Super Bowl 46 Film Review

February 7, 2012 by

Giants O vs. Patriots D

The Giants had an effective gameplan for what they knew would be a quintessential bend-but-don’t-break defense. Eli Manning did a superb job identifying defensive concepts presnap. The Patriots made it easy on him by not moving around much, but they also made it challenging by mixing coverages. They played with two high safeties throughout the game, often with soft man coverage on one side of the field (usually the lone receiver side) and a zone concept on the other.

The key to New York’s passing attack were the route combinations that took advantage of the constant bracket coverage given to Victor Cruz. Just like they often did in Week 9, the Patriots matched Kyle Arrington on Cruz and gave him help over the top or inside. On only two plays did Cruz line up in the slot and NOT face Arrington. The first was on his touchdown were he masterfully beat safety James Ihedigbo off the line; the second came late in the second half, on a play that ended with a completion outside to Manningham. In both instances, the Patriots got caught in base personnel against New York’s three-receiver set.

Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham both profited from the brackets on Cruz, as did tight ends/fullbacks Bear Pascoe, Jake Ballard and Henry Hynoski. Those three block-first players combined for eight quality receptions. Until the final drive, which was highlighted by Mario Manningham’s brilliant sideline catch (he’s long been one of the best sideline tap-dancers in the league) and a few quick strikes to Nicks, the story of the game was how efficient the Giants were in operating out of base personnel. Their base offense moved the chains on the ground and through the air. This wouldn’t have happened without an outstanding performance by the front five. Guards Kevin Boothe and Chris Snee were particularly impressive, managing to nullify All-Pro Vince Wilfork and dominate Kyle Love.

Worth noting is that with a few different bounces of the ball, we might be viewing this Giants offensive performance in a much dimmer light. The Giants had three fumbles that they didn’t pay for (two they recovered, one was eradicated by a 12th man on the field). All of those fumbles would have likely impacted points one way or another. If just one of those fumbles had been costly, we might be talking about Manning burning two timeouts on a scoreless fourth quarter drive and failing to make any long plays downfield. That criticism would be lopsided and overly harsh, but that’s the way it would have gone. Instead, we’re recognizing Manning as not just an elite quarterback, but one of the bests of all time.

 

Patriots O vs. Giants D

Two things decided Super Bowl 46: the Giants secondary and Rob Gronkowski’s ankle. All the talk coming in was about the Giants pass-rush, but until the fourth quarter, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul got very little pressure on Tom Brady. Aside from the two methodical yet sensational touchdown drives in the middle of the game, Brady was never red hot. That’s because his initial reads weren’t open.

With the Patriots outside receivers doing little to threaten New York’s corners, most of the offense centered around attacking linebacker Michael Boley in coverage. Boley gave up several completions on short out-routes, but he did not surrender big plays. That was exactly what the Giants were hoping for. It says a lot about Boley that coordinator Perry Fewell was comfortable with him taking responsibility for Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez in the slot a few times. Fewell likely never expected Boley to win those matchups, but he knew that if the linebacker could simply “not lose” those matchups, the rest of New York’s zone coverages could carry the day.

This approach probably would not have worked if Gronkowski had been at full strength. Because the superstar tight end was so limited, the Patriots were unable to stretch the seams, which compressed everybody else’s routes. They were also unable to use their hurry-up. Aside from Aaron Hernandez’s versatility, the seam threats and hurry-up had been this offense’s two greatest elements down the stretch.

A few Boston scribes have been critical of Brady’s performance. To put it kindly, those scribes are blowhards and have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Sure, Brady was not flawless. He had a mental lapse on the first play (the intentional grounding in the end zone) and there were a few instances where he perceived pressure. But overall, he matriculated the ball downfield despite essentially playing without his best weapon and having only a little help from the run game. Brady was patient in the pocket and on target with several tough lasers late in the down. Besides some late game gaffes by Logan Mankins, Brady’s protection was stellar and he capitalized. In the end, the opponent simply made a few more plays. The Patriots did not lose this game – the Giants won it.

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