Patriots try to complete unbeaten season

Society Materials 29 December 2007 23:52 (UTC +04:00)

( AP )- The Patriots will get help from plenty of fans instead of a video camera when they return to the scene of "Spygate." Those who aren't at the Meadowlands can still watch the final step in New England's bid for an undefeated regular season on the channel of their choice.

Interest in the potential history-making event convinced the league to allow NBC and CBS to simulcast Saturday night's game against the New York Giants nationally. It had been restricted to the NFL Network and local stations in the Boston and New York areas.

Win, and the Patriots become the first team to finish a regular season at 16-0. Lose, and Patriot-haters throughout the country can celebrate in front of their TV sets.

"It will be like the State of the Union address," an unusually cheery Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "You can flip to every channel and see it."

New England fans who just have to be there can pay exorbitant prices online for tickets. Some are being offered by Giants fans who don't care to attend an event that has no bearing on their team's playoff status.

New York plays a first-round game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following weekend.

"We definitely appreciate the support of the fans. We definitely hear them when we're on the road," Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said. "We always have a lot of support on the road, but at the end of the day the game is won or lost between the lines."

The Giants (10-5) clinched a wild-card berth last Sunday with a win at Buffalo. That improved their road record to 7-1. They're 3-4 at home, where fans - like those selling their tickets for Saturday's game - may not be very supportive.

"That's probably one of the reasons why we are better on the road than we are at home," running back Brandon Jacobs said. "If it is that way and (the Patriots) got more fans, then so be it."

At least one person won't be there the way he was three months ago - the Patriots' video assistant who got caught taping the New York Jets' defensive coaches with a sideline camera in the season opener, costing Belichick and the team $750,000 in fines and a first-round draft pick.

That, too, was at the Meadowlands where the Patriots beat the Jets 38-14.

Now, New England, still without a loss, will end its regular season on the same field in front of cameras the NFL wants to be there.

Then the Patriots get to rest during their bye week. They have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

"We're not looking at the playoffs right now and we're not really thinking about being undefeated," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "There's a simple way how we got here, and that's focusing on the opponent that we happen to have in front of us. This week we've got a formidable one in the New York Giants."

The Giants lead the NFL in sacks and have the fourth-most productive running game in the league, led by Jacobs.

"He's 270 pounds," said Harrison, who will have to tackle him. "So that's like a Ferrari meeting a Mack truck."

The Patriots would be helped if the Giants play their regulars sparingly, since the outcome of the game has no bearing on their playoff position. Coach Tom Coughlin hasn't said what he'll do.

Belichick said he'll use his players according to what he feels is best for the team.

"This has been a very special season," Tom Brady said. "I'd hate to think that we'd go out there and not put our best out there this week."

The Giants would love to stop New England from being the first team to go undefeated in the regular season since the Miami Dolphins in 1972, who won the Super Bowl to finish at 17-0.

They'd also like to keep Brady from breaking Peyton Manning's single-season record of 49 touchdown passes and Randy Moss from passing Jerry Rice's mark of 22 scoring receptions. Each needs two more to set the records.

"Nobody in the NFL wants to see them go undefeated," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "If they do go undefeated, they are going to be known as that team that was just that much better than everybody else. I don't want to see that."

The Patriots need six points to break Minnesota's record of 556 in a season set in 1998 when Moss was a rookie with the Vikings. They've outscored opponents by a record 312 points with a margin of 36.7-15.9 per game. They're tied with Tampa Bay for fewest points allowed, 239.

"The good thing about those records is all those didn't come against us," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "Those 551 points, those 15 wins, that wasn't against the New York Giants. This is just one game. It isn't our fault the guys before decided to give up all those points."

The Patriots are trying to make history. The Giants want to stop them.

"It would definitely help just knowing that you're playing a good team and having the opportunity to end on a high note," New York quarterback Eli Manning said. "The outcome doesn't ultimately matter, but you still want to go out there and play good football."

It matters to the Patriots and all the fans around the country who will be tuning in.

So what does Belichick think of the widespread TV coverage?

"We're just trying to get ready for the game," he said. "I'm not planning on watching it."