By Glen Farley
ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER
FOXBORO — Julian Edelman's recollections of Super Bowl XLII aren't all that different from those of the vast majority of the 97.5 million viewers who tuned in to that game on the night of Feb. 3, 2008.
"I remember the Patriots lost (17-14 to the New York Giants). I remember that catch (by David Tyree that led to Plaxico Burress' winning touchdown reception in the game's final minute)," said the Pats' jack-of-all-trades, a 21-year-old junior at Kent State University at the time. "I was going for the Patriots."
"(Tom) Brady is from a town (San Mateo, Calif) next to me (Redwood City). I grew up, kind of like everyone, rooting for him so I really did (pull for the Patriots in that game). I was going for the Patriots and they lost. It would have been cool to see that history."
Come Feb. 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Edelman will be among the cast of Patriots attempting to prevent history from repeating itself against a team that's won five in a row and knocked off the top two seeds in the NFC (Green Bay and San Francisco) in back-to-back weeks to get here.
"Of course, the Giants are a great team, have had a great year," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during a conference call on Tuesday, a day off for the players. "We know that it's going to be our toughest game."
"It's going to be a tough task for us," Patriots special-teams captain Matthew Slater acknowledged in the team's locker room on Monday. "These guys are hot. They're playing well at the right time. They have a lot of momentum.
"Their defense is great. Their front is one of the best I've ever seen and their quarterback is playing at a very high level right now so we have our hands full with these guys."
While the Patriots on today's active roster who were there at University of Phoenix Stadium are few and far between — there are seven of them — this team has also witnessed a last-minute comeback by the New Yorkers first hand.
On Nov. 6 at Gillette Stadium, Eli Manning drove the Giants 80 yards in eight plays for a 1-yard touchdown pass to TE Jake Ballard that gave them a 24-20 victory that represents the Patriots' last loss prior to the current stretch that's seen them win 10 in a row.
"I think we'll have to go and look at that tape and learn from that game things that we could have done better and things that we did do well," said Slater, "and hopefully apply that in our preparations going forward."
Team owner Robert Kraft and Brady echoed sentiments on Monday saying they've never been able to look back at clips of the night 19-0 evolved into 18-1.
"I still can't watch highlights of that game. I think that's just the way it is," the quarterback said during his weekly appearance on Boston radio station WEEI. "You get to the end, and we had a great opportunity there and really squandered it because we didn't play our very best."
Those who weren't suited up in Glendale, Ariz., four Februarys ago — and even those who were — insist they aren't looking back.
"That game's in the history books," said Patriots S James Ihedigbo, an undrafted rookie free agent out of the University of Massachusetts who'd spent his first NFL season (2007) on the injured reserve list. "It's a whole different scenario, a whole different game, and we're playing for our battle and our chance to be Super Bowl champs and that's where our focus is."
According to Edelman, the names have changed, now the Patriots aim to alter the result of that game.
"We don't have that many players from that team. I don't think they do, either, so it's totally different circumstances," said Edelman. "It's a new year, so I haven't really thought of it like that. (We're) just trying to go out there and win the last game of the year."
A 22-year-old senior at Ole Miss at the time, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis insists the disappointing finish to the 2007 season represents old times in New England.
"It's in the past. We can't do anything about our past," Green-Ellis said. "We're going to do something about our future moving forward in how we prepare for those guys. We know they're a good team so we've just got to come and be ready."
Added PK Stephen Gostkowski, whose 74 point-after attempts and conversions during the 2007 regular set NFL records: "I don't live too much in the past. It is what it is and I'm glad I get another shot to go and hopefully it'll turn out better this time."
Glen Farley covers the Patriots for the Brockton (Mass.) Enterprise, a GateHouse Media newspaper.