FOR the New England Patriots, the sweet hour of revenge is at hand. Four years ago they were defeated in the Super Bowl by the New York Giants, depriving them of a perfect 19-0 season. In Indianapolis on 5 February, the Patriots will have the chance to repay that discourtesy, with interest.
The championship game against the Baltimore Ravens was a grim battle that the Patriots edged 23-20, thanks less to the offensive gifts of quarterback Tom Brady than the resolution of a newcomer defensive back, Sterling Moore, who knocked a potentially winning touchdown pass out of the hands of a Baltimore receiver with 22 seconds left. Then, on the verge of overtime, the Ravens missed a field goal that would have tied the game. "I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us," Brady said.
The Giants have peaked at the right time, outclassing the seemingly unstoppable Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, and then travelling to San Francisco to clinch the NFC championship on Sunday against the 49ers.
The Giants entered the fourth quarter trailing 14-10, before a 17-yard pass from Eli Manning found Mario Manningham to put the Giants up by 17-14. But San Francisco came back with a field goal to force a 17-17 tie and overtime. With almost half the extra period gone came the mistake which settled things. Kyle Williams of the 49ers fumbled deep in his own territory, allowing the Giants to set up a 31-yard field-goal attempt. This one, they did not miss.