The last time the New England Patriots brought a perfect record into a road game against the New York Giants, they capped one of the greatest regular seasons in NFL history.
Nothing has gone right for Tom Brady and the Patriots against Eli Manning and the Giants since.
Manning's Giants have captured the last three meetings with the Patriots, most notably two Super Bowl victories heading into Sunday's matchup of division leaders.
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New England (8-0) is among three unbeaten teams. Brady leads the league with 22 touchdown passes as he guides an offense producing an NFL-high 34.5 points per game with a league-best 31 TDs. The Patriots will be up against a New York defense allowing a league-worst 429.4 yards a contest.
If there's reason to believe this game won't be a mismatch, it's because of the recent history between clubs led by coaches who came through the ranks as Bill Parcells' Giants assistants in Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin. Coughlin is 5-1 against Belichick.
“It does get your motor running, no question about it,” said Coughlin about facing the Patriots.
New England became the first team to go 16-0 by winning 38-35 at the Meadowlands on Dec. 29, 2007.
That result became an afterthought when Manning led the Giants to a 17-14 victory in that season's Super Bowl to ruin the Patriots' bid for a perfect record.
When the teams next met four seasons later, New York won 24-20 on a TD pass by Manning with 15 seconds left to snap New England's 31-game regular-season home win streak with Brady in the lineup. That set the stage later that season for Manning to win his second Super Bowl MVP by leading the Giants to a 21-17 victory over the Patriots.
“We've always had very, very close games against them even when we've won,” Brady said. “We just haven't won as many of them as I would've liked to have won.”
Manning has a 96.7 passer rating with nine touchdowns while getting sacked seven times in those four games, while Brady has posted a 90.5 rating with seven TDs while being sacked 10 times.
“I think it's different teams from those games and over the past eight years, we've played them four times, a lot of new faces on their team and our team,” Manning said.
Brady has lost four straight to an opponent once, against Denver between 2005-09.
The chances of Brady getting rattled by the Giants' pass rush this time seem low as New York has produced a league-worst nine sacks. The Giants (5-4) did not record one in last Sunday's 32-18 road victory over Tampa Bay even though end Jason Pierre-Paul made his season debut after suffering a serious hand injury in a July 4 fireworks accident.
Pierre-Paul had two tackles against the Buccaneers.
“Well I think he played 50-some plays last week against Tampa, so his conditioning looks fine,” Belichick said. “I'm sure he'll be in there most of the time like he was last week, so he'll be there.”
The Patriots lost running back Dion Lewis for the season to a knee injury in last Sunday's 27-10 home win over Washington. Lewis had 622 combined yards rushing and receiving in seven games.
That puts more of the load on LeGarrette Blount, who had season highs of 29 carries and 129 yards against the Redskins.
New England is converting a league-best 48.5 percent on third downs, and Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski are tied for second in the NFL with seven touchdown catches. Gronkowski leads all tight ends with 693 yards.
The Patriots will get their first look at Giants star Odell Beckham Jr., who also has seven TD receptions and is fourth in the league with 759 receiving yards.
Brady has been intercepted twice while New York has picked off 13 passes to tie for the league lead. The Giants are an NFL-best plus-12 in turnover margin while the Patriots are tied for second at plus-seven.
“They rip the ball out, forced a lot of interceptions this year,” Brady said. “They've got a lot of playmakers. I think their scheme really plays a part of that.”
New York lost starting defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins for the season to a pectoral injury suffered last weekend.
The Giants' defense has linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl last year, while New York running back Shane Vereen spent his first four seasons with New England.