The Giants’ championship performance on the biggest Sunday of them all was impressive on both sides of the ball, and on Tuesday we took a look at the halftime defensive adjustments that New York made to counter the Patriots’ matchup advantages underneath. Today we focus on the offense, which was led by a brilliant Manning named Eli and a pair of dynamic pass catchers.
Minutes into the second quarter of Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants offense came out in their 11 gun spread (1 back, 1 flexed tight end in shotgun formation) personnel package against the Patriots 3-2-6 defense, which has three defensive linemen to go along with two linebackers and six defensive backs (“Dime”).
After yelling “hike,” Manning focused to his left, where slot receiver Victor Cruz and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks ran their routes. Cruz, who was the center of the Patriots’ defensive gameplan, served as a decoy on this play by running a Curl route underneath. His route would eventually create an opening for Nicks, who ran a Dig route into the middle of the field.
As can be seen below, Cruz’s curl route and Manning’s eyes would draw up safety Patrick Chung, who disregarded Nicks potentially running an inside-breaking route into the middle of the field, which was his responsibility.
Once Chung comes up, Nicks is able to run a Dig route in behind him and free into the middle of the field where Manning delivers a high-arching pass that only his target can reach.
The inside-breaking route ran by Nicks, which he often runs, proved effective when he ran free into the middle of the field and received a sky-high pass from Manning. The opening was created by Cruz and the over-aggressiveness of Chung, who should have been working with deeper depth and breaking over the top of Nicks’ route.
Chung’s assignment of covering the top of Nicks’ route is implied by the depth of his initial alignment as well as the leverage of play-side cornerback Antwaun Molden, who is covering Nicks. Molden was shaded outside of Nicks, a shade that is designed to make the Giants receiver run into the middle of the field where there should be safety help.
Unfortunately for Molden, that wasn’t the case when Chung zeroed in on Cruz.