CHANDLER, Ariz. – The New York Giants have been in this situation before. In 1990, the Giants were big underdogs in the Super Bowl when they went up against Jim Kelly and the powerful Buffalo Bills offense. New York's answer to slowing down the explosive K-Gun attack was to chew up time of possession by grinding out drives on the ground with the tandem ofOtis Anderson and Dave Meggett. The strategy worked, as New York held the Bills to just 19 points on route to the upset. The Giants are hoping history repeats itself on Sunday.
The Giants 1-2 punch at running back is made up of bruising Brandon Jacobs and the guy they call "The Closer," Ahmad Bradshaw. In New York's three playoff wins, Jacobs has been able to soften up defenses in the first half, allowing Bradshaw to rack up 130 second half yards in the postseason.
Jacobs ran for 4.5 yards-per-carry the first time the two teams met but Bradshaw didn't play due to a calf injury. The Giants are hoping the 5-9, 200-pound Bradshaw can make a difference this time around.
"I just plan to go out and play my game," Bradshaw said. "I didn't get a chance to play against them last time. I need to take advantage of that and Brandon and I have to keep running the way we have been all year."
While Bradshaw is a new headache for New England's defense to worry about, the Patriots saw plenty of the confident Jacobs the first time around. At 6-4, 264 pounds, Jacobs looks more like a defensive end than a running back. He had a couple of confrontations with Patriots defenders, shoving Rodney Harrison to the ground and getting poked in the eye by Vince Wilfork when the two players were jawing back and forth.
"I don't really want to get into that," Jacobs said about his confrontation with Wilfork. "It's football and you never know what guys are going to do. We play physical and they play physical, so we'll see which team is more physical on Sunday."
The more success Jacobs and Bradshaw have on Sunday, the more timeTom Brady will be standing on the sidelines. Jacobs knows the Patriots defense will be primed to shut down New York's running game, but he doesn't think it will matter.
"I don't think they can stop us. I think it will take a lot for any defense to shut us down," Jacobs said. "New England has the talent on defense but I think it's going to be hard trying to play against backs with two different running styles. And when their offense isn't on the field, it's hard for them to score points."
Jacobs was a threat as a runner and receiver in the first meeting, totaling 111 yards of offense and catching a touchdown pass. And while the Patriots pulled the game out, 38-35, to cap off a perfect regular season, Jacobs believes they got away with one.
"I think we should have won the game to be honest with you," Jacobs said. "People keep asking us questions like we would be shocked if we won the game. In our eyes, we blew the last game. They're not the only ones out there trying to make history, you know?"
Eli Manning has received most of the praise for the Giants three playoff victories but he's had the help of a strong running game to keep defenses honest. Jacobs has rushed for 155 yards and four touchdowns this postseason, while Bradshaw has added 163 yards and a score.
While the two backs have similar numbers, they're diverse when it comes to their running styles.
"We're totally different," Jacobs said. "He's real quick, runs hard and low to the ground. I go in and pound them, and then he goes in with a lot of quickness. I run through defenses and Ahmad runs by them."
Because of Jacobs imposing stature, most defenders try and tackle him low in order to bring him down. Jacobs knows once he sees a defense go for his legs, he has the upper hand.
"A lot of guys know it's their job to step up and make the tackle," Jacobs said. "You can watch the tape after the game to see who wanted to tackle you and who didn't. The guys who dive down at your legs are the guys who don't want it. They just dive at the legs and hope you fall."
So how did the Patriots defenders try to tackle Jacobs in the first game?
"They tried to tackle me low," he replied. "I expect to see the same thing on Sunday."
Jacobs and Bradshaw said they've each seen video of Anderson's powerful runs against the Bills in Super Bowl XXV. Both players expect to be a big factor on Sunday and if the Giants have success on the ground and control time of possession, their chances of pulling a historic upset increase.
If the Giants do become the first team to defeat the Patriots this season, Jacobs said he'd gladly toast former Dolphins running back Mercury Morris after the game.
"It would be a once in a lifetime opportunity," Jacobs said about celebrating with the '72 Dolphins. "After we win on Sunday, I would love to toast with those guys."
--WR Plaxico Burress (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday but LG Rich Seubert (knee) and CB Kevin Dockery (hip) did practice on a limited basis. Burress has missed practice time all year with an injured ankle, so he'll start on Sunday. The big injury is the one to Seubert, who hurt his knee in the NFC Championship Game.
--The original "LT" is former Giant and Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson has also adopted the LT nickname in recent years. But the line was drawn when people started calling Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes LT.
"I met Harry Carson when I first came to the Giants and shook his hand and introduced myself as LT," Tynes said. "And all he said was, 'No, you're not.'"
--Defensive tackle Barry Cofield talked about trying to get Tom Brady off his game. According to Cofield, what makes Brady so hard to stop is even when a defense does its job, it still doesn't guarantee that Brady won't have a big day.
"You like to sack him but just to harass him is key," Cofield said. "For a guy like that, just to make him move his feet is important. He's so precise and has such a great understanding of the game, you just want to have him on the move even if you can just bat down a couple of passes, they might get intercepted. You just have to do whatever you can to make him uncomfortable. That's the key to get him out of his game but he's just so good, there are no guarantees against a guy like that.
"Not letting them getting ahead is big. Sometimes the best defense against them is a good offense. If our offense can play like it did in that first game and we can make a couple more plays on defense, hopefully it will be a different outcome."