Get ready, Julian Edelman. Here comes Victor Cruz.
A young group including undrafted free agents and even a wide receiver was good enough to help beat Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens – barely – in the AFC Championship game.
The New York Giants and Manning, with his big-game experience and receivers Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, pose a tougher challenge in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.
“The Giants are playing like they’re the best team in the National Football League at this point,” former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said Wednesday, “and Eli, he’s been fantastic and he will pick this secondary apart.”
James Ihedigbo isn’t listening to the doubters.
After three years as a special teams player for the New York Jets, he’s started the past 14 games at safety for the Patriots – with no interceptions all season. He is, Harrison said, a “serviceable” player but hard-working and team-oriented.
“We have a saying, ‘All we got is us,’ and that’s how we play,” Ihedigbo said. “We play for each other.”
Since the season began, 16 different defensive backs have played. The changes began in training camp when the Patriots released starting safeties Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders.
The Patriots allowed 70 completions of 20 yards or more. But Belichick saw improvement as the season went along.
“It’s a group of guys and coaches that have worked hard and tried to get better on a daily basis and I think they have over the course of the season, more so in the last five or six weeks,” he said.