[University of Phoenix Stadium. Glendale, Arizona. February 3, 2008. The New England Patriots locker room. Minutes prior to Super Bowl XLII.]
Bill Belichick: Well, fellas, here we are. One game away from perfection. 19-0. Where no man has gone before. At this point, after this long season—including some early-season BS that cost me half a million dollars—it seems like there really is nothing more that needs to be said.
Nevertheless, I want you to listen up, and I want you to listen up good.
We’re going out here to play a football game against another professional NFL team. A team that has won 13 games this year. And if there’s one thing every single one of you guys knows, it’s that in football, sh*t happens. No matter how well a team has prepared, no matter how natively talented its individual players are, no matter how remote the chance that a lesser team might beat a better team—sh*t f***in’ happens. Balls take weird bounces. Somebody catches a break. Then that same somebody gets lucky on an interference call in the end zone. Then they get an early score that no one ever figured was possible. Suddenly you’re behind. And just as suddenly, this same lucky team picks off a pass that might’ve been thrown just a little more accurately. Suddenly, they’ve got field position again and maybe they kick a field goal. Then the lucky team’s defense starts to get aggressive, and you suddenly realize that they’ve got some talented physical guys playing on the defensive line—guys who aren’t just lucky, but who are capable of kicking ass. Then they start to kick ass, and suddenly all bets are off, and you’re in the game of your life.
Well, today, I don’t WANT the game of my life. I want to go 19-0, and I don’t want the embarrassment of having to talk to some ESPN lady who’s shoving a microphone in my face as I leave the field, asking me “Coach, what happened out there?” Or, “Coach, what’s going through your mind right now?” I don’t want to go to a postgame press conference where dozens and dozens of reporters are going to want me to dissect every little detail of a game we lost.
Trust me, you guys don’t want that either.
So, what are YOU gonna do about it?
Well, I’ll tell you what you’re gonna do about it. You’re gonna go out there in that first quarter, and you’re gonna play your asses off like you know how. You’re not gonna take these guys for granted. Instead, you’re gonna show ‘em how to play professional football in every phase of the game. You will make precise, crushing blocks to protect your quarterback and open up holes for your running backs. You will run precise routes and you will not drop one pass. You will play defense like it’s the last game you’ll ever get the chance to play on this earth. You will never let up. You’ll sprint to every ball carrier or receiver on every single play. You’ll rush the passer with all the fury you’ve got, because he’s trying to deny you your destiny. You’ll deliver bone-crunching tackles on every play, and you won’t lose your cool and do something stupid like get flagged for a personal foul. If you get flagged on some sh*t questionable pass interference call, you will suck it up and clamp down on their receivers on the very next play without second-guessing yourself. You will give up your bodies on every single special teams play.
Ideally, if we do what we’ve been doing all year, only with the ultimate effort I’m asking of you, this thing will be over at halftime.
If you let these sonofabitch Giants steal your destiny, I will never forgive you. But most of all, you will never be able to forgive yourselves.
Now let’s go play some football.
Super Bowl XLII
New York Giants (13-6) vs. New England Patriots (18-0)
Feb. 3, 6 p.m. EST, FOX-TV
I keep wondering if there is any way the Giants can actually win this game. But no matter how you slice it, it just doesn’t seem possible. Let’s look at some of the key markers.
1. History: Superior teams usually win the Super Bowl. It’s just a fact.
2. Quarterback: Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning. Arguably the greatest quarterback ever against Peyton’s little brother, who’s had a nice little run here in the playoffs avoiding errors and making enough passes to win.
3. Running back: We kept waiting for the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs to take over a game. He plays well, but he doesn’t dominate. Fleet-footed Ahmad Bradshaw is an interesting case. Is he the Timmy Smith of 2008? But for overall dependability, the Pats have Laurence Maroney, who can run inside and out. Plus, they have Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans, who ensure variety in the ground attack.
4. Receivers: Well, you could be deferential to the Giants and call this a wash. Both teams have talented wideouts and tight ends. Except Brady is throwing to the Pats receivers, which probably makes them the better squad.
5. Defense: The Giants have an excellent defensive line, but their secondary is suspect. The Patriots’ bend-but-only-break-a-little-sometimes D has some encroaching age, but it’s doubtful that it’ll affect their performance critically for one more game. They play well as a unit generally, and as long as the Pats’ offense is putting points on the board—the line must protect Brady sufficiently, which they usually do—the final tote should put the Pats in the plus column.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Giants 20