Super Bowl XLVI Hangover: Other ways to break down Manning to Manningham

February 6, 2012

The Super Bowl XLVI game-changing play — a perfectly executed 38-yard pass from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham — has already been covered from all sorts of angles:

  • As many have already pointed out, the play wasn’t designed to go to Manningham. The “Smash-7″ combination route on the front side of the play (Nicks on a smash, Cruz on a fade route) was stymied by the Patriots. You can read about the breakdown and play of that here (via Grantland’s Chris Brown).
  • Bill Belichick’s challenging of the play has also been covered here, by Bill Barnwell, also at Grantland.  While I disagree with his reasoning, he points out this: Belichick was six feet away from the play when it happened. It looked like a good catch in regular speed on television, in slow-motion, and most importantly, to the side judge. If Belichick saw what 111 million Americans did, he should have never challenged the play.   But that’s my opinion.
  • I somewhat alluded to this in my last post, but not only does Eli look more comfortable throwing the ball to his left, but the numbers show it too.  Eli’s QB rating when throwing the ball deep outside the left hash marks is an outstanding 118.5.   When he throws it deep outside the right hash marks, he’s a good (but not great) 90.6 (numbers courtesy ProFootballFocus). From my naked eye, Eli looks more comfortable sliding and delivering to his left, and does so with incredible touch. I thought the best throw Eli made in the entire playoffs was his touch completion to Ahmad Bradshaw in the NFC Championship game, where he slides to his left, and delivers a gorgeous touch pass under heavy pressure.
  • Poor Sterling Moore. The twice-cut cornerback was the toast of the New England media after his play on Lee Evans in the AFC championship game, but even in breaking down that play, you saw his obvious lack of size and foot speed quickness in trying to cover the formerly fast Evans’ stop-and-go route.  Now fast forward to his brutal coverage versus Manningham. Pre-snap, he’s eight yards off the ball with Patrick Chung 14 yards off in a two-deep look. What technique is Moore playing? Inside technique? Looks like nothing to me. (For a understanding of what inside technique is, watch this video.)  Inside technique would have helped Moore:
    • take away Manningham’s chance of a slant;
    • use the sideline as an extra defender, but most importantly…
    • cleared his hips and given him a better chance at running with the faster Manningham.

Now take a look at the overhead view of the play, courtesy the NFL Network. Patriots safety Patrick Chung correctly opens his hips to the left, then appears to open them to the right, before recovering and getting to the scene of the crime…a split second too late. Why? It was an obvious three-man route, with max protect (the tight end and the back stay in to block), and no one working the middle of the field. I know Chung was probably playing Manning’s eyes, and make no mistake about it — Manning played Chung like a fiddle and dropped a perfect strike into Manningham’s bread basket. But the front side route combination was well defended by the Patriots, and Chung had no business doing anything but continuing his drop and providing help to Moore. Well, that’s what I think.

Why I love football. Nine seconds of drama provided a zillion ways of thinking and analyzing what unfolded.  Congratulations to the Giants on a great win and on their fourth Super Bowl title.   When it mattered, they out-executed the Patriots.


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