GLENDALE, Ariz. They can win. Really.
Not just because their co-owner Steve Tisch said his New York Giants would simply score more points than the New England Patriots.
Not just because it's always chic to pick a prohibitive underdog.
It's because the New York Giants can win.
For three consecutive weeks in the playoffs, they defied the odds. They defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers on the road. They scored 24 points against the Bucs, the NFL's No. 2 defense, and held Dallas, the NFL's second-highest-scoring team and the NFC's No. 1 seed, to 17 points. They knocked off the No. 2 seed in Green Bay.
Then there's this: They played the Patriots in the last game of the regular season and lost 38-35 at Giants Stadium, the one venue in which the Giants performed poorly (3-5) on a consistent basis.
If they entered the playoffs as the stealth team, they have emerged as one that caught New England's attention over the last month.
"Watching film prior to our first game and then watching film prior to the Super Bowl, I really recognize an incredible mental toughness that they have now," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "They had some before, but I think that going on the road three times in the playoffs and winning the way they did especially in Green Bay they really do respond to adversity well, no matter what the score is or how much time is on the clock."
Ten times in a row, most ever by an NFL team in a single season, they won on the road. Here they are on the road again (they're the designated visiting team in the Super Bowl).
They can win. They know where they made mistakes in losing to the Patriots and allowing them to complete the regular season undefeated. They don't want to be the footnote to 19-0.
"We like making things tough on ourselves. We like the tough situations," quarterback Eli Manning says. "You are going against a team that is undefeated in the Super Bowl, and it is not going to be easy. It is going to be a tough game, but that is when we have been playing our best football."
It will require exactly what the Giants have done in three playoff wins (and most of what they did in losing to the Patriots). It is a given that error-free football will be the order of the day. And which team turned the ball over the fewest in the playoffs? The Giants once. On a fumbled interception return. Manning has not thrown an interception in the three playoff victories.
"Interceptions are not just one person making a bad play. There are a lot of things going on," he says. "It is being behind in a game, or feeling you have to force things, or you are getting pressured by the defensive line, you have receivers that are being covered. And the last few weeks, receivers have been getting open, the offensive line has been blocking, the defense has been playing great football where you are not behind and you don't feel like you have to force things.
"That is the football where, if you can do that, you can be in good situations in the games, you are not stuck in third-and-longs, you are not having many penalties or get put into bad situations, and it makes your job a lot easier, and guys are making plays for us."
Hold on to the ball by taking care of it and by running it. Those are Giants' strengths.
"Anything that you can do to keep the ball away from (Tom) Brady for any period of time, you've got to try to do, because Brady is so dynamic and the guy is just a great football player," says Don Shula, who coached the 1972 Miami Dolphins to a 17-0 record, the only perfect mark in NFL history. "He just finds a way to score no matter what the score is. The Patriots always believe that they can pull it out and win at the end."
No turnovers. Limited errors, mental or physical. A running game. Some defensive pressure on Brady. Quite a package to assemble, but the Giants are capable and the Patriots know it.
'"I picked them out of the NFC," defensive end Richard Seymour says. "I faced that team, and I saw that they had talent on their side of the ball. We understand the team that we are facing."
Can the Giants win? They're here. That alone gives them a chance.