EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. &
Jim Kiick was born and raised in New Jersey and grew up a fan of the New York Giants. He later became a running back, and played on the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only modern-era NFL team to win every game in a season.
So it's no surprise Kiick will be pulling harder than ever for the Giants Saturday night when they play the undefeated New England Patriots, who are one victory away from joining the Dolphins in the record book.
"It matters to us," he said, referring to his former Miami teammates. "But contrary to the way the media reports it, we're not a bunch of bitter old men sitting around with champagne and waiting for that last team to lose. That's a myth. We're old, but we're not bitter, and I don't even like champagne.
"If we're toasting, we're not toasting their loss but our accomplishment."
The odds are against those Dolphins raising a celebratory glass Saturday night. The Patriots (15-0), favored by 13 1/2 points, have made it clear they don't plan to rest their starters, even though the team long ago secured home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Giants (10-5) say they, too, will be playing to win, despite already having a lock on the NFC's fifth seed.
Originally, the game was to be broadcast only on the NFL Network, which is available to less than half the country. But, considering the historical significance of New England's pursuit of perfection, the league made an exception and is allowing CBS and NBC to simulcast the broadcast.
Among the matchups to watch is the one in the trenches, pitting New England's outstanding offensive line against the pass-rushing prowess of the Giants. New York leads the league with 52 sacks; the Patriots have surrendered just 20, fifth-fewest in the NFL.
Giants players have scoffed at the way Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks almost indignant on the rare occasion a defensive player touches him, let alone brings him down.
"He walks around like he's Prince Charles, like he's the golden boy," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce told the New York Daily News.
"I mean, watching him on film when Philly was hitting him, the guy looks at them like, 'Wow, I got touched by the defense.' ... He walks with an arrogance. The guy hasn't gotten touched, so he has no reason to fear anything."
There's no debating Brady has had a tremendous season, and he's a three-time Super Bowl champion. He has thrown 48 touchdown passes &
one shy of Peyton Manning's NFL single-season record &
including 21 to Randy Moss, who needs one more to tie the record held by former San Francisco star Jerry Rice.
However, for the Patriots this season is about much more than team or individual records. It's always been about winning the Super Bowl, which would require going 3-0 in the postseason.
Still, they can't ignore the significance of winning Saturday night.
"I think we all realize what a win would mean, but a win's always big," Brady said. "A win is always important for us, and we've prepared pretty hard over the last four months, as every team prepares pretty hard.
"Being 16-0 would be a very special achievement, one that no other team has ever achieved, and we're finally at that point."
(Optional add end)
As Brady knows, the '72 Dolphins were also 16-0, but that came when they were two victories into the playoffs. The regular-season was just 14 games at the time.
The length of the season notwithstanding, there are other reasons the Patriots' path to perfection is arguably tougher than that of the Dolphins. Miami didn't play a single team during the regular season that made the '72 playoffs, and only knocked off two teams &
Kansas City and the Giants &
that finished better than .500.
Still, the Dolphins completed a perfect season. The Patriots haven't. Yet.
"I think Larry Csonka said it best," said Kiick, referring to his fellow Dolphins running back. "He said if another team wins them all, you can put another chair on the mountaintop. The bottom line is, perfection is perfection."
Patriots' quest for perfect regular season goes through Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. &