It's the Patriots' first appearance since Manning and the Giants (12-7) upset New England's pursuit of perfection in 2008. Back then, New England was a 12-point favorite, but New York's defense battered Brady, and Manning connected with Plaxico Burress on a late touchdown to win the Giants' third Super Bowl.
That TD came, of course, a few moments after one of the biggest plays in playoff history: Manning escaped the grasp of a few Patriots defenders and found David Tyree, who put New York in scoring position by pinning the football against his helmet for a jaw-dropping catch.
New England hopes to avoid that sort of drama this time around. Unless it goes in the Patriots' favor, as it did in the AFC title game.
Brady was unusually subpar in the Patriots' 23-20 victory over Baltimore, throwing for 239 yards with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no TD passes. But he got some help from the Patriots' much-maligned defense, which made some crucial stops down the stretch.
A few mistakes by the Ravens helped greatly, too, as Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left — soon after Lee Evans had a potential winning touchdown catch ripped out of his hands in the end zone.
"Childlike joy. It's all about childlike joy," linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "Last night felt like the day before Christmas for me and I haven't had that feeling in a long time."