursday. "I’ve played in a lot of big games in my young career in the NFL and those guys understand that. We all understand what it takes to win and what’s asked of each other. The bar is set high for all of us, because the way we play determines whether we win or lose. We play well, we win. If we don’t play well, it’s not going to be a good game.”


New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin spoke with the media on Thursday about the importance of building on their victory in 2007 and staying focused for the upcoming game against the Patriots.

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 11:29 am
 

Hernandez: Gronkowski will be 'fine to play'

Gronk got a question or two about his ankle Thursday. (Will Brinson, CBSSports.com)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Rob Gronkowski sat at Thursday's media session and answered questions about his ankle for an hour. Of course, so did everyone else -- the redundancy of the questions wasn't just limited to the Patriots tight end, whose ankle has become the singular dead-horse storyline of this Super Bowl week.

When he finally got done, he stood up and faked a pronounced, heavy limp as he left the room. It was a funny moment, but it's not indicative of his health. Prior to the media session, I spotted Gronk at the players end of the hallway, waiting to walk down for interviews and he was joking around with his teammates and strutting in short bursts.

Gronk wasn't the only one being inundated with questions about his ankle: fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez

"Everybody else will just have to step up, but I’m sure he’ll be fine to play," Hernandez said when asked about a gameplan for Sunday if Gronk can't play.

Did Hernandez slip up and reveal something? Maybe -- he used the exact same phrase a few minutes later when asked if he was sick of hearing about his teammate's ankle.

"I’m sure he’ll be fine," Hernandez said. "I was expecting these questions because when probably the top player on your team besides Tom Brady is injured, it is a big thing."

Gronkowski was a little more forthcoming when asked if he's getting tired of spending a half-hour each morning talking about his ankle.

"A little bit," Gronkowski said, laughing.

It's good news for the Patriots, though, because Gronkowski's ankle is all anyone's talking about this week. Revenge? Pssh. No time to talk revenge when there's a need to ask about Gronk's ankle over and over again.

In a constant battle between two nearly dead horses, the concern in Indy over Peyton Manning's future is slightly more important than the concern over Gronkowski's ankle.

But only slightly; Gronk's injury might have taken the lead Thursday morning when someone asked him -- this really happened -- if his other ankle was jealous. Welcome to the Super Bowl, GronkNation.

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 10:13 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 10:14 am
 

Brady has history of poor play before facing NYG

Follow all of CBSSports.com's Full Super Bowl Coverage (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Shortly after the Patriots beat the Ravens in the AFC Championship game, Tom Brady was asked about his very un-Tom Brady-like effort: 22 of 36 for 239 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

"Well I sucked pretty bad today but our defense saved us," was Brady's initial reaction. He expanded on those thoughts in the postgame press conference.

"As a quarterback, you never want to turn the ball over. …I wish I would've done a better job with that today. In some ways you always beat yourself up. I've been doing this for quite awhile. I'm glad we won, I'm glad we're moving on and hopefully I can go out there and do better in a few weeks."

Brady also made a promise to owner Robert Kraft that night: "I promise you I'm going to play a lot better in two weeks."

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It's an odd thing to hear from Brady because he's been so good for so long. As observers, we've almost come to expect every performance to be masterful, every decision to be clinical. When it doesn't happen, the cognitive dissonance is too much, even for Brady, the man largely responsible for the Patriots' three Super Bowl titles since 2001.

Which is why no one is concerned that Brady won't play like, well, Brady when the Patriots and Giants meet in Super Bowl XLVI in three days. But here's the thing: the Giants have said all week that the key to getting Brady off his game is to hit him. A lot. That game plan, coupled with David Tyree's head certainly helped New York to a Lombardi Trophy four years ago. Brady entered that game as the quarterback of an 18-0 team and fresh off a regular season that included 4,806 yards, 68.9 completion percentage, 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 117.2 passer rating.

In the Super Bowl, the Giants held him to 29 of 48 for 266 and one touchdown. He was also sacked five times after going down just 21 times in the regular season.

We're all aware of the damage New York's front four can inflict on a passing offense, even one with Brady at the center. But here's something else to consider: in terms of passer rating (57.5), Brady has his worst game of the season against the Ravens two weeks ago. In previous weeks he had completed fewer passes for fewer yards with more interceptions, but never in the same game.

The good news: every time Brady's passer rating has dipped below 90 this season, he's hit triple-digits the following week.

The bad news: Brady was coming off a similarly poor performance heading into Super Bowl XLII, the last time the Patriots and Giants met.

In that year's AFC Championship game, New England hosted San Diego and won despite an underwhelming showing from Brady who finished the afternoon completing 22 of 33 for 209 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating: 66.4, his second-lowest of the season (he bottomed out at 51.5 against the Jets in Week 15) and well below his 117.2 average.

After beating the Chargers Brady said "Now we're going someplace warm, because I'm freezing my you-know-what off."

Turns out, the weather didn't matter two weeks later in Arizona. Partly because of the Giants' stifling pass rush but also because Brady didn't look anything like the Hall of Fame quarterback we reflexively expect to put up 400 yards and toss four touchdowns every time he takes the field. And just like four years ago, Brady is coming of a forgettable game, and just like four years ago, he now has to face the Giants in the Super Bowl.

But maybe this is just coincidence. Then again, Brady didn't play particularly well against the Steelers this season, their opponent just before losing the Giants in Week 9. 

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 9:44 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 9:51 am
 

Tom Brady is in Gisele's prayers

Gisele Bundchen is praying for her husband (US Presswire).By Josh Katzowitz

It’s great that Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, cares about her husband’s well-being and happiness. And there certainly would be nothing wrong with the model praying for the Patriots quarterback’s safety as he heads into Super Bowl XLVI. And if she wants to ask friends and families to send positive vibes to the heavens as well, I guess that’s fine as well.

But if that email somehow comes out in the public -- and she simply asks her friends and family to pray that the Patriots beat the Giants -- Gisele shouldn’t be surprised if she faces an immediate backlash from at least one New York tabloid.

Oh wait, that’s already happened.

The NY Post has the scoop on the mass email calling the message a “disgustingly sappy email … for her pretty-boy hubby.”

Here’s the text of the note (sic’s and all), obtained by the Post:

“My sweet friends and family, sunday will be a really important day in my husband’s life. He and his team worked so hard to get to this point and now they need us more than ever to send them positive energy so they can fulfill their dream of winning this super bowl . . .

“So I kindly ask all of you to join me on this positive chain and pray for him, so he can feel confident, healthy and strong. Envision him happy and fulfilled experiencing with his team a victory this sunday.

“Thank you for your love and support. Love, G :)”

After the newspaper touched base with her via email, Bundchen said: “I am surprised that you received this email; it was a private note only sent to close friends and family.”

Again, nothing wrong with a spouse praying for another spouse, even if it is just to win a football game.

But as we’ve seen lately with Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and a Giants defense that will pressure Brady intensely to get him out of his rhythm, Giselle’s prayers, in this case, might not be enough.

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 2:26 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 2:33 am
 

Brady-Eli third QB rematch in Super Bowl history

Quarterback rematch? That doesn't bode well for Brady. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Fact: only twice before this year has a Super Bowl featured a rematch of quarterbacks. Eli Manning and Tom Brady will be the third such rematch, and it seems relevant to examine what kind of success the other guys had when they squared off the second time, in advance of Sunday's tilt.

Of course, we need to know who went head-to-head first. Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers and Roger Staubach of the Cowboys battled the first time, way back when the Super Bowl only got one Roman numeral (X). They met again in Super Bowl XIII. And Troy Aikman of the Cowboys met Jim Kelly of the Bills twice during the Fire Marshall Bill Halftime Era.

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If you know much about the NFL, you can make an educated guess as to how these sort of rematches play out for the guy who lost the first game. (A: Not well.) Bradshaw's one of only two quarterbacks with four Super Bowl wins; Joe Montana is the other. (Although a Brady win on Sunday would net him a fourth.)

And those Jim Kelly squads were great up until the "Big Game" -- four straight AFC Championships netted exactly zero Super Bowl wins. That, by the by, is a reminder of how fleeting these moments are, and why winning them matters more than anyone who doesn't play the game will every know.

Anyway, Super Bowl X took place on January 18, 1976 in Miami. Bradshaw's Steelers toppled the Cowboys 21-17. Bradshaw was nine of 19 (!) for 209 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Staubach was 15 of 24 for 204 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. The NFL presents a slightly different game these days, huh?

When they two matched up again three years later, Bradshaw was substantially more effective in his second win, going 17 of 30 for 318 yards, four touchdowns and one pick in a 35-31 win. Staubach was no slouch either, completing 17 of 30 passes too. He only threw for 228 yards but did have three teeters and a pick.

Aikman and Kelly squared off for the first time in Super Bowl XXVII, a 52-17 blowout for the Cowboys. (Michael Jackson performed both "Billie Jean" and "Black and White" at this game, which is equal parts awesome and ... aging.)

Kelly suffered an injury in this game, so Frank Reich led the Bills with 194 passing yards, one touchdown and a pick. Kelly threw two picks despite leaving early; the Bills coughed up an awkward nine turnovers in the loss. As you would imagine, that could have eliminated the need for the Cowboys to produce eye-popping stats, but Aikman threw for four touchdowns anyway.

When the two met a year later at the Georgia Dome, the result was different, but still the same. Aikman threw for 207 yards and no touchdowns, while Kelly produced 260 yards and zero touchdowns as well. A series of field goals and/or rushing touchdowns provided the scoring and neither quarterback was particularly effective, from a statistical sense.

So which direction does 2012 take? Logic (and a 55-point over/under in Vegas) says the former. Brady and Manning should see more success than Kelly and Aikman saw in their rematch.

Even though the Giants pass rush is ferocious, neither defense is absolutely elite, while both offenses are the definition of potent. Regardless, the short history of quarterback rematches in the Super Bowl doesn't exactly favor Brady. Then again, shattering NFL playoff trends isn't exactly something new for the Patriots signal caller.

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 1:53 am
 

Eli can (and will?) be better than Peyton

Peyton might be congratulating Eli for a few different reasons at some point. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- There's a fun little theory floating around Indy this week: Eli Manning will be better than Peyton Manning if he wins his second Super Bowl. That's ridiculous. Peyton's better, and it's not close. But Eli can be better, and there's a good chance he will when everything's said and done.

This isn't meant to disparage Peyton, because he's the face of this town and arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Quarterback wins -- and Super Bowl wins especially -- are a superficial stat designed to skew reality. Instead, let's focus (somewhat hypocritically?) on the possibility that Eli could catch Peyton in the all-important counting stats like passing yards, touchdowns and, um, wins.

Quick warning: if you're not a fan of hypotheticals, and hate the idea of averaging out quarterback success based on historical performance, go ahead and skip to the comments and call me a jerk.

Here are their stats as it stands today:

Manning Bro
Passing Yards
TD/INT
W-L
Peyton
54,828 399/198 141-67
Eli
27,579 185-129 69-50

It's not a contest. Hopefully even non-math majors can figure that out. But Peyton's also four years older than Eli, and spent an additional year in the league as a starter; Eli started just seven games his rookie year (Peyton got all 16).

They combined to win just four of those 23 games, but that's beside the point -- Peyton threw for 3,739 yards in his 16 starts while Eli threw for just 1,043 in his seven. Eli would've compiled just 2,384 yards if he played a full rookie season based on those averages. Peyton set the record for most attempts by a rookie (and had the most attempts in 1998 by any quarterback in the NFL) until Sam Bradford broke it in 2010. He had the record for most passing yards by a rookie until Cam Newton shattered it in 2011.

Espouse the whole "Peyton was more ready" argument you want, but it's silly. Eli didn't start, and Peyton won all of three games. The Colts were dreadful, so it's a pointless argument. Peyton also led the league in interceptions.

Whatever, let's wipe away their rookie season and see what they average over the course of their career, understanding that Eli needs to literally double up his passing yards and wins to catch Peyton and not lead the league in interceptions like he has two times in his career. Peyton did that just once: his rookie season.

Manning Bro
Average Pass Yards
Average TD/INT
Average W-L
Peyton
4,257 31/14 11.5/4.5
Eli
3,791 26/17 9.7/6.3

Peyton in a landslide, right? Yes indeed, in so far as career goes. But things are more interesting than just "Peyton's season numbers crush Eli's." Because they do; that much is obvious with just a glance above.

But what happens if Peyton retires now? This is a very realistic, albeit not technically discussed, scenario. Were that to happen, Eli would need 7.19 years of his "average" (sans his rookie year) play to catch Peyton in total passing yards. In other words, Eli needs to average 3,791 passing yards per season for seven years to catch Peyton. It would take him 8.23 years to catch Peyton in touchdowns. And it would take 7.42 years for him to catch Peyton in wins.

It's not remotely realistic to assume that "Eli's career length = Peyton's career length," but we can at least run with the idea that these two guys, who happen to be brothers, will have similar career paths. Right? Right.

If Eli played the exact length of Peyton's career (right around four-something years), he'd be pretty freaking close in terms of all these statistics. He might -- again, might -- also have two Super Bowls.

Perhaps the most interesting comparison involves the last three years of Eli's play. In that time, he was 28, 29 and 30 years old. Let's get all "Player A and Player B" on you for this one:

Manning Bro
Avg Passing Yards
TD/INT
W-L
Manning Bro A
4,319 29/18 9.0/7.0
Manning Bro B
4,190 35/10 12.7/3.3

You probably figured it out from the win totals, I hope, but "Bro A" is Eli and "Bro B" is Peyton. Or maybe it was the interceptions, since Eli honked 25 of them in 2009. But passing yards? That's a stat that matters when people like to make objective arguments, and it's one that Eli's starting to win in his prime.

This is where it gets really fascinating to me. Peyton had, statistically speaking, the second-best year of his career in 2010. He threw for the most passing yards (4,700) in his tenure, and he threw for 33 touchdowns, which ties for the second-most teeters he's thrown, along with 2009 and 2000. (He threw for a stupid 49 in 2004.)

Eli's clearly coming into his own right now, and he's starting to hit his prime. And you realize that Peyton got better after those three years right? A combination of quarterback-friendly rules, high-octane offenses and his own abilities as a quarterback made his lowest passing total since 2006 4,002 yards. Eli laughs at that. Or, at least, Manning Bro A laughs at that.

It's just not that insane to assume that Eli, younger brother of Peyton, will enjoy a similar career arc to his big brother. And from there, the leap to realize that Eli could be better just isn't that big a jump.

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Posted on: February 1, 2012 7:59 pm
 

Kevin Faulk still has big role with Patriots

K. Faulk spends time at Media Day (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Faulk began his career in New England 13 seasons ago. Before Bill Belichick, before Tom Brady, before the Super Bowl titles and the dynasty label. Back then, Faulk, taken in the second round of the 1999 NFL draft, took handoffs from Drew Bledsoe, took coaching from pre-USC Pete Carroll and took plenty of losses (19 in his first two seasons).

But better than perhaps anyone in the organization, Faulk understands how far the Patriots have come since 2000. He was there at the beginning when the team was going nowhere and in the middle when the Patriots couldn’t avoid the Super Bowl. And now as Faulk gets closer to the end of his closer, he gets to help determine if the Patriots can end their seven-year NFL title streak and reestablish themselves as one of the greatest organizations in NFL history.

Faulk has never really been a star. He led the team in rushing just once, and though he was a big contributor in the passing game for much of his career, he was rarely spectacular. Mostly, he was just solid. But he’s played for a coach in Belichick who has no qualms about cutting loose veteran players if he believes they’ve outgrown their usefulness,and  the fact Faulk has remained in New England all these years is a testament to Faulk’s importance in this organization.

Faulk

“Kevin has been essential,” Patriots guard Brian Waters said. “He’s got a lot of young guys he’s been working with. He has a great understanding of telling them what it takes to get to the next level. It’s different when it comes from coaches. Coaches say the same things over and over. When it comes from a player, especially when it comes from a guy with such a big heart and such a leader as he is, it definitely sticks with you.”

Faulk is not an outspoken player, which he fully displayed during Tuesday’s Media Day proceedings. He had his own podium, but his answers were clipped and not altogether interesting.

He’s adamant about not reflecting on his career before it’s finished. He knows he’s on the backend of his career, but he doesn’t appreciate these days any more than he appreciated the game in the past.

“What happened earlier in my career? You worry about that after your career,” said Faulk, who is the team’s all-time leader with 12,349 all-purpose yards and just one of six NFL players this past decade to total 3,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards. “Once you’re in it, you’re in it. You don’t want to look back and think about what you’ve done. You wait until it’s all over.”

He did wonder, though, if he still had a place in the NFL after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. He wondered, in fact, if he’d ever get a chance to win his fourth Super Bowl ring.

“Sorta, kinda,” said Faulk, who started this season on the PUP list. “That’s every year, though. You always wonder if you’re going to get back there. There’s a lot of different ways and situations that has to go on in order to make it to this point.”

But there’s little doubt Faulk has been one of Belichick’s favorite players. Even though Faulk, throughout the years, has played behind the likes of Terry Allen, J.R. Redmond, Antowain Smith, Laurence Maroney, Corey Dillon, Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis ((see above graph), Belichick continues to see Faulk’s value.

“In terms of his contributions, his unselfishness, and being a great teammate, everybody loves Kevin,” Belichick said. “As they should. He contributes so much to our football team. He’s so unselfish. Always tries to help the younger players and the team in whichever way he can. He’s not the most vocal guy, but he will speak up sometimes and it’s always in a positive way. He was here when I got here. He’s been a great player and a great teammate for all of us through the years.”

H/T to CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson for the graph.

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Posted on: February 1, 2012 6:11 pm
 

Wednesday's Giants, Patriots injury reports

By Josh Katzowitz

INDIANAPOLIS -- With the Giants and Patriots returning to practice today, here is the first of three injury reports for Super Bowl XLVI. Obviously, it’s newsworthy that Rob Gronkowski didn’t practice at all today.

Giants

Limited:RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), WR Hakeem Nicks (shoulder), DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle, knee), CB Corey Webster (hamstring), LB Jacquian Williams (foot)

Patriots

Did not participate: TE Rob Gronkowski (ankle)

Limited: OL Marcus Cannon (ankle), S Patrick Chung (knee), LB Dane Fletcher (thumb), DT Kyle Love (ankle), G Logan Mankins (knee), LB Ron Ninkovich (hip), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), T Sebastian Vollmer (flu, back, foot), WR Wes Welker (knee), LB Tracy White (abdomen)

Full participation: WR Deion Branch (knee), C Dan Connolly (groin), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder), T Matt Light (flu), WR Matthew Slater (shoulder)

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com