Patriots’ old Su­per Bowl neme­sis won’t get chance to be­devil them

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Kyle Hightower

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Few quar­ter­backs have out­du­eled Tom Brady and the New Eng­land Patriots the way Eli Man­ning has dur­ing his ca­reer.

Twice Man­ning has been un­der cen­ter to help the Gi­ants lead fourth-quar­ter come­backs in the Su­per Bowl over New Eng­land.

In 2007, Man­ning spoiled the Patriots’ bid for an un­de­feated sea­son by lead­ing a game-win­ning drive in the fi­nal two min­utes that in­cluded his pass to David Tyree, who made his now-in­fa­mous hel­met-pin­ning catch. It set up Man­ning’s TD pass to Plaxico Bur­ress to give the Gi­ants a 17-14 vic­tory.

Man­ning broke New Eng­land’s heart again fol­low­ing the 2011 sea­son, this time engi­neer­ing an 88-yard drive that ended with Ah­mad Brad­shaw’s touch­down run in New York’s 21-17 win.

“He’s had a great ca­reer and cer­tainly had great games against us,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said this week. ”I have a ton of re­spect for Eli and all that he’s done. I wish he’d done a lit­tle bit less in a cou­ple games against us, but I have a lot of re­spect for Eli.”

But when the teams meet Thurs­day night, Man­ning likely won’t get the chance to add to his past hero­ics against the Patriots (5-0).

Af­ter be­ing benched fol­low­ing the Gi­ants’ 0-2 start this sea­son, the quar­ter­back who Belichick thinks will “ab­so­lutely” be in the dis­cus­sion for the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame will again be in a backup role when rookie Daniel Jones makes his fourth straight start.

The Gi­ants (2-3) have gone 2-1 with Jones as the starter, but the 22-year-old will be walk­ing into a matchup with the NFL’s top-ranked de­fense with­out three top play­mak­ers. Run­ning back Saquon Barkley will miss his third straight game be­cause of a sprained right an­kle. Tight end and lead­ing re­ceiver Evan En­gram is deal­ing with a knee in­jury and re­ceiver Ster­ling Shep­ard is in the con­cus­sion pro­to­col.

Jones said he’s ready to take on the chal­lenge, re­gard­less of who suits up for New York.

“We’re con­fi­dent in the guys we’ve got,” he said. “When you look at how some of those guys have played and stepped up, I think we’ve got guys who are ready to go and ready to make plays. I know those guys will be ready.”

Jones will also be up against some re­cently un­fa­vor­able his­tory for young quar­ter­backs when they match up with the Patriots. New Eng­land has won18 straight games against a first- or sec­ond-year quar­ter­back, the long­est streak in NFL his­tory.

While the Patriots are pre­par­ing for Jones, safety Devin McCourty said they’re also ready if Man­ning does make an ap­pear­ance.

“Ob­vi­ously, we know, if any­thing, they prob­a­bly have one of the best back­ups in the NFL,” McCourty said. “But I think one thing we have to be ready for is, if he does get in the game, know­ing that he’ll be pre­pared and be ready to go.” Some things to watch for dur­ing Thurs­day night’s matchup:

Sur­prise: There was so much talk about the Gi­ants’ three first-round draft picks — Jones, de­fen­sive tackle Dex­ter Lawrence and cor­ner­back DeAn­dre Baker, it was easy to over­look the other draft picks.

One who has stepped up in re­cent weeks is fifth-round choice Dar­ius Slay­ton. The speedy wide re­ceiver missed a lot of train­ing with ham­string is­sues. He was in­ac­tive for the first two games of the sea­son, but in the past three the Auburn prod­uct has been tar­geted 12 times by Jones.

Slay­ton has caught nine passes for 157 yards, a 17.4-yard-per-re­cep­tion av­er­age. He had the only TD last week on a div­ing 35-yard catch.

Take­away, give­away: The big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween the teams — be­sides tal­ent — is turnovers.

The Patriots lead the NFL at plus-7. They have in­ter­cepted 11 passes and re­cov­ered one fum­ble. The of­fense has thrown three in­ter­cep­tions — only two by Brady — and lost two fum­bles.

The Gi­ants are close to the bot­tom, tied for 29th at mi­nus-5. They have had five passes in­ter­cepted and lost six fum­bles. The de­fense has five picks and re­cov­ered its first fum­ble Sun­day.

Pass at your peril: The Patriots’ de­fense is ranked No. 1 against the pass this sea­son, al­low­ing just 160 yards per game.

It’s also the only de­fense in the NFL yet to al­low a pass­ing touch­down.

Weather fac­tor: One thing that may com­pli­cate both teams’ abil­ity to throw is the weather.

The fore­cast calls for a tem­per­a­ture in the low 50s, with a 100% chance of rain. Winds are ex­pected to be be­tween 20 and 30 mph, with gusts pos­si­bly reach­ing more than 40 mph.

AP Sports Writer Tom Cana­van in East Ruther­ford, New Jersey, con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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