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Spagnuolo On Super Bowl XLII: "...Hold Them Under Thirty"

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The connection between St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo and the Giants has not been lost in the media buildup for tonight's game. Spagnuolo, as you may have heard, was the New York Giants defensive coordinator for two years. It was his defensive line that led to one of the biggest upsets in NFL history when the Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Was it the greatest game in Giants history? NFL history? It definitely stands the test of time says Bernie Corbett, author of The Most Memorable Games in Giants History: The Oral History of a Legendary Team.

"It would be impossible to be hyperbolic about that game because the circumstances, the magnitude and how much of an underdog the Giants were," Corbett told me over the phone last night. "The Giants defensive line flat out dominated the Patriots offensive line. You won't see a greater job turned in, a greater effort in a game than what the Giants defensive line did. Four years removed from it, but I venture to say that's a game that will stand the test of time."

As a Rams fan, I had to ask, naturally, about Steve Spagnuolo. Corbett talked to Spagnuolo while he was writing this book. Oddly enough, Spagnuolo was attending a St. Louis Cardinals spring training when Corbett interviewed him over the phone.

Spagnuolo has a great quote in the book about that game. Spagnuolo talked about preparing for the game.

"We were very professional about it in that we just went about things like we had every other week. We weren't going to talk, we weren't going to be boisterous or anything. We let the whole focus be on the Patriots. We knew that there was an underlying confidence in our group. We knew we could beat this team."

Classic Spagnuolo, focused on the task at hand, not the nature of the game, the Super Bowl in this case, or the hyperbole around facing off against an undefeated opponent. Underneath that was Spagnuolo the pragmatist.

"Having said that, I felt that as the coordinator going against that offense... that if we could hold them under 30, that was a good day of defense. I had a lot of confidence in our offense that if could find a way to score 29 points, we would win the game."

Thirty points. Spagnuolo, in the back of his mind, wanted to limit the prolific Patriots offense to less than 30 points. Of course, they did much better than that, winning the game by a 17-14 final score. The results surprised even the guy who believed wholeheartedly that his defense could do the job.

"I never thought that we'd going in there and shut them down, but I didn't realize that our guys, true to form, were going to step it up another whole five notches."

Giants fan or not, that game truly was one of the more memorable championships in the history of professional sports. It says a lot that a guy like Corbett, who has also written a similar book about the Patriots, ranks it among the best games ever played.

I was fortunate enough to talk to Corbett for an hour. I shouldn't be surprised that guy who has written oral histories on subjects from the New York Giants to Country Joe McDonald gives one helluva an interview. I've got more from our session, but I wanted to get this up on the site ahead of tonight's game.

Be sure to check out this one and Bernie's books.