INDIANAPOLIS — There is a school of thought heading into Sunday's Super Bowl here at Lucas Oil Stadium that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick plans to unleash wide receiver Chad Ochocinco as his secret weapon.
Maybe like Packers wide receiver Max McGee in the first Super Bowl or Giants wide receiver David Tyree in the last Super Bowl between New York and New England. It's a storyline hard to resist and never seen before.
Six-time Pro Bowler reduced to afterthought emerging again in the biggest game of the year.
But the numbers say no.
Never mind his 15 catches this season. During Ochocinco's last eight seasons in Cincinnati when the Bengals were .500 or better after the first game of December five times, he had a tough time coming up with big games. In those 35 games in December and January (including two in the playoffs) he had six 100-yard games and 14 touchdowns.
He had a huge catch in the last home game of the 2009 season with 2:03 left when his six-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer gave the Bengals the AFC North title in a 17-10 win over the Chiefs.
But in the two playoff games Ochocinco had a total of six catches for 87 yards and no touchdowns. In the last three games of the 2006 season when the Bengals needed one win to make the playoffs, he had 10 catches for 132 yards and no touchdowns. In the last five games of that '09 run, he had three touchdowns but only 12 catches.
Of course, defenses were giving The Ocho a lot more attention back then than what the Giants are probably going to give him Sunday.
“My work always produced results in the past," The Ocho said this week. "That same work ethic didn’t go so well (in New England). But I just kept working. Sometimes, it goes good. Sometimes it doesn’t. After a 10-year span, I finally had one year where it didn’t go well. That’s it.”
During his interview sessions, Ochocinco kept going back to the lockout costing him valuable time in making the transition from Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's playbook.
“Brat’s playbook was very, very good. But you have to understand I had years and OTAs and offseasons to learn the playbook and get to a certain level of comfort," The Ocho said. "I didn’t have that coming here. Everything was on the run coming in after the lockout.
"I try to compare it to something we can all relate to. It’s like having a girlfriend for 10 years and she’s always one way. You meet somebody new and you have to adjust to her because you have no idea so you learn her on the run. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, I’m still here, you know what I mean? You get the point.”
MARVIN ON THE GAME: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis says the Super Bowl comes down to the guys up front and it got him to thinking about one of his top offseason priorities.
"The front group is impressive," Lewis said of the Giants defensive line. "Those guys are playing good at the right time and playing well together. That’s why they’re in the game. They got a lot of turnovers. Every time I saw their defense they were getting turnovers."
In Lewis's eight previous seasons the Bengals had been hanging around the NFL's top five for forcing turnovers, but they dropped off this season with 22. Still top 10, but their 10 interceptions were their fewest under Lewis.
"If there’s one thing we have to get … figure out a way to create more. Teams that create the most turnovers play in this game," Lewis said. "More recently we have declined (in interceptions) and we have to find out why. We play more man concepts. That is part of it. We started very good and then we hit a lull. You have to look at that but conceptually that’s the difference."
Lewis spent a few days on NFL Network last week analyzing the game with Brian Billick, the Ravens head coach when Lewis's defense led Baltimore to a Super Bowl win over the Giants 11 years ago.
"The Giants have to do a great job of playing half-field coverage," Lewis said. "And then (Tom) Brady tries to read the coverage. They have to do a great job of being disruptive and give the guys up front a chance to make plays. On the other side of the ball can the Giants receivers shake free and beat coverage?"