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Giants Duo set for Patriot Rematch


Ahmad Bradshaw is a running back and Hakeem Nicks plays wide receiver, but when the Giants defeated the New England Patriots on Nov. 6, the two players were in the same position: sitting in front of their television sets.

"I watched that game at home on my couch," Nicks said today. "I watched it by myself, at home. That was an exciting game, it was a rematch of the Super Bowl (XLII).  I definitely wanted to be a part of it.  It was tough, but I see what it was for now. God works in mysterious ways."

"I don't remember where I watched it, but I know I hated not being there," Bradshaw said. "I would do anything to be out there on that field with these guys. It was devastating to me, because I wanted to be out there. It was hard to sit there and watch. You see things you could have done out there."

The game was the first of four in a row Bradshaw missed with a foot injury. Nicks sat out with a hamstring injury, the only game he missed all year. Center David Baas was also inactive, with a knee injury.

Despite their absences, the Giants scored two touchdowns in the final 3:03 – sandwiched around a New England touchdown – to defeat the Patriots in Foxboro, 24-20. The Giants rushed for 111 yards, their fourth-highest total of the regular season. Eli Manning's 20 completions were spread among six different receivers and the Giants gained 361 yards and matched the Patriots with 23 first downs.

They did so without their leading rusher (Bradshaw ran for 659 yards in 12 games) and a receiver who caught 76 passes for 1,192 yards. Bradshaw and Nicks combined to score 18 touchdowns this season (11 by Bradshaw, nine rushing). In the Giants three-game postseason, Bradshaw leads the team with 200 rushing yards and Nicks tops all the major receiving categories with 18 catches for 335 yards (an 18.4-yard average) and four touchdowns.

The Patriots have won 10 consecutive games since falling to the Giants. As the two teams prepare to meet again in Super Bowl XVLI, the Giants do so with confidence borne from winning the first game without two of their best and most valuable offensive players and knowing they will be in the lineup on Super Sunday.

"You are always going to have more confidence when you have all your guns," said running back Brandon Jacobs, who rushed for a team-high 72 yards and a touchdown in New England. "We were missing two talented guys who were big parts of our offense. They (the Patriots) know that and they are preparing for that. It definitely gives myself and our football team more confidence going into this one."

"It's always nice to have all of your weapons anytime you play a game," Manning said. "Last time, we were missing Hakeem and Ahmad and Baas. Obviously, had a few guys out, but I think our game plan was probably pretty similar. I mean the game plan that day didn't change based on the players that we had going in. You feel good about every game you go into. I don't think it will make a difference from our mindset because of the new players."

Nicks did not practice again today and is listed as questionable on the Giants' injury report with a sore shoulder. But he left little doubt he will be on the field in Lucas Oil Stadium a week from Sunday.

"I expect to be full go by next week," Nicks said. "Just want to give myself a couple days to try and get it back right and rehab it a little bit."

Nicks hurt his shoulder early in the Giants' NFC Championship Game victory last week in San Francisco. He had it treated in the locker room and finished the game with five catches for 55 yards. 

"It was painful," Nicks said. "I landed right on the AC joint that I injured a few times this season. I kind of landed right on top of it. I went in and got it taken care of and by halftime I was cool."

Nicks later called the injury an AC sprain.

"The shoulder is doing better, getting better day to day, still a little sore," Nicks said. "Once I start working it out throughout the day it loosens up a little bit."

Victor Cruz, the Giants' leading receiver in the regular season – who is right behind Nicks with 17 postseason catches – looks forward to having his running mate on the field for the Patriots rematch.

"I think it will make a big difference," Cruz said. "His assets and his ability were definitely missed in that (first) game. Just having him out there, his presence alone is going to call some attention by the defense. Having all of the receivers healthy is going to cause a lot of attention either way. So we'll see how they play us. It's going to be an interesting ordeal to see how they come out against us and we'll see how it goes."

Bradshaw practiced on a limited basis, as he has since returning from his foot injury against Green Bay on Dec. 4. He has long played through soreness – and cracked bones - in his feet. With Bradshaw and Jacobs carrying the load, the Giants' rushing attack has improved in the postseason. In victories over the Falcons, Packers and 49ers, the Giants have averaged 117.3 yards on the ground, including a season-best 172-yard outing vs. Atlanta. In the regular season, the Giants averaged an NFL-low 89.3 yards a game on the ground. Their yards-per-carry average has risen from a league-worst 3.5 in the regular season to 4.2 in the playoffs.

"Of course, we want our running game to be spectacular every game," Bradshaw said. "It makes it an easier game when our running game is clicking. Like I say, if our running game is clicking and Eli is clicking, then everything just flows great."

Because Manning has been the triggerman for one of the NFL's most prolific passing attacks this season, Bradshaw thinks the Patriots might do everything they can to shut down that facet of the offense and all but dare the Giants to try to run the ball.

"We expect that, and that is what we are going to do," Bradshaw said. "We are going to run the ball and set the physical nature early. We play New York Giant football and that's what we plan to do every game.

"It's all in the feel of the game. How we feel out the other team, what schemes they are running, what different things they are doing. Last week, they were stopping the run, they have a great defense. We were able to feel them out and open it up with a couple passes. Then the running got better in overtime."

The Giants believe they can keep that going in the Super Bowl, because they will face the Patriots this time with a full complement of offensive weapons.

"It gives us the confidence," Bradshaw said. "We have a couple weapons that we didn't have the first game. If we can go out and play our game, I think we'll be fine."

*Tom Coughlin was asked how he keeps practices fresh in the two-week period leading up to the Super Bowl.

"Keep your eye on the prize," Coughlin said. "Steely-eyed focus. Keep your eye on the prize. There are an awful lot of things to prepare for, believe me. We're fortunate to have this extra practice time because now we can break things out accordingly, present it logically, whether it be by the number of times it occurs or however we choose to do that, but we'll use the time very well. There will be very little that's repeated, believe me."

*In addition to Nicks, three other players did not practice and are listed as questionable: Cornerbacks Corey Webster (hamstring) and Will Blackmon (knee) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (foot).

Baradshaw is probable along with four other players: Baas (abdomen/neck), defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) and linebacker Chase Blackburn (calf), who were all limited in practice and safety Tyler Sash (concussion), who participated fully.

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