Can Patriots Score a Perfect Season?
ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
If it's not already circled on your calendar, here's a little reminder that tomorrow is the national sports holiday we know as the Super Bowl. The New York Giants will take on the still-undefeated New England Patriots on a neutral field tomorrow in Arizona. And joining me now is NPR's Tom Goldman. Hi there, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Andrea.
SEABROOK: So the big story here is that New England is on the doorstep of a perfect season. What do you expect from the Patriots tomorrow?
GOLDMAN: Well, what I expect is what a lot of people expect. When they're on offense, they'll use four or five wide receivers to give quarterback Tom Brady all kinds of targets to throw to. Of course, if that doesn't work, and it usually does, New England can turn to its running game - which has been very effective lately with running backs Lawrence Maroney and Kevin Faulk, who does a little bit of everything: runs, catches, blocks.
You know, for all the accolades that Tom Brady gets, the Patriots have an incredibly versatile offense, and the challenge for the Giants is responding to that versatility.
SEABROOK: So what can the Giants do? I mean, it's not like they're just a dead team. They almost beat the Patriots just a few weeks ago in the regular season, 38-35. It's not like they're, you know, wusses out there on the field.
GOLDMAN: No, absolutely not, and that's a really good point. They gave them quite a game. A big part of what they need to do is try to do something to get Tom Brady out of his rhythm. They don't want him dropping back with that smooth style of his and having all kinds of time to find all those receivers.
The Giants have the league's best pass rushers on their defensive line. Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora have to get to Brady. They need to take him down, they need to make him hurry his throws. If they're not effective rushing the passer it could get ugly.
SEABROOK: Okay. Now, I'm going to admit that I'm more of a commercials and halftime show sort of Super Bowl watcher. What will keep people glued to the game if the game itself isn't terribly exciting? Say it's a blowout?
GOLDMAN: For once, Andrea, I think the game is going to trump the commercials. Either way it's a big story. Patriots win, they join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only undefeated teams in NFL history. If the Giants win, biggest upset in the history of Super Bowls. Might even trump the Joe Namath New York Jets upset over the Baltimore Colts in the 1969 title game.
SEABROOK: Okay. But there's just this tiny nugget of news, this dark cloud hovering over possible perfect season for the Patriots. Yesterday Senator Arlen Specter, the Republican of Pennsylvania, wrote to the NFL wanting it to explain why it destroyed videotapes connected to a Patriots cheating scandal back early in the season. What do you know about this?
GOLDMAN: Well, the scandal you talk about was called Spygate, and it grew out of the first game of the regular season between the Patriots and the New York Jets. An employee of the Patriots was accused of videotaping the Jets' coaches giving defensive signals. And the league investigated, came down really hard on New England coach Bill Belichick.
Arlen Specter has asked NFL Commission Roger Goodell to explain himself. Goodell feels like he did explain himself, he destroyed the evidence they collected, because he said they didn't want the Patriots using it, getting any advantage from their misconduct. And actually the story grew a little bit more.
According to today's Boston Herald, an unnamed source says a Patriots employee secretly videotaped the St. Louis Rams practice the day before Super Bowl 36 back in 2002. And that's the Super Bowl that the Patriots won over the favored Rams. So that's creating even more suspicion about this stuff.
SEABROOK: NPR's Tom Goldman from the site of the Super Bowl in Arizona.
Another note from the NFL today. The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced six new members to its hallowed halls. Art Monk, Darrell Green, Gary Zimmerman, Andre Tippett, Fred Dean and Emmitt Thomas will be honored at the induction ceremony in August.