HOUSTON — Eli Manning said there is no “secret formula” to beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. And if there was one, he probably didn’t follow it, anyway.
“It’s not be down by two or be down by four with two minutes to go,” Manning said Friday of the situations he found himself in during his two Super Bowl appearances against the Patriots. “Can you create that scenario and then hit a couple of very contested throws at the end of the game to win? I don’t think that’s how you want to draw it up. Just the way it worked out those games.”
And the only way anyone ever has beaten Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in this game. The Patriots are making their seventh Super Bowl appearance under that duo on Sunday, and their only two losses have come at the hands of Manning and the Giants.
Others have come close.
“Obviously, Seattle was right there and was one yard away from winning a few years ago,” Manning said. “I don’t think there’s a special formula.”
There is, however, an attitude that the Giants had that some other opponents might not have enjoyed. A sense of familiarity. A knowledge of the fallibility of the Patriots.
In the movie “Catch Me If You Can,” a father asks his son if he knows why the Yankees always win. Because they have Mickey Mantle? the son guesses. “No,” the father replies, “it’s because the other teams can’t stop staring at those damn pinstripes.”
The Giants never did that with the Patriots. They never were dazzled by Belichick or Brady or the rings they already had amassed at that point, or even their perfect record heading into Super Bowl XLII.
“We didn’t look at them in awe,” Manning said. “ ‘The Patriots! It’s Bill Belichick and Tom Brady!’ We just had a game plan, went out there and could execute it.”
In other words, they didn’t stare at the hoodie.
Maybe that was easier for the Giants and Tom Coughlin, who had been an assistant with Belichick for the Giants. And maybe it was easier for Manning, whose brother Peyton finally had beaten the Patriots in the previous year’s AFC Championship Game en route to his first title in Super Bowl XLI.
“I think we felt great going into the game,” Eli Manning said. “I think it helped that we played them the last game of the regular season that year [in 2007] and in the 2011 season, we played them that year and beat them.”
The Falcons have no such aids. If anything, they’re in a worse situation than other teams.
When Matt Ryan was at Boston College, Brady already was the Super Bowl-winning Prince of New England. Dan Quinn was a defensive coach for the 49ers when Belichick was winning his first championship as a head coach.
These are the guys they’ve been watching for most of their adult lives, and now they have to try to beat them.
During the week, the Falcons showed little of that intimidation. “Tom Brady is a great quarterback,” Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins said. “But as far as emotions go, I’m just trying to see this as any other game. He’s somebody that I’m playing against, not somebody I’m watching on TV as a fan.”
At the start of Super Bowl week, Ryan said he received a text from Manning with some advice to stay true to himself, the routine and the offensive philosophies that got them to the game. Manning said he did share those thoughts but that he offered no specific game-planning tips.
“Just good luck,” he said. “I know him well and have been texting him through the playoffs a little bit. I’m excited to see him. They’re playing well. I’m excited for him and being in the Super Bowl.”
And maybe, just maybe, finding their own secret formula.