EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 30, 2012

Pats have more at stake than revenge

Bill Burt

No disrespect to the New York Giants, but for all intents and purposes they are collateral damage.

They might as well be the San Francisco 49ers or New Orleans Saints.

Despite what you've read and heard, and will continue to read and hear, the New England Patriots hold no ill will toward the Giants.

In this case, the "New York" thing is way over-rated. If this were the Jets, well, that would be different. As of now, there is no rivarly between the Patriots and Giants. None.

You will hear about "revenge" and "redemption" the next seven days as if they really mean something in this matchup. From the Patriots perspective, next Sunday's game versus the Giants is too meaningful for those teenage-like passions.

What you have to understand, win or lose on Sunday, that loss four years ago in Glendale, Ariz. to the Giants, 17-14, will never go away.

Never.

When coach Bill Belichick is riding his boat — named "Seven Rings" (note: It's currently called "Five Rings," referring to his three championships with the Patriots and two with the Giants. I'm predicting two more "rings.") — on Nantucket Sound a decade or so from now, that game against the Giants will still stick in his craw.

While eating his Cheerios some random morning in retirement, he'll bang the kitchen table with his fist when he thinks about something from that game.

It seems all of the greatest coaches, at all levels, in all sports, always seem to remember the hard losses most.

Call it bad luck (the Pats dropped three potential interceptions on the Giants final winning drive, not to mention David Tyree's ball-stuck-to-the-helmet play).

Call it lack of preparation (the Patriots never adjusted to the Giants pressure on Brady).

Or call it lack of desire (the Giants wanted it more).

Really, though, it doesn't matter. That's stress for another day. And that's what puts Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in a category few could ever attain.

A win over the Giants on puts this franchise and this coach — and this quarterback, too, while we're at it — in a place reserved for only a few. Winning four Super Bowls over 11 seasons with the same coach and quarterback is not the norm.

The 49ers won four in nine seasons before winning a fifth five years later.

The irony is that in one of Bob Kraft's first press conferences as the new Patriots owner in January of 1994, he said he wanted to build a franchise like the 49ers.

"We want to be like the 49ers and compete for a championship almost every year," Kraft said.

Can we agree that he has accomplished that?

So you see, a win next Sunday puts this Patriots franchise in a place few have ever gone before with a fourth Super Bowl win.

Moral of the story: This XLVI Super Bowl, at least from the Patriots perspective, is so much more than juvenile vendettas.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.