Here’s something you’ve heard since Super Bowl XLVI ended: Eli Manning and the Giants played great and the Patriots missed another opportunity to cement their legacy.
Here’s something you probably haven’t heard: New England played great, especially on defense, and it took incredible execution by New York to steal away the Lombardi Trophy in the game’s final minutes.
No play was more indicative of this than Mario Manningham’s 38-yard sideline gem that kicked off New York’s winning drive.
The Patriots rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. The Giants max-protected with seven, and sent just three receivers into routes. The two-receiver route combination to Manning’s right featured Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. With two underneath defenders and a safety to that side, the Patriots guarded them well enough early in the down that Manning chose to look elsewhere.
New York had double-team blocks on three of New England’s four pass rushers. The one-on-one, single block was Guard Kevin Boothe on Defensive Tackle Vince Wilfork. Wilfork pushed Boothe back toward Manning, but not far enough. Manning had the time to turn away from the two-receiver side and back to his left, to find that Manningham had easily beaten his defender.
Cornerback Sterling Moore was the culprit on the play. He was unable to slow down or re-route Manningham, allowing the speedy receiver to get up the sideline without breaking stride. Manningham’s quick release made Safety Patrick Chung’s job more difficult. Chung played textbook deep-half coverage, hanging two yards inside the numbers until Manning indicated where he was throwing, and then sprinting toward the sideline.
Chung collided with Manningham just after the ball arrived but New York’s execution was too perfect. Manning couldn’t have thrown a better pass and Manningham may never make a better catch.
Boothe, Manning, and Manningham deserve most of the credit for the longest play of the Super Bowl, one that was made in spite of good Patriots defense.