Giants' execution too perfect for Patriots to defend

Here's something you've heard since Super Bowl XLVI ended: Eli Manning and the New York Giants played great and the New England Patriots missed another opportunity to cement their legacy.

Here's something you probably haven't heard: The Patriots played great, especially on defense, and it took incredible execution by the Giants to steal away the Lombardi Trophy during 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 on the play. 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 play that Manning chose to look elsewhere.

The Giants had double-team blocks on three of the Patriots' four pass rushers. The one-on-one 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 cornerback Sterling Moore.

Moore was unable to slow down or re-route Manningham off the line of scrimmage, allowing the speedy receiver to get up the sideline without breaking stride. Manningham's quick release made the job of safety Patrick Chung even more difficult. Chung played textbook deep-half coverage, hanging two yards inside of 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 the execution was too perfect. Manning couldn't have thrown a better pass and Manningham might 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 defense by the Patriots.

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