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07 Feb 2012

Super Bowl XLVI Quick Reads

by Vince Verhei

Was the New York Giants' 21-17 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI a great game for Eli Manning? Or a lousy game for Tom Brady? Neither, actually. Although Manning's team won and Brady's team lost, the two quarterbacks were virtually equal in their performance on Sunday.

The raw numbers are close, but they give the edge to the Giants passer. Manning had three more completions for 20 more yards. Brady threw four more incomplete passes, and though he threw two touchdowns to one for Manning, he also threw the game's only interception. And while Brady took one less sack than Manning, he also committed an intentional grounding penalty that cost the Patriots two points.

Remember, though, that Brady and Manning weren't competing head-to-head. Brady was playing against the Giants defense, while Manning was playing against New England's, and that's a huge advantage for Manning. The Patriots were 28th in Football Outsiders pass defense rankings during the regular season. The Giants defense ranked 21st, and that includes games when they were missing several key defenders. By the end of the year, when everyone was healthy, they were clearly better than that.

When you factor in opponent adjustments, the quarterback battle on Sunday was virtually a wash. Manning finished with 129 DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement - more info available here), while Brady had 127. As close as that matchup is, it seems unfair that one of those players should be deemed a winner and the other a loser.

Which brings us to the manner of legacy. Should our perceptions of Brady and Manning change based on Sunday's game? Two weeks ago we ran a table showing the best playoff quarterbacks since 1995. Here's what the table looks like after the Super Bowl:

Most Total Postseason DYAR, 1995-2011
Quarterback DYAR Games
Peyton Manning 2,317 19
Tom Brady 1,831 22
Kurt Warner 1,612 13
Drew Brees 1,330 9
Brett Favre 1,111 20
Eli Manning 837 11
Aaron Rodgers 832 7
Matt Hasselbeck 787 11
Ben Roethlisberger 634 14
Philip Rivers 595 7

Manning's performance in the Super Bowl bumped him up two spots on that list, passing Hasselbeck and Rodgers. He finished with 479 DYAR this postseason, so it's feasible that he could pass Favre or even Brees with one more Super Bowl run. While Rodgers, Roethlisberger, and/or Rivers could all pass him in the future, the present results match common perception: Manning's status has notably risen in the past five weeks.

But Brady? He remains in second place, and is closer to Peyton Manning's place atop the list now than he was before Kelly Clarkson sang the national anthem. And that reflects Brady's performance. He wasn't sensational, but he played well against a good defense while under constant pressure. It wasn't enough to win the game at the end, but that should be a credit to the Giants, not a sign of failure on Brady's part at all. The idea that Brady cost New England the game, that he somehow sullied his legacy, or even that he would have been better off not reaching the Super Bowl at all, is just silly.

Brady said as much to reporters last night. "I said after the game, I'll keep coming to this game and keep trying," Brady said, when asked what he had told his teammates in the locker room. "I'd rather come to this game and lose than not get here."

So Brady will keep trying. Can he play in this game again? He'll need more help at wide receiver. Both of his starters in the Super Bowl, Wes Welker and Deion Branch, are free agents. Even if both men come back, New England could still use a viable deep threat. Fortunately for the Patriots, the 2012 free agent class is ridiculously deep at wide receiver. Some of the best names available include Vincent Jackson, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, Brandon Lloyd, and Robert Meachem. That's 38,778 career yards (more than 22 miles) of receiving production on the open market.

And the champions? Only two starters in New York's offensive lineup (tight end Jake Ballard and offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie) will be free agents, but they have to be concerned about the age of their offensive line. The five starters in the Super Bowl averaged 30.2 years old, and the youngest (Kevin Boothe) will be 29 in July. The Giants could use an infusion of youth here.

But that's for the future. For now, the Giants are Super Bowl champions. And that's really all that matters.

Eli Manning NYG
Manning's fourth-quarter performance in the Super Bowl: 10-of-14 for 118 yards, seven first downs, 62 DYAR. In his four fourth quarters this postseason (including overtime against San Francisco in the NFC title game), he went 32-of-45 for 339 yards with three touchdowns, three sacks, and no interceptions, good for 181 DYAR. In the Super Bowl, he went 9-for-9 in the first quarter, but he was also sacked twice in that span, and seven of those completions gained less than 10 yards. The NFL's leader in deep passes (16 yards or more past the line of scrimmage) in the regular season, Manning threw only seven such passes in the Super Bowl, completing two of them for 56 yards.
Tom Brady NE
Brady completed 16 passes in a row between the second and third quarters, for 158 yards and eight first downs (including two touchdowns). Aside from that streak, he went 11-of-25 for 118 yards, with two sacks, one intentional grounding call for a safety, and one interception. He was no better on deep passes than Manning, going 2-of-8 for 40 yards, with the interception and the grounding call both coming on deep passes.

Five most valuable running backs
Danny Woodhead NE
Woodhead rushed seven times for 18 yards, and actually finished below replacement level in rushing DYAR. His longest run was only 6 yards, and he was stuffed for a loss on a second-and-goal carry in the second quarter. However, whenever Tom Brady threw Woodhead the ball, good things happened. He caught all four of the passes thrown his was for a total of 42 yards. One catch was a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 3. Two others were first-down plays for 11 and 19 yards. And the fourth was an 8-yard gain on first-and-10.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE
Green-Ellis’ first carry of the second half gained 17 yards. His other nine carries averaged 3.0 yards each, and he ended up with only three first downs and two stuffs for a loss. He was also thrown three passes: a 7-yard gain on second-and-11; an 8-yard gain on first down; and an incompletion on second-and-8.
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG
Bradshaw rushed 17 times for 74 yards, but nearly one-third of those yards came on one first-quarter run. Otherwise, he averaged 3.0 yards per rush and was stuffed for no gain or a loss four times. He had five total first downs on the ground (including the game-winning accidental touchdown), but he also had a critical fumble deep in Giants territory in the fourth quarter. Fortunately for New York, they recovered the football, but Bradshaw should still be criticized for coughing it up in the first place. He also caught two of three passes for 19 yards. One of those receptions was an 8-yard gain on first-and-10; the other was an 11-yard gain on third-and-15.

Least valuable running back
Brandon Jacobs NYG
Somebody had to finish last among running backs, and Jacobs was that guy. The only pass thrown his way fell incomplete on first-and-10. Meanwhile, he ran for 37 yards. He picked up only two first downs and his longest carry gained just 11 yards, but each of his nine carries gained at least 1 yard, and six of them gained 3 yards or more. By the standards of the 2012 postseason, this really wasn't a bad game for a running back at all.

Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Victor Cruz NYG
In many ways, Super Bowl XLVI was a pretty weird game, but this was perhaps the weirdest fact of all: With four catches for a mere 25 yards, a whopping 6.3 yards per reception, Cruz was the most valuable receiver in the contest. Though none of Cruz' catches gained more than 8 yards, one was a 2-yard touchdown, two others were third-down conversions, and the fourth was a 7-yard gain on second-and-8. Meanwhile, he had zero incompletions.
Wes Welker NE
A lot of chatter after the Super Bowl concerned Welker's drop of a fourth-quarter pass that would have given New England a first down deep in New York territory, but that was Welker's only incompletion of the day. Even including that play, he was by far the most dangerous weapon in the New England offense. Part of that comes in rushing value - his two carries gained 10 and 11 yards, respectively, and he led all players in total rushing value. On the other hand, only two of his catches gained first downs, five gained less than 10 yards, and one was a 6-yard gain on third-and-7.
Bear Pascoe NYG
New York's second-most valuable receiver caught four passes for 33 yards. Like Cruz, he caught every pass thrown his way; unlike Cruz, he gained only two first downs.
Hakeem Nicks NYG
Nicks had eight first downs, six 10-yard plays, and converted all three of his third-down targets. However, he is docked severely for his fumble in the third quarter, even though his Giants teammates fell on the ball. Had he not fumbled, he would have finished tied with Welker (but still behind Cruz) in total value among receivers on the day.
Rob Gronkowski NE
His three targets, in order: a 20-yard catch on first down in the second quarter; an interception by Chase Blackburn in the fourth quarter (although for Gronkowski, that play is treated like any other incomplete pass); and a 6-yard gain on second-and-9 in the fourth.

Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Mario Manningham NYG
He had the biggest catch in the Super Bowl, and he still finished as the game's least valuable receiver. At the end of the third quarter, Manningham had been thrown only two passes, both failed third-down plays (one incompletion, one catch for 5 yards when the Giants needed 10). His first target in the fourth quarter was caught for a 12-yard gain. Manning's next pass went to Hakeem Nicks, and then Manning threw six passes in a row Manningham's way. Three of those passes were incomplete (including another failed third-down play). He also had catches of 38, 16, and 2 yards.

Finally, here are the single-game DVOA ratings for Super Bowl XLVI. In case you didn't think it could get any more frustrating for Patriots fans, well, you were wrong.

DVOA (with opponent adjustments)
NE 12.9% 25% 14% 2%
NYG 12.7% 11% 5% 7%
VOAf (no opponent adjustments)
NE 10% 30% 22% 2%
NYG -6% 21% 34% 7%

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 07 Feb 2012

311 comments, Last at 11 Feb 2012, 6:05pm by BaronFoobarstein


by Dirdy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:09pm

Brady threw four more incomplete passes, and though he threw two touchdowns to one for Manning, he also threw the game's only incompletion.

game's only interception*!

by nat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:16pm

There's really no excuse for NOT giving us the individual VOAs in the Super Bowl. What are you thinking?!?

As for the team VOAs, anyone who was paying attention knew that the fumble recoveries were huge. It's things like fumble recoveries that make this a game rather than just a skills competition. The Giants were simply better at those "little things" that aren't statistical indicators of future success. In a close game, that's what determines the winner.

Congrats Giants fans.

by djanyreason :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:22pm

In the above, "simply better at those little things" should read "simply luckier at those random events"

by nat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:15pm

I think "better" at something that is "not a statistical indicator of future success" is more correct than "random". It's not a coin flip. Alertness, aggressiveness and good hands matter. You or I could match an NFL captain in calling-the-coin-toss skill. We could not do so in a loose ball drill.

If the Patriots outplayed the Giants on an average play (see VOA), it wasn't by much, and it wasn't at the right moments in the game. The Giants had the edge in plays, yards, first downs, and of course, the score. If that came from fumble recoveries and making the most of what good plays they had, that's what made them winners.

Football is not all about having the best average per-play repeatable-skill result.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:21pm

Fumble recoveries aren't random as in "not repeatable" they are random as in "no skill on behalf of either party". The Giants were no more alert than the Patriots, the ball simply bounced directly to them.

by Whatev :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:28am

So you assert that you are, in fact, as good at recovering fumbles as NFL players.

by GlennW :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:09pm

I wouldn't say that, but in the spectrum of "things I might be able to do as well as an NFL player", yes, recovering fumbles that bounce right to me would be close to the top of the list. Maybe only behind standing in the endzone and watching a kickoff sail over me for the touchback. Yeah, I think I could pull that one off.

This isn't the right question to ask, of course. The right question to consider is if there's an appreciable difference in the ability to recover fumbles from one team to the next. All evidence suggests there is not.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:59pm

"Alertness, aggressiveness and good hands matter."

Except for the fact that every team in the NFL apparently has equivalent alertness, aggressiveness, and good hands, because they're all equally good at recovering fumbles as far as we can tell.

"You or I could match an NFL captain in calling-the-coin-toss skill. We could not do so in a loose ball drill."

Maybe... but apparently every other NFL player could match an NFL captain in a loose ball drill, because they're all equally good as far as we can tell.

However, I can suggest a more likely explanation. The reason we have an oblong football is because players liked the fact that a semi-flat round ball bounced randomly. So maybe, just maybe, fumble recoveries are random because the people who play the sport liked the idea that the ball bounces randomly.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:07pm

I'm starting to wonder if forcing fumbles are also random - that is, it is correlated more with the offense than with the defense. I've no evidence and done no research - but anecdotally, it seems to me that outside of strip-sacks, very few players are consistently good at forcing fumbles, but many players are consistently bad at losing the football.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:51pm

That few players are good at something does not mean it's not a learnable or repeatable skill.

As an example, few baseball players can effectively throw a knuckleball. That does not mean it is not a skill, or not repeatable.

More to the point, I believe there is a mechanism by which a player can become better at generating fumbles, and thus it can be considered a skill.

by rich316 :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:01pm

Yeah, off the top of my head I can really only think of Charles Woodson as a player who seems particularly skilled at stripping the ball out of a WR's or RB's hands. When nobody batted an eye at helmet-to-helmet hits, the way to most consistently force fumbles was to concuss the ball carrier. That's still effective (Pierre Thomas), but obviously not as kosher now.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:32pm

Charles Tillman is arguably the best at punching a ball out.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 12:07am

Brian Dawkins had waaay more forced fumbles than the average non-defensive lineman (although less so with Denver, so there may be a connection with the type of defense). Maybe Sean Taylor too, but sadly we have nowhere near enough statistics for that.

by GlennW :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:07pm

This is only observational, but it seemed to me that all season this Patriots team was adept at stripping the ball (as evidenced in the Super Bowl) under the principle of, if you can't defend or tackle, strip the football as a last resort.

by Yaguar :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 9:20pm

In strip sacks, it's just obviously a real effect. Dwight Freeney has 43 career fumbles forced to Michael Strahan's 14, and he has several years to pad that lead.

For non-strip-sacks, I give you Brian Dawkins (36 fumbles forced in 911 tackles) or Charles Woodson (28 fumbles forced in 753 tackles) vs Darrell Green (5 fumbles forced in 1159 tackles) or Eugene Robinson (15 fumbles forced in 1250 tackles.)

Clearly it's a real skill that differs from player to player, but I had to take some very, very experienced players just to get a sample size large enough to be meaningful.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:41pm

Which is why my favorite play in football, generically, when I don't care who wins or loses, is the snap over the punter's head, when the punt team has a rush on. Sheer chaos, and I love it.

by rich316 :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:03pm

Hmm, it seems more likely to me that it is oblong because that is the shape that just makes sense if you want to be able to secure the ball with one hand in the crook of your arm.

by GlennW :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:10pm

I didn't think that observation was serious, but also think aerodynamics. The football didn't use to be as oblong and pointy as it is now.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 2:04am

It was serious. Footballs started off nominally round, but were usually not actually round because well, they leaked, and it was too hard to blow them up to be completely round.

So they ended up more like an oval - and eventually people preferred that, because it's easier to hold, and it bounces weird when it hits the ground. They became more oval when the forward pass came along, for aerodynamics and ease of throwing. (Arguments for this here).

But the bounce of a football is fairly chaotic. It's not surprising that recovering a fumble is essentially random - especially when you also realize that the positioning of the players near the fumble is also essentially random (except for the relative number of offense/defense, which is why certain types of fumbles are more likely to be recovered by offense/defense).

by GlennW :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 11:22am

> It was serious.

I only meant the part about the shape of the football evolving how it has in order to produce crazy, random fumbles. I know that's a byproduct but I've never heard of it cited as a cause.

by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 02/10/2012 - 7:24pm

Perhaps in a hundred years, the ball will be approximately the dimensions of a javelin, which will make the QB position that much easier, but make WRs and D-backs jobs incredibly harder. And if Will Allen thinks a botched punt is exciting chaos now...

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 02/10/2012 - 8:08pm

Would a receiver who is pinned to ground by the ball be considered defenseless if he's had enough time to make a football move?

by Independent George :: Sat, 02/11/2012 - 9:06am

And is it considered a reception if it passes through his body and touches the ground? Does he have to make a football move before it passes through his body in order to have kept control?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 02/11/2012 - 6:05pm

I think a ball passing through your body is clearly in your control, so he would have controlled the ball before and after it touched the ground, which is a catch.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:33pm

You can just make the ball smaller in that case.

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:19pm

+1 to that. Alas. I was commenting on it big time in the game. Lady luck is a foul floozie.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:02pm

In particular, I'm very interested in what Aaron Hernandez's numbers were. I don't think anybody watching the game thought that he was outplayed by Gronkowski. He must be facing a stiff penalty for his last dropped pass. And what about Manningham? Seriously, guys, you're not pressed for space here, are you? It's the Super Bowl. You've got the numbers. Why not publish them?

Glad to see that the numbers can be used to easily rebut the "Welker is the goat" nonsense.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:29pm

What are the VOAs absent the fumbles?

by Patsfan1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:46pm

The DVOA numbers don't make me feel anyworse (bad case of spastic colitis since Welker's drop). It makes me think the numbers don't reflect what happened in the game....

by Kulko :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:55pm

Funny, the nimbers refelct exactly how I saw the game. slightly superior play vs. better fumble luck is always a wash.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:48pm

The DYAR chart sorted by DYAR/GM (I'm aware of the problems with doing this but I still think it has value)

Drew Brees.........1,330....9.....147.8
Kurt Warner........1,612...13.....124.0
Peyton Manning.....2,317...19.....121.9
Aaron Rodgers........832....7.....118.9
Philip Rivers........595....7......85.0
Tom Brady..........1,831...22......83.2
Eli Manning..........837...11......76.1
Matt Hasselbeck......787...11......71.5
Brett Favre........1,111...20......55.6
Ben Roethlisberger...634...14......45.3

by Purds :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:17pm

Not sure too much about the problems with this once you get to a certain number of games played. But, I prefer this. If you just go by total DYAR, then unless you really suck in a game, you're going to seem "better" just by playing more.

I guess we could split this out into divisional, championship, and SB rounds to make it clearer, but I like this because it doesn't make sense to say the more the better. (Think Bernie Williams in baseball. The most RBI's ever in post season play, but he's not nearly the best post-season player in MLB history.)

by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:04pm

Not sure too much about the problems with this once you get to a certain number of games played.

The thing is, none of them have played enough games for there not be a problem. It's much easier to have a high DYAR/game in a smaller number of games than in a larger number, at these sample sizes.

It's analagous the binomial probability. E.g. given a 50% winning percentage for playoff games on the whole, the probability that a coach will have a 66.7% winning percentage in 9 games, going 6-3 or better, is 25% by random chance. But the probability that he will in 18 games, going 12-6 or better, is only 12%.

So Peyton's 122 DYAR/game over 19 games may be a lot better than Brees' 148/game over only 9 games, in the sense of being less likely and so presumably attributable to skill.

The snag is that such probabilities are much easier to figure with binomial (W-L) outcomes than with performances on a scale.

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:32pm

I wonder how much of this DYAR is built from playing against slightly subpar defenses in the Wild Card round. Manning has had multiple opportunities to blow teams out, like Denver, in the Wild Card, while Brady has tended to sit and then play in the divisionals, drawing strong defenses. I know these numbers are adjusted for defense, but it still seems easier to put up strong DYAR by wrecking a middling team than by playing solid against a great team. Just a thought. Warner's numbers are also curious to me. I have strong recollections of the 1999 Championship game, the 2001 Super Bowl, etc. I tended to think of him as a bit reckless in big games. Perhaps the Arizona run really lifted his numbers?

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:55pm

Theoretically, playing against subpar defenses wouldn't give a disproportionate bump in DYAR, which is opponent-adjusted.

That said, even if you give Peyton Manning 250 DYAR for each Broncos game (I couldn't find the exact amounts, but 250 DYAR is extremely high), then remove those games, his overall DYAR is 1817, in 17 games. That comes out to 106.89 per game, which is still well into the upper half of that list, and considerably above the next tier (Rivers, Brady, Eli Manning).

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:49pm

I would wager 70 percent of Favre's DYAR come from games in the 90's.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:03pm

That's an interesting question that I don't have the data to answer but I'm going to guess anyway. Yes that's right I'm going horribly off topic and posting several massive ascii formatted "charts".

He played in 14 (9-5) playoff games in the 90's over 6 seasons (93-98) and 10(4-6) playoff games in the 2000's over 6 seasons (01-04, 07, 09).

Generally you'll get more DYAR in a win than a loss and of course he had 4 more games to pick up DYAR with in the 90's. But that isn't to say he didn't have some stinkers in the 90's and some very good games in the 2000's, if you just base it on rating or AY/A (last two actual numbers before the score below). ( http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/F/FavrBr00/gamelog/post/ )

01 1993 15-26(57.7) 204y 3TD 1INT 105.3 08.42 W28-24 v DET
02 1993 17-27(62.2) 331y 2TD 2INT 080.9 06.24 L17-27 v DAL
03 1994 23-38(60.5) 262y 0TD 0INT 081.2 06.89 W16-12 v DET
04 1994 19-35(51.4) 211y 0TD 1INT 058.2 04.74 L09-35 v DAL
05 1995 24-35(68.6) 199y 3TD 0INT 111.5 07.40 W37-20 v ATL
06 1995 21-28(75.0) 299y 2TD 0INT 132.9 12.11 W27-17 v SFO
07 1995 21-39(53.8) 307y 3TD 2INT 084.1 07.10 L27-38 v DAL
08 1996 11-15(73.3) 079y 1TD 0INT 107.4 06.60 W35-14 v SFO
09 1996 19-29(65.5) 292y 2TD 1INT 107.3 09.90 W30-13 v CAR
10 1996 14-27(51.9) 246y 2TD 0INT 107.9 10.59 W35-21 v NWE
11 1997 15-28(53.6) 190y 1TD 2INT 057.1 04.29 W21-07 v TAM
12 1997 16-27(59.3) 222y 1TD 0INT 098.1 08.96 W23-10 v SFO
13 1997 25-42(59.5) 256y 1TD 1INT 091.0 06.45 L24-31 v DEN
14 1998 20-35(57.1) 292Y 2TD 2INT 079.7 08.34 L27-30 v SFO

15 2001 22-29(75.9) 269y 2TD 1INT 112.6 09.10 W25-15 v SFO
16 2001 26-44(59.1) 281y 2TD 6INT 053.5 01.16 L17-45 v STL
17 2002 20-42(47.6) 247y 1TD 2INT 054.4 04.21 L07-27 v ATL
18 2003 26-38(68.4) 319y 1TD 0INT 102.9 08.92 W33-27 v SEA
19 2003 15-28(53.6) 180y 2TD 1INT 082.4 06.25 L17-20 v PHI
20 2004 22-33(66.7) 216y 1TD 4INT 055.4 01.70 L17-31 v MIN
21 2007 18-23(78.3) 173y 3TD 0INT 137.6 10.13 W42-20 v SEA
22 2007 19-35(54.3) 236y 2TD 2INT 070.7 05.31 L20-23 v NYG
23 2009 15-24(62.5) 234y 4TD 0INT 134.4 13.08 W34-03 v DAL
24 2009 28.46(60.9) 310y 1TD 2INT 070.0 05.22 L28-31 v NOR

If you order them by AY/A you get this (The split is top 12 vs bottom 12)

23 2009 15-24(62.5) 234y 4TD 0INT 134.4 13.08 W34-03 v DAL
06 1995 21-28(75.0) 299y 2TD 0INT 132.9 12.11 W27-17 v SFO
10 1996 14-27(51.9) 246y 2TD 0INT 107.9 10.59 W35-21 v NWE
21 2007 18-23(78.3) 173y 3TD 0INT 137.6 10.13 W42-20 v SEA
09 1996 19-29(65.5) 292y 2TD 1INT 107.3 09.90 W30-13 v CAR
15 2001 22-29(75.9) 269y 2TD 1INT 112.6 09.10 W25-15 v SFO
12 1997 16-27(59.3) 222y 1TD 0INT 098.1 08.96 W23-10 v SFO
18 2003 26-38(68.4) 319y 1TD 0INT 102.9 08.92 W33-27 v SEA
01 1993 15-26(57.7) 204y 3TD 1INT 105.3 08.42 W28-24 v DET
14 1998 20-35(57.1) 292Y 2TD 2INT 079.7 08.34 L27-30 v SFO
05 1995 24-35(68.6) 199y 3TD 0INT 111.5 07.40 W37-20 v ATL
07 1995 21-39(53.8) 307y 3TD 2INT 084.1 07.10 L27-38 v DAL

03 1994 23-38(60.5) 262y 0TD 0INT 081.2 06.89 W16-12 v DET
08 1996 11-15(73.3) 079y 1TD 0INT 107.4 06.60 W35-14 v SFO
13 1997 25-42(59.5) 256y 1TD 1INT 091.0 06.45 L24-31 v DEN
19 2003 15-28(53.6) 180y 2TD 1INT 082.4 06.25 L17-20 v PHI
02 1993 17-27(62.2) 331y 2TD 2INT 080.9 06.24 L17-27 v DAL
22 2007 19-35(54.3) 236y 2TD 2INT 070.7 05.31 L20-23 v NYG
24 2009 28.46(60.9) 310y 1TD 2INT 070.0 05.22 L28-31 v NOR
04 1994 19-35(51.4) 211y 0TD 1INT 058.2 04.74 L09-35 v DAL
11 1997 15-28(53.6) 190y 1TD 2INT 057.1 04.29 W21-07 v TAM
17 2002 20-42(47.6) 247y 1TD 2INT 054.4 04.21 L07-27 v ATL
20 2004 22-33(66.7) 216y 1TD 4INT 055.4 01.70 L17-31 v MIN
16 2001 26-44(59.1) 281y 2TD 6INT 053.5 01.16 L17-45 v STL

So 4 of his best 12 games came in the 2000's, which is pretty much 33%, so yeah, 70% of his DYAR coming from the 90's is probably right. That 2001 game vs St. Louis was brutal and probably had a huge negative value and while 09 Dallas and 07 Seattle games were both pretty good we've also got the 04 Minnesota and 02 Atlanta games in there. That 97 Tampa Bay game doesn't look great on this but Tampa had a good defense (-10.0% DVOA) to temper it a bit.

Yeah I'd be interested in his DYAR by game numbers. He declined, but really his playoff legacy seems to match his regular season legacy. He could do some brilliant stuff and some horrendous stuff. He's got enough games that it's pretty easy to see good ones sandwiched by bad and vice versa along with several average games.

by jarvis (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 1:46pm

How does the system handle things like the no call on Sterling Moore's pass interference?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:01pm

I don't believe uncalled penalties are factored, which is why it is a mistake to view fumble recoveries in isolation, as being how randomness affects outcomes. Even called penalties, although counted, I believe, seem to be somewhat random events, when one considers such calls as offensive holding or illegal contact on receivers. I've seen one defensive lineman after another flat out tackled in this year's playoffs, without being flagged, so it was surprise to see the Giants penalized for something less blatant on a critical early play, when they could have really jumped out to a huge lead. I'm not saying the call was wrong, mind you, but instead saying that the rulebook and ref performance have worked together to make the officiating a major random factor in the outcomes of NFL games. This year, when the winning Super Bowl team seemed to get the short end of the zebra wheel spins, it isn't much noticed. When the reverse happens, like the Steelers/Seahawks game, it really damages the perception of the event, I think. I wish there was a good solution to this.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:50pm

100% agree.

And I don't think there's a real solution. So many calls (esp. DPI and offensive holding) can easily go either way, and it has a huge outcome on the game.

If there's say, 4 such close calls in a game, and one team gets 3/4 or all four of those close ones...well, depending on the situation, that can easily be as big a factor as fumble luck.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:06pm

How can you expect any system to call penalties that are not called? On any given play, uncountably many penalties are not called. You really want the FO guys to be making judgment calls about what should and should not have been penalties?

by speedegg :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:04pm

Brady legacy tarnished? Haha! The causal fan might think so, but the total career would say no. Though, Brady seemed like he played rushed, the Welker drop on the smash route was more on the QB than WR. He threw it to the wrong shoulder and Welker had to do some acrobatics to just get his hands on it.

Really want to see what NE and NY do in free agency and the draft. The Giants need OL help, the Pats need WR and LB help and have two 1st round picks.

by Purds :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:10pm

I'm not going to say the game tarnished Brady's reputation, but did it help him? If he had 10 straight games like that, I don't think it would help.

by speedegg :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:24pm

Well given that NE didn't have a Corey Dillon-type running back, nor a Randy Moss at WR and the O-line had trouble with just the Giant's front four, I think Brady did pretty good.

The other thing was JPP batted down passes, which is partly due to the O-line. Coaches will sometimes tell O-linemen to "block high" so the D-line can't jump. Which was surprising since a short QB (Brees) didn't have any passes knocked down against that D-line. It seemed like just the front four was confusing the O-line and getting into Brady's head and he still managed to put up 2 TDs.

by Verifiable (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:25pm

Based on DYAR it would help him, his DYAR/Game is significantly lower than it was in this game so his average would improve. However based on watching the game I would agree with you.

by Purds :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:57pm

But you know that Brady's "reputation" is not based on DYAR. In reality, that game should not change what people think about Brady. But, in terms of reputation, let's face it, much of his early reputation was based on post season success. Sunday was a failure on the largest stage. Is it fair? No. But reputations are not fair. Was it fair that Peyton took a loss in the NYJ playoff game in 2010 even though he put his team in the lead with less than a minute to go? No, but it certainly hurt his "reputation."

Brady is a much better QB now than in the early 2000's when his reputation as a winner on the big stage was established. Unfortunately, when a reputation is built upon a certain standard, in this case SB wins, then failure with regard to that standard is going to hurt a repetition. No one in the early 2000's was championing Brady for his yardage totals, or TD totals. They were shouting about his undefeated post season record.

by Subrata Sircar :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 10:02pm

This. Brady's legacy was defined by being the QB on 3 Super Bowl winners and "the guy who[se team] kept beating Peyton['s team]". Now that he's been "outplayed" in two Super Bowl losses, the same people who worshipped his legacy into existence have discovered his feet of clay, never mind that he's likely a much better QB now than he was then.

Legacy is public perception. Is he less of a HoF-worthy QB? Of course not. Is he less likely to be voted into the Hall? Probably not - he'd have to play like Big Ben in a Super Bowl before that happened - but he's no longer the wondrous god of all things QB.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:23am

Brady played a decent game. But public perception seems to be that he was terrible. I find it somewhat ironic that a mistaken impression of this game may be the thing that brings Brady's public perception back from the stratosphere into something more in line with his actual play.

by nat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:25pm

I don't know. If VOA is to be trusted, 10 straight games like that would net him 6 wins and 4 losses, or if he was a little unlucky, maybe just 5 wins.

Oh, you meant if the non-VOA-measured factors broke this way in all 10 games? 20 forced fumbles all recovered by the opponent? That would be amazing. But it would have nothing to do with Brady.

by Kurt :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:50pm

Considering where his legacy looked like it might be going, 5-5 or 6-4 over a 10 game stretch would knock it down a bit.

I don't want to go overboard with this - some nimrod on the radio last week was saying 3-2 would be a significant downgrade, because look at Troy Aikman! He's 3-0! If I were a yelling-at-the-radio-type, I might have expressed that 3-2 is a *better* Super Bowl record than 3-0, you dope.

But he's not Montana. That's gone now.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:02pm

Yeah, Montana had his easily interceptible pass, against the Bengals late in the fourth quarter of a close Super Bowl, dropped by a Bengal, after it floated into his belly, and Brady didn't recover any of the Giants' fumbles on Sunday night.

That Brady; he's no Montana.

by Kurt :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:16pm

I'm talking about legacy, which is public perception. You might be one of a dozen people in the world that remembers that Montana threw a pass that should have been intercepted against the Bengals.

And seriously, fumble luck schmumble luck. Brady's interception on Sunday, taking game situation (first down!) and everything into account, was just an awful, awful play.

by Kurt :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:24pm

By the the way, is there a link anywhere of this Montana "dropped INT"? I don't remember it either, and am curious whether it was a real drop or a phony-baloney Asante Samuel no-leather-attracting-magnets-in-the-tops-of-his-fingertips "drop".

by Travis :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:30pm

Here you go. It came on the second play of the 4th quarter; the 49ers scored the tying touchdown on the next play.

by Kurt :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:39pm

Wow. Yeah, that's really bad, miles away from the Asante Samuel play. Thanks for posting it.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:56pm

I mention it to illustrate that public perception is often about as intelligent as my dog's. If that floater is caught, the legend of Montana is greatly reduced, given that he was coming off horrible playoff performances in '85, '86, and '87. Heck, it's not inconceivable that Walsh decides to keep coaching, and opens things up the next year with Young truly competing for the starting job. I'm not saying Montana wasn't great. I'm saying that using a playoff w-l record is not a reliable way of establishing the greatness of a qb. If you don't like my fumble comment, then think about how perception changes if Welker makes a catch of a pass he had two hands on. When the public's perception of a qb can change greatly if that pass is caught or not caught, there is little reason to care about the public's perception. Or at least no more than my dog's.

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:58pm

After learning about your dog's perception of the quality of fencing around your yard, I'm not sure it would unreasonable to see which QBs he likes .

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:09pm

Nah, I just have'em pick stocks for me. He's more into finance.

by Kurt :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:03pm

Yes, I think your point that legacies often rest on razor-thin margins is a very good one. And while I do think that Sunday's game will affect Brady's legacy, I can get on board with the idea that the correct answer to "will game X affect player Y's legacy?" is "Who cares?"

(Switching from "fumble luck" to "Welker" doesn't help, though, since IMO that play was 25% on Welker and 75% on Brady, who turned an easy catch into a very difficult one)

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:14pm

I think that Brady, in order to make it an "easy catch", would have had to risk Welker getting decapitated by a safety running at full speed. It could have been a slightly better pass, resulting in less difficulty for Welker, without risking the Giants having either a play on the ball or a defenseless Welker, but not hugely less difficult.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:18pm

For good or ill, Herm Edwards agrees with you that throwing the ball to Welker's right shoulder would have gotten him laid out.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:24pm

Shit, I never thought you guys would find out my real identity!

by apbadogs :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:33pm

It was most definitely a dropped INT...can't remember the Bengal DB that dropped it but it was right in his hands, probably moreso than the Asanti Samuel drop.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:47pm

Thank you. I've always been irked by the "Pats would have won SB42 if Asante Samuel hadn't dropped that easy interception" crowd.

Yeah, they would have won if he hadn't "dropped" it, but that would not have been an easy catch.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:57pm

It seemed to me that the main reason Samuel dropped it was he was trying to get his feet inbounds and took his eye off the ball. I think a wide receiver should be expected to make that play, but not necessarily a defensive back.

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:01pm

The level of difficulty of that catch is extremely underrated. He had to jump as high as he could, extend all the way with his hands, and still barely got them to touch the ball, and he was right on the sideline. If he had somehow made one of the most amazing catches in NFL history, he still would have likely come down out of bounds.

It was a much harder catch than Welkers drop that he shouldn't be blamed for.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:08pm

Agreed on all counts. Especially the "would have likely come down out of bounds".

by RoyFlip (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:37pm

If he even got two fingertips on that ball as it whistled past him, that was a great effort. When did every ball that is not caught become a "drop"?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:51am

Ask Aaron.

WRs get penalized by FO for being the nearest player on a throwaway. Airmailing the ball 30 yards past a receiver for a safety counts as a "drop" to FO.

by Eddo :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:42pm

You've phrased it in the most negative way possible.

It's actually true that all incompletions targeting a receiver get counted the same. A drop and an overthrow both count against a WR equally. Saying that a bad throw is considered a "drop" is just being overly-critical.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 10:16am

FO makes no distinction between the two. To FO, for a WR, an overthrow *is* a drop.

On the flip side, for a QB, to FO, a drop *is* an overthrow.

by Eddo :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 4:46pm

Only if you insist on using such terms.

FO counts them all as "incompletions". As such, WRs get a disproportionate amount of blame for overthrows, QBs for drops. Over a large enough sample, it evens out.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:19pm

Agreed, it would've been an excellent catch for a WR, otherworldly for a db. My larger beef against Samuel is for playing "innocent bystander" next to Tyree and Harrison.

by nat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:33pm

Good point. 6-4 would indeed be a downgrade from his career playoff record.

Montana was 16-7 in the playoffs. Brady is 16-6. It's too soon to say "that's gone now" with such finality considering that Brady's playoff record is actually better. In fact, next season is too soon as well, since at worst Brady's playoff record would fall exactly to Montana's level. Yes, I know you're focusing on the Super Bowl. But getting there counts for something, as you pointed out.

by John Kelly (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:24pm

Absolutely agree. Downgrading Brady for dragging a mediocre supporting cast to yet another Super Bowl is nonsense. The Pats BARELY won his first three Super Bowls (three points, every time) and BARELY lost the last two. This is easily his least talented team... a bunch of practice-squad refugees starring on defense, two undrafted running backs, and no speed whatsoever at WR. Without Brady and Belicheck, these guys finish 5-11.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:12pm

He threw 16 consecutive completions. I should think that would help him.

Some of the Boston press have compared this performance with his game in Super Bowl XXXVI. He was clearly better this weekend. It's not close.

Two factors are involved here:

a) memories of how well Brady actually played are distorted. Brady's early victories were marked more by team efforts than individual brilliance on his part. He's won a lot of games, but he's never had anything approaching Kurt Warner's Super Bowls

b) As Brady has improved, the NE offense has come to lean on him more and more. So now there's a demand that he throw a perfect game every week.

I've been critical of some of Brady's passes. Early in the game, he seemed to be targeting Jason Pierre-Paul. Late in the game, he had horrible problems with accuracy. And in the middle, he threw an egregious interception. But for the middle third of the game, he was positively brilliant.

I think the injured shoulder affected him. I know it wasn't his throwing arm, but if he had pain issues to deal with, that might have altered his mechanics ever so slightly.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:27pm

How much of the supposed accuracy issues were caused by pressure? On the interception, he barely escaped getting stripped by Rocky Bernard (I think), dodged another lineman (didn't catch his number), and had JPP right in his face as he released. When he escaped the pressure, he was forced to move laterally and wasn't able to step up in the pocket when he released. He may have made some bad throws, but I don't think they were easy ones.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:37pm

I'm sure the pressure played a role, either directly or indirectly (the shoulder injury from the sack seemed to hurt his performance late in the game.)

But I still think the long interception was appalling. And it was exactly the kind of mistake he'd made against the Ravens. In a situation where the Pats were having a lot of success moving the ball, he took a foolish chance on a deep pass he couldn't make.

If he keeps doing that kind of thing, I'm going to start calling him Bledsoe.

When he was younger and humbler, Brady had the sense to respect his limitations.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:44pm

It was an especially bad decision on 1st and 10.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:51pm

Not so sure it was a bad decision. Bad throw, absolutely.

But Gronk had the LB beat if the ball wasn't badly underthrown. So the decision was reasonable but the execution was bad.

(And "badly underthrown" is the story of Brady's long balls. I think this bizarre idea that some people have that Brady has a good long ball is memories warped by 2007. And I bet if you looked at the tape, many of those bombs were underthrown balls where one of two things happened:
1) Motivated Moss was able to outjump/outfight the coverage and come down with the ball, or
2) Moss was so wide open that even after slowing up to catch the underthrown ball, he was able to speed up for meaningful YAC before getting caught (if got caught at all))

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:53pm

But Gronk had the LB beat if the ball wasn't badly underthrown. So the decision was reasonable but the execution was bad.

It's only a good decision if you can make the throw and...

"badly underthrown" is the story of Brady's long balls.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:02pm

Well, it's not that he totally can't. It's that he mostly can't :)

In contrast to the Gronk throw, look at the Hail Mary at the end of the game. Or the heave that almost connected with Moss on the last or 2nd to last play of That Arizona Game. Both of those (esp the Moss throw) were very long and pretty much right on the money.

So he's capable, but my guess is that the conditions (like getting planted, gripping the ball right, etc.) have to be just right.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:36pm

Brady's rule of thumb should be: if I have to scramble, I'd better not throw it long.

He's not Michael Vick.

by rich316 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:47pm

Funny you bring up that second-to-last play of SB 42. To my eyes, that also looked underthrown. Moss had a step, but Webster was able to knock the ball away despite trailing. Then again, Brady launched that from his own 20 and it came down at the Giants 20. 60 yard passes are not usually completed for a reason.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:50pm

No, you're right. It was slightly underthrown just as you say. If Brady could have put another yard on it Moss may have been able to stay ahead of Webster and McQuarters and catch it. But short by a yard is a lot different than the short by quite a few yards the Gronk throw was.

(And it was more than 60 yards because it was thrown diagonally from the other side of the field from where Moss was running.)

by John Kelly (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:01pm

I'd put the blame on Gronkowski and his bad ankle. The throw was a good decision, even if underthrown. Gronk is open deep with no safety in sight, trailed by a linebacker/substitute school teacher. Even if underthrown, the possible outcomes are:

1. Gronkowski slams on the brakes and Blackburn slams into him...pass interference, first and goal.

2. Gronkowski slams on the brakes and cuts in front of Blackburn.

3. The 6'8" dude wins the jump ball.

4. Or, least probably, what happened, which amounted to a good punt.

You make that throw every time.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:55am

Guys with high ankle sprains are not renowned for their ability to either "slam on the brakes" nor jump. Brady knew the injury report.

by John Kelly (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 10:49am

OK, so he gently applies the brakes instead. My point is, the decision to make the throw was the right one. If you've got a receiver who has three steps on his defender (ironically named "Chase"), and the potential payoff is a 40-yard gain and/or TD, you heave it. The decision was the right one. (Unlike, say, the utterly insane decision to throw a bomb to a double-covered Underwood a couple of weeks ago.) It was the execution that sucked.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:30am

It's a bad decision if he tries to make a throw he isn't really capable of making. It's bad execution of an acceptable decision if you think he has a high percentage on that throw. In no way do "you make that throw every time" if you expect to under-throw it.

by John Kelly (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 11:18am

Point taken. But there are throws where under-throwing is usually disastrous (like an out pattern or trying to drop it over a LB in zone coverage), but this isn't one of them. When the receiver is behind a chasing defender, with no safety help, the receiver has all the advantages. Blackburn can't see the ball coming; Gronkowski can. Usually the result of an underthrown ball in cases like this is DPI. Gronk telegraphed it when he gradually turned and slowed down...he's young... he will learn.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 11:36am

He had a sprained ankle! Gradually turning and slowing down are what happens with a sprained ankle.

by John Kelly (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:32pm

I thought it caused horrible dancing...

If that's as good as he could do (the play, I mean, not the dancing...OK, either one applies...), maybe the bigger question is...should he have even been out there?

by John Kelly (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:04pm

Indisputable visual evidence...


Upon further review...

1) Nice scramble by Brady!
2) 50 yard throw...farther than I remembered.
3) Bad placement. Throw it the left...give Gronkowski an angle.
4) Gronkowski was hobbling around pathetically. He should not have been playing.

by GlennW :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:50pm

Totally agree with you JK. The throw was not well-executed, but we're talking about a lumbering MLB 50 yards down the field not only making a nice play to turn around at the right time and establish position to avoid DPI, but also snaring the football over his head! That's just a great, great play by Blackburn. Total chance of an INT (and not an INT of disastrous consequences, btw) as Brady decides to unleash that pass? I'd say less than 2%, compared with about a 20% chance of a positive result with a catch or DPI. This play is being massively overthought. Inevitable given the bad result, I suppose, but we FO readers should be more objective than the mainstream media.

Beat Brady up over the intentional-grounding safety instead. That was just a flat-out dumb play (I don't buy the "they never call that" explanation, and Brady should be more careful regardless given that he wasn't reacting out of desperation as with most intentional grounding penalties).

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:47pm

I don't know about Bledsoe. How about just settle for calling it a "Favre".

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:52pm

It also seemed like a Cutler-esque decision.

However, all 3 QBs mentioned, have the arm to make that throw, while I'm not sure Brady does.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:24pm

Here's a question: when does New England draft a QB? Brady will be 35 next season, and is due for some age-related decline (we've probably already seen it with respect to his deep ball). Barring injury (not a given at that age), he should still be a top tier QB for another 2-3 years, but he can't last forever. Elway, Montana, Marino, & Young retired at 38. Warren Moon was productive at 40, and lingered as a backup for a few more years after that. Aikman retired due to concussions at 34. We all know about Stubbleface.

I think this is one of the benefits to Belichick stockpiling 1st-2nd round draft picks - and maybe the logic behind it. If a QB prospect becomes available in the 1st round, he has ammunition to move up without destroying the rest of his draft class, and with the new rookie cap, he can then sit him behind Brady for a couple years. I wouldn't say this about anyone else, but we know Belichick plays the long game - maybe he's been preparing for Brady's eventual decline/retirement?

by Travis :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:31pm

The Patriots drafted Ryan Mallett, who fell in the draft for off-the-field reasons, early in the 3rd round last year.

by speedegg :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:36pm

Belichick drafted Ryan Mallet in the 3rd round last year. He was probably the most "pro-ready" of all the QBs, except for the maturity/attitude. Seeing how he wasn't cut like other backup QBs (indicated he follows the "Patriot Way") and that he lit it up during pre-season, shows he might be a decent starter in a few years.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:00pm


Jacksonville is going to hate having missed out on Mallett in a few years. Carolina -may- feel the same way.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:14pm

Agree about the Jags. Strongly disagree about the Panthers. I was a Cam basher before his rookie year, but I'm a Believer now. I think he's got an MVP trophy in his future.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:22pm

I'm in the same boat. I believe Cam may be a pretty good pro, and I thought he was Jamarcus Russell when he came out.

I have a lot more hope for him than I do for Mark Sanchez, for instance.

by apbadogs :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:34pm

Carolina would rather have Mallett? Somehow I think they would 100% disagree with that statement, even if Mallett becomes a serviceable pro.

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:48pm

Seriously. This reads like a parody of a Patriots fan.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:27pm

I'm not a Patriots fan (to the extent I have a team, it is the Colts). But Mallett had better physical tools than any other QB in the draft this past year, and was dropped out of the first round solely because of drug allegations (irrelevant assuming he's past it) and mouthing off to reporters. If he actually works at being a pro, there is no reason to think his floor isn't Drew Bledsoe.

Cam Newton is still a pretty inaccurate running quarterback who was very successful his first season because Carolina's offensive line got healthy and defenses did not respect his running ability. He's a good pro; but he could be Daunte Culpepper - or Troy Smith. From his first season, I don't think we know.

I think Cam Newton was a good pick for Carolina. Even good picks don't always pan out. (See: Bradford, Sam).

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:46pm

I wouldn't give up on Bradford quite yet. His sophomore year was a step backwards, certainly, but his numbers over his first two years are better than Stafford's were a year ago.

I was going to make a comment about Alex Smith, but for some reason the search string "Alex Smith" at NFL.com sends me to the Browns' TE.


So, instead, I'll make fun of bad website design. :)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:59am

Stafford last year had the equivalent of one season's worth of games, and 13 of those were for a team coming off the only 0-16 season in NFL history. He had a worse team than Bradford did. His sophomore numbers were pretty good, and this year's results indicate those were more predictive than his freshman numbers.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 10:29am

There's a difference between a "season's worth of games" and actual seasons though, especially for young QB's. Every additional season in another year of preparation, practice, and experience in a pro system. Was Aaron Rodgers a "rookie" in 2008 nd a "sophomore" in 2009? No, he had been on the league since '05, and despite not seeing playing time, those years on the squad helped his development.

Also: Bradford does not have a Megatron. He doesn't even have a Waspinator.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:47pm

Drew Bledsoe is an awfully high floor. Jeff George sure sounds like a better all-around match. And Ryan Leaf sounds like the worst-case scenario.

Of course, very little was spent on Mallett (3rd round pick) relative to those three (1st, 1st, and 2nd overall).

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:18pm

"But Mallett had better physical tools than any other QB in the draft this past year"

Really? Kaepernick was clocked throwing faster at the combine, Mallet came second. Newton wasn't far behind. CK and Newton are much, much faster. How on earth can you make the claim that Mallet had better physical tools?

I will add that I thought much of the criticism of Mallett was unjustified, he might not be able to run but he can slide in the pocket to good effect. (Peyton Manning and Brady are as slow as qbs get and they move well in the pocket too)

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:41pm

I meant his arm and accuracy, not his legs.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:01am

I tend to think of accuracy as a skill, and not as a tool.
(Jeff George was a tool, for instance)

You can be tooled and not skilled (young Randall Cunningham) or skilled and not tooled (old Chad Pennington).

by Ryan D. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:41pm

Carolina's offensive line still isn't healthy. They haven't had Jeff Otah line up at Right Tackle in almost two years. The cast of misfits they sent out to play tackle this season was terrible.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:58pm

I pointed this out in the Audibles thread, but if Brady had threw the ball in the direction Welker was facing (his right shoulder), the Giants' safety would have been able to break up the pass (or worse, intercept it). Brady threw the ball to a place that only Welker could get it; unfortunately, Welker had to turn his body to get it.

I don't give a ton of blame to Welker; it wasn't a terrible drop, but it was definitely a drop. Brady could have thrown the ball a little better (lower), but he did throw it to the correct shoulder.

by Kurt :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:06pm

Welker was wide open. If the safety was a concern, then the solution is to either recognize him and throw the ball earlier, or throw the ball with more zip on it and less air under it.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:14pm

I wouldn't call him "wide open". Watch the NFL.com video from about the 7-second mark to the 10-second mark. By the time the ball gets to Welker, the Giant safety is within ten feet, and that's after the throw has caused Welker to move away from said safety.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:48pm

"By the time the ball gets to Welker, the Giant safety is within ten feet"

Ten feet is "wide open" in the NFL, certainly so for Brady-to-Welker.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:58pm

Not for two players who would have been running towards each other, if Brady's throw doesn't cause Welker to shift course. If Brady throws to Welker's front shoulder, in stride, there is no gap, and Welker is having his concussion symptoms evaluated today.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:45pm

Did you read the rest of my post? The pass led him away from the safety. Had the throw been to Welker's right at all, the safety would have been able to make the play.

1. Welker is 10-15 feet away from the safety.
2. Brady throws the ball, away from the safety.
3. Welker and safety both move towards the ball.
4. Ball hits Welker, safety is now ~10 feet away.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:35am

Looking at the video, I have to say you really have a high threshhold for "wide open". I guess it means the receiver should be able to make any cut he wants and run for another 10 yards before seeing anybody. For me it means "receiver in a position where the pass could be easily thrown to him without any fear of a defender making a play on it."

The pass could have led Welker downfield instead of making him twist around to try to catch it.

It looks like Brady was throwing to Welker's left shoulder while Welker was turning to his right.

He's still wide open no matter how you slice it.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 11:48am

Reviewing the replay last night, I had another thought regarding the Welker catch: did he run a bad route? I haven't heard anyone bring up the possibility, and I don't know enough about football or the Patriots offense to say for myself.

As Will and others have noted, there were three Giants defenders around him, but the deep outside - where Brady threw, and caused Welker to spin & reach - was indeed wide open. So the question I have is why didn't Welker break outside instead of inside? Why was that a back shoulder throw instead of a front shoulder throw?

The route itself appeared to be a sight adjustment - the Giants were unsure of their responsibilities before the snap, and Brady & Welker both saw it and tried to take advantage. The three Giants defenders had the short inside, short outside, and deeep inside covered. Nobody had even a remote chance at covering the deep outside, but Welker ran a seam route with an inside break. To me, it appears that if Welker runs a corner, it's a much easier throw for Brady, probably results in a touchdown, and we call it a broken play for the Giants.

by Eddo :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:43pm

He certainly might have. Brady had to throw the ball over his left shoulder. That was the right place to throw it.

The throw could have been better, but they're clearly both to blame.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:34am

Would "very wide open" be better? How much more open do you want a wide receiver in the NFL to be?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:54pm

He appeared wide open to you because Brady threw the ball in a way that caused Welker to move away from the safety. Could Brady have thrown a better ball, allowing Welker to make an easier catch, without excessive exposure to the safety? Yes. Was there as much room as the term "wide open" implies? Not even close.

by dryheat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:16pm

Yeah...I don't even know where the controversy lies. Welker got both of his hands around the front half of the ball and just couldn't hang on. It wasn't a routine catch, but it was a catch an NFL-caliber wide receiver should make 8 times out of 10. It was a catch the NFL leader in receptions over the last 5 years should make 10 out of 10 times.

NFL quarterbacks oftentimes intentionally put the ball in places that require the receiver to execute a tough catch. The understanding is that an NFL Receiver will make that catch.

Pure and simple, Welker dropped the ball. I'm not going to beat him up too much over it -- everybody had bad plays from time-to-time, but the suggestion that he's getting unduly blamed for dropping the ball is off-base.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:47am

I think Welker is getting unduly blamed because there were 70+ plays in the game and mistakes were made all over the place, by both teams. And the Welker drop is pretty low on the list for me. Well behind the Brady interception, the poor coverage on the Manningham catch, the safety, the 12-men-on-the-field play, and the Ninkovich offsides call.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 10:35am

Poor coverage on the Manningham catch? I thought it was pretty damn good, in that it forced both QB and WR to execute flawlesssly in order to succeed. The fact that they did just that doesn't mean it was bad coverage.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:10pm

That was my analysis as well but Matt Bowen on National Football Post makes a pretty good case that the defensive back shouldn't have allowed such a clean outside release and that Chung should have played the fade sooner.

by GlennW :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:27pm

The operative word in such an analysis is "perfectionism" though. That's just an unrealistic expectation. The coverage was very good by NFL defensive standards. I'm sure that in breaking down film like this coaches stress where something can be done better, but on this play I can't go so far as to use the word "blame". Not even close.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:42am

Brady threw the ball to Welker's left shoulder. It's a bit silly to say that this "caused Welker to move away from the safety" since Welker had already turned toward the safety before he located the ball.

If Brady had thrown the ball so it hit Welker on the hands when he turned to the right, that would have been an easy catch. You seem to think that the only way that Brady could have thrown the pass to Welker's right shoulder is if he did so with the same arc and distance.

I see Welker turn to the right and I see that he's wide open when he does so. And you don't think he's wide open at that moment because somehow the only pass to Welker's right shoulder would have led him into the safety. I strongly disagree.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:26am

Listen, your eyes tell you that the coverage on Manningham was "blown". You and I should just probably not discuss football, because we don't see the same thing.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:43pm

Anyone wondering should watch both plays again on youtube. Welker: wide open. Manningham: Not.

Welker was wide open because the Giants knew that if the Pats picked up another 1st down it was likely curtains. The D was confused, and Welker found a seam. Brady threw a marginally catchable ball but could have made a much better pass. I don't think the probability of Welker holding on was as high as some seem to, but I think most of the time that that particular pass gets dropped is when the receiver lands - since he was likely not going to land on his feet.

Manning had a small window to fit a pass into, and nailed it, tough to blame the D.

by GlennW :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:12pm

A better pass? Sure. A "much better" pass? If so, then again we're talking about perfectionism.

If anyone is so interested, Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe has churned out a couple thousands words breaking down the mechanics of this single play (link below). One observation is that if Brady throws the same back-shoulder pass but it hits Welker at chest level instead of head-high, he makes the catch no problem. Sure, and that's the difference of about one foot on a pass traveling 30 yards in the air.

Expectations on the play are the key. It's not an easy throw (regarding optimal placement) and it's not an easy catch. Brady can make a marginally better pass, but Welker's execution on the catch-- as measured by the result-- can be much better. Neither is to blame per se, but unfortunately Welker's side of the equation has a binary result-- catch or no-catch-- on a play he will probably make at least 75% of the time. And that's Bedard's final conclusion-- perfect pass or not, it's a catch that should be made. I agree.


by Goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 6:38pm

So I read that, and it is interesting! But it didn't seem to support the conclusion that the right pass by Brady was a foot lower, it more seemed to indicate that he went to the wrong location.

Related, I saw a "science of sports" segment last night breaking down the Manning to Manningham throw, and the degree of accuracy required for that to be a catchable ball period. Just astounding for a throw that was probably 50 yards in the air.

And I completely agree with the sentiment that it is entirely unfair to break 60 an entire game down to these 2 plays, but in the end it is tough not to compare them.

by GlennW :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 11:33am

> But it didn't seem to support the conclusion that the right pass by Brady was a foot lower, it more seemed to indicate that he went to the wrong location.

Correct, that was only one possibility, for the same approach of throwing a back-shoulder pass to keep the ball well clear of the safety. Other expert analysts preferred that the throw stay in the seam in line with Welker's initial direction, and/or (probably most importantly) that the ball be thrown with a flatter trajectory in order to arrive sooner.

I still think all of this analysis is slicing the matter very thin because this was hardly a bad pass (or a terrible drop on the other end), but that's what we do with such critical plays to get them out of our system, I guess.

by Atheist Joe :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 8:22pm

Manning's throw was quite simply one of the best throws you will ever see. You won't generally get an appreciation of that here. RickD referred to it as just a 35 yard out pattern. Manning's throw to Manningham was dropped into the bucket and accurate to the inch. Others agree:

"Eli Manning's 38-yard pass to Mario Manningham on the New York Giants' game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter is rightly regarded as the play of the game in Super Bowl XLVI -- it was, quite simply, the single-greatest throw this writer has ever seen." - Doug Farrar

"Manningham 38 yds on 1st play of winning TD drive was as good a throw as you’ll ever see, Also great route by Manningham to give Manning room to drop the ball into the bucket" - Greg Cosell

by Eddo :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:47pm

"If Brady had thrown the ball so it hit Welker on the hands when he turned to the right, that would have been an easy catch. You seem to think that the only way that Brady could have thrown the pass to Welker's right shoulder is if he did so with the same arc and distance."

The ball had to travel over twenty yards in the air, and had to have enough arc to clear the Giant defender upfield and to the right of Welker. There is absolutely no way that the pass would have gotten to Welker while he was still open under those circumstances.

It wasn't a good throw. It should have been lower. But it should not have been to Welker's right.

by Lance :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:17pm

"Brady legacy tarnished? Haha! The causal fan might think so, but the total career would say no"

I think when people bring this up-- the "legacy tarnished" part-- they're not talking about the career. They're talking about this notion that Tom Brady (along with Coach Bill) were simply unbeatable in the final minutes of a game, and that if you give them two weeks to prepare for someone, they'll beat you.

The ESPN talent had serious issues for the past two weeks when they'd say stuff like "clearly, New York is superior, but how can you bet against Brady and Belichick giving them two weeks to prepare????" and thus, they'd end up picking the Pats.

So no, no one doubts that Tom is an all-time great. He's on The List. But let's now finally do away with the notion that he's John Elway plus Joe Montanta times two.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:23pm

I think I tentatively agree. While you've certainly poured on the hyperbole, Brady's legacy(*), until now, was that he was one of the two or three best "big game" quarterbacks of all time.

Was this a correct judgement? Maybe. Personally, I wouldn't have said so.

Now, his legacy is slightly lower; he's now "just" a great quarterback, like Peyton Manning or Brett Favre. No one is saying he's no longer great, or is now a choker; just that his legacy isn't as great as it once was.

His legacy is still that of one of the all-time great quarterbacks of all time; but before, it was one of the all-time greats who was also awesome in the clutch.

(*) For the purposes of this post, this is none of my personal feelings, just how Brady is generally perceived.

by Lance :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:14pm

Well, there was hyperbole on my part, but I'm not exaggerating too much with, for instance, some of the ESPN radio talk I heard this weekend. John Kincade, for instance, really was saying stuff like "How can you pick against New England in the Super Bowl?" arguing that Brady plus that coaching staff was just too good in the playoffs-- even when, he admitted, New York looked better on paper.

And Kincade isn't an anomaly. I listen to ESPN quite a bit, and the media talent they have, plus their regular interviews, all have been weaving this narrative for years now. Even when New England was getting beat in the playoffs, it was never "huh, perhaps something's wrong with our narrative" it was always "huh, something's wrong with New England" because, of course, the narrative (New England just doesn't lose in the playoffs with Brady!!) can't be wrong.

Now, perhaps, thanks to social media (ugh), those who previously had no voice have one (however small) and are pushing back on this meme (constructed largely by a bunch of people who live in New England and work for a New England-based media outlet with massive nation-wide influence) that Brady and the Patriots were invincible under two minutes when the game was on the line in the playoffs. The talking heads are having trouble wrapping their heads around the fact that their narrative might be wrong, and are creating strawmen to fight against ("Now people are saying Tom Brady is a choker! They're idiots!"). But that's not the real discussion-- and if they were honest, they'd admit it.

by horn :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:50pm

Brady is 4-4 in the playoffs since the Pats got caught cheating, 0-2 in Super Bowls. If you don't think that tarnishes his legacy, take off your Gisele-colored glasses.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:52am

There's no point discussing these things with people who bring up the videotaping at every juncture. I doubt Brady's legacy has been "tarnished" with them since they made up their minds a long time ago.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:05am

Ignore the man behind the curtain!

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:14pm

The numbers don't tell us much about Brady and Eli Manning. We know they are both good quarterbacks who are also good in the postseason. They should probably put to rest the Peyton-chokes-in-the-postseason meme, and of course they confirm that Warner has been insane in the postseason (especially given that his postseason games were mostly ten years ago, before the recent passing DYAR explosion).

The most interesting thing they say contra conventional wisdom is something I wish got more airtime: Ben Roethlisberger is a very average quarterback.

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:23pm

Pats fan and all, I have to disagree with this. Big Ben is a quarterback playing on a team that has traditionally leaned on the defense and the running game. Look at Ben's passes per game. His average production. DYAR is about production, not per-play value. I think Ben fits very nicely into what they ask him to do. He's not a Brady/Brees/Rodgers mold of quarterback, but he's a pretty good player.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:26pm

I think the better term for Roethksixcnsgfj maybe "enigmatic". He is much better now than what he was when he was young, when he is healthy, but of course his style of play, holding onto the ball until coverage breaks down, which is possible because he is so big and agile, makes staying healthy problematic.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:02pm

I've always thought he was overrated - and, as I mentioned in the last Audibles thread, that his O-line was underrated.

I think guys like Big Ben and Vick give their O-lines a bad rap by holding onto the ball too long and allowing late pressure to get to them.

THAT SAID - I started to come around on Big Ben the last 2 seasons. I think he's only a bit overrated now, rather than massively overrated. He does bring some bad habits with him, but it's hard to argue with some of the plays he makes.

by GlennW :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:03pm

> The most interesting thing they say contra conventional wisdom is something I wish got more airtime: Ben Roethlisberger is a very average quarterback.

How does Top 10 in the postseason translate to "very average"? Furthermore Roethlisberger has ranked #11-#2-#8 in the last three seasons in DVOA (hint: OA stands for "over average") in the regular season. Nothing about any of this screams "average". Not elite perhaps, but certainly not average.

by Led :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:23pm

I'm suprised opponent adjustments were enough to overcome what were, effectively, two turnovers by Brady. How is the grounding penalty and safety (on first down!)treated in DVOA? It's got to be at least as negative as a down-the-field INT, and presumably worse because it gave the Giants 2 points. Although DVOA doesn't know that, in this case, Brady had more than enough time to get rid of the ball and therefore the grounding penalty was largely an unforced error. By my eyes, even factoring in strength of opponent, Brady played significantly worse than Manning (who made a few clunky throws himself) because of those two very big minus plays and general inaccuracy down the stretch.

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:25pm

Brady seemed injured at the end. Am I the only one who felt that way? He got really hot there for a stretch, and at the end, it wasn't like the cold streak in the Denver game where he and the receivers were on the wrong page, he just wasn't placing the ball as well. That felt like the margin of screw up consistent with something like a mildly separated shoulder.

by Led :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:32pm

Seemed that way to me too. I had even written that the inaccuracy late in the game was probably injury related but then deleted it because I was just guessing.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:42pm

Well, whatever happened, it was enough that they actually had Hoyer warming up while the med staff attended to Brady.

by Verifiable (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:40pm

It's possible, Brady took a big hit (by Tuck I believe)and was driven hard onto his left shoulder. As the sideline cam showed Brady & Al said something about the medical staff "fondling their beads" and that Brady was rotating his shoulder a bit.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:16pm

I definitely think the Tuck hit "got to him". He wasn't the same after it.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:57pm

He sure didn't look right to me.

by buccaneerryan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:30pm

Steve Weatherford should have gotten consideration for MVP. I'm not sure if he played more than 4 plays, but 3 were unarguably successful and the first led to the potentially game-changing safety.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:34pm

His lone touchback was also entirely the responsibility of the coverage team. If I remember correctly, there was a man in position deep, but let the ball land on the 6, whereupon it bounced right past him into the end zone.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:18pm

It's hard to fault the gunner on that one, either. He was in perfect position, but the ball took a diagonal hop and shot into the end zone at warp speed. Just a bad bounce.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:39am

Was catching the ball before it bounces not the proper decision there? I'm really asking. I don't know if these guys are better off letting in bounce and hoping to get it at the 1 or just taking it out of the air at the 6.

by rich316 :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:08am

I was wondering the same thing. I'd imagine the optimal play is to catch it - you have a 5 yard gain at best if it bounces to the 1 and is grounded there, but a 16 yard loss if it bounces over your head (likely). I couldn't find a replay, though, so I don't know whether or not the gunner had enough time to actually line up and catch it. Catching a punt is hard enough when you're in position to catch it when it's kicked, much less after sprinting down the field before the ball gets there and turning around.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 11:36am

If it's inside the 10, you have to catch it. Given the random nature of the ball bounce, you are far more likely to have a bad outcome (ball bounces over your head, ball bounces past you, ball bounces backwards and gets downed at the 10) than good outcomes (ball bounces straight in the air, ball bounces in range for you to stop it on the 1).

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:37pm

I agree. He had the one touchback, but that wasn't really his fault. Even that kick had a chance to be downed. Seemed to me that the Giants offense was able to move the ball enough on all of their early drives to put them in position to pin NE deep once they punted, and Weatherford came through in a huge way. I thought this was a crucial, crucial part of the game. NE was very much in the habit of enjoying good field position throughout the season. Their special teams were generally excellent, and New York dominated in that aspect of the game, really stymying NE's offense. I actually think that Weatherford was the difference between NE's 17 and at least 23, if not 24-7 points.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:28pm

Weatherford does indeed deserve a lot of credit, but credit the Giants' offense also for getting at least two first downs on EVERY drive so that when they punted, they were punting from somewhere close to midfield.

By the way, interesting story on why Weatherford left the Jets: he had the green light to run from punt formation at any time and he tried it deep in his own territory against GB last year, getting tackled just shy of the first down marker. Well, when asked about it by Ryan (and/or the media, I'm a little hazy about this), ST coach Mike Westhoff denied that Weatherford had carte blanche to run and essentially threw him under the bus. Apparently a pretty nasty argument ensued that ended with Westhoff telling SW that he was finished as a Jet (after the season).

As a Giants, all I can say is, "God love the dysfunctional franchise we share a stadium with!"

by Led :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:32pm

Hmm. How likely do you think it is that a punter has the green light to run a fake punt at any time? Any time? That's very difficult to believe.

by rich316 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 10:06pm

Fortunately for the Giants, I don't think Coughlin would allow for such ambiguity. I haven't seen every game they've played, but I can't recall the Coughlin Giants ever faking a punt or kick. Just not his style.

by Travis :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 10:29pm

They faked a punt in the Saints game this year, but they were down 35-10 at the time and rather desperate.

According to the Giants' game notes, they haven't faked a field goal since Week 5 of 1989.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:23am

Well, the time he chose to execute it was 4th and 15 deep in his own territory. So he either believed he had the green light at any time or he acted incredibly rashly. And considering he himself claimed he had the green light and is obviously still resentful of his treatment, I'll take his word for it.

BTW, it goes w/o saying that he was instructed to go only if the punt coverage team appeared to be negligent in accounting for that possibility.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:09am

On a team coached by Rex Ryan? Pretty likely, actually. That seems like the kind of thing he'd (or Harbaugh or Payton) do.

by dryheat :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 10:14am

Well, any time is really more like "any time you notice A and B happening". I believe it. I've seen it at football on every level...especially if your punter is a good athlete -- and historically a surprisingly high number of them were quarterbacks at lower levels. One case might be if the gunner isn't covered, audible to fake pass. Or if the punter notices there's too many men on the field for the defense. Or if there's an unbalanced defensive line and the offense has numbers to one side.

The key play in last year's Pats/Jets playoff game was protector Paddy Chung taking the snap and running. The Patriots had +2 or +3 blockers to the right with no Jets contain, and it would have been an easy first down....if Chung didn't fumble the snap.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:35pm

"As close as that matchup is, it seems unfair that one of those players should be deemed a winner and the other a loser."

Oy Vey. I feel like this site is hell bend on apologizing for Brady and the Patriots to support the presupposition of their greatness. Please attempt to be objective. Your analysis is silly. Brady deserved to lose because he played like garbage in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. If you play that badly in the 4th Q of the Super Bowl you should expect to lose. Not all events (random or otherwise) are equal, and if you reserve your worst play for the end of the biggest game you will likely hang your head at the end. Brady was brilliant in the 2nd and 3rd Qs but lousy in the first and fourth.

Conversely, Eli Manning was never poor in this game and he was brilliant in the 4th when he made one of the most amazing throws in Super Bowl history and led his team on a championship-winning drive for the second time in his career. Eli may well be on his way to surpassing Brady as a post-season QB. And let's not forget that Brady was not considered a "great" statistical QB until his bust out 2007 season. By the end of Eli's career we may view him in the same regard as we view Brady.

I read these articles and read these commenst and half the time I feel this is just a site for Patriots fans to get together to navel-gaze about Brady and the Pats' greateness and legacy under the phony guise of statistical purity. Make me puke!!!

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:44pm

Lighten up, Nietzsche.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:52pm

;) ok Hegel...

by Willy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:47pm


"Math may favor the Patriots, but matchups and circumstance favor Big Blue."

Of course you're going to be disappointed if you come here looking for numbers that reaffirm your belief in how awesomely Eli played (and credit Manningham for the catch, not Eli for the throw). The thing is, yes, Eli played better against a weak Pats defense that played extremely well, than Brady did against a Giants defense that didn't seem to play up to the lofty standards it had set in the previous few games, but both of them were extremely well matched and the game was still closely contested.

And don't forget, football is not a 1-vs-1 game.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:04pm

"(and credit Manningham for the catch, not Eli for the throw). "

You don't know what you're talking about. Tom Brady can't make that throw. Eli can and that's the difference in this game.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:51pm

So now Brady can't make a 35-yard out pattern?

As for Eli, he missed at least one pass like that early in the game. (And as always, Collinsworth blamed the receiver for the fact that the pass was thrown out of bounds.)

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:08pm

Do you think it possible that Collinsworth, who played receiver in the league for years, might know what he is talking about when he says that Manningham erred on that first pattern, by getting too close to the sideline too soon, and on the latter pass he did better by giving more space to run towards the sideline, after Manning throws it? Just maybe?

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:13pm

Especially when Manningham has a history of precisely those kinds of brain farts.

by Jesse G. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:24pm

As a Giants fan, it's definitely true that Manningham historically would "fade" sideline routes, taking valuable real estate away from the QB - although he has gotten much, much better this year, at least IMO.

by DEW (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:11am

Indeed. Watching that commentary live, I was initially surprised that the experienced, sometimes-star WR wasn't making excuses for Manningham and blaming Eli, but instead talking about WR technique and the subtleties of fading deep routes to the sideline, with screen graphic, nonetheless. And that he he actually remembered that discussion later in the game on the spectacular sideline catch so he could talk about what made that play different from the earlier play and why it wasn't a bad route by Manningham that time.

That, more than anything, more even than the *lack* of me yelling "Shut up, you idiot!" at the color man, was what confirmed in practice my initial happiness that NBC had gotten the Super Bowl rather than Fox or (ack!) CBS.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:48am

I just watched Playbook on my DVR, and they showed the all-22 view on both of the Manningham sideline passes. The one where he went out of bounds actually wasn't quite as bad as it first seemed live, but the difference was still noticeable. On both plays, he took an outside release and the corner redirected out. On the earlier pass, though, he lost track of where he was, and ran down the field at an angle. On the 4th quarter throw, Manningham straightened out as soon as he got past the corner.

In both plays, the safety drifted towards the play after the initial jam by the corner. This forced Manning to drop it towards the sideline each time - that was the only 'safe' location. Because Manningham angled outwards on the first pass, there was no space on the sideline to throw to without giving the DB a chance at the ball.

Collinsworth did a great job seeing that immediately. It really wasn't obvious without the all-22.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:50pm

I don't know that Brady can make those throws as consistently as Manning. That's not his game. I've seen plenty of Brady in the last few years and it's a lot of quick reads and quick passes beneath coverage, then he burns the defense deeper in space. Maybe it's me but I'm not seeing Brady make stick throws in tight windows as much.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:48pm

... and it looks like Greg Cosell agrees with me:


That Manning play was a lot more than just a 35 yard out.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:35pm

Wow, what a load of crap.

Not only are you completely wrong about the site's bias, but you are completely wrong about the quality of play as well! Congratulations! You nailed it on both!

If you want to know why you are wrong, I'd be happy to elaborate, but judging by your posts, you won't listen anyway.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:04pm

"If you play that badly in the 4th Q of the Super Bowl you should expect to lose."

I know it popular to put more weight on the 4th quarter, but there's not a lot of reason for your statement to be true. Playing poorly in the 4th quarter should be no different than playing poorly in any other quarter, in terms of chances to score, or its effect on the other team scoring. If you play well early, you could put up very few DYAR in the 4th just because you have a lead.

Now if you rephrase to "playing badly in the 4th of a very close game" then yeah, that's probably true.

I would be curious to see if there's any good correlation with wins and 4th quarter QB DVOA or DYAR as compared to other quarters and how the QB played then. It would be hard to look at appropriately because of the changes in strategy that game situations cause. (I.e. doing really well in the 1st quarter leads to a lot less attempts later in the game.)

by Willy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:38pm

The DVOA numbers reaffirm what seems to be the general perception about the game--I haven't read anyone blaming the Pats defense for the loss--sure, the semi-blown coverage of Victor Cruz was important, but I don't think anyone came away from that game thinking the Patriots defense wasn't able to keep the Pats in the game. That's the part that kills me--another bounce at a slightly different angle means the Pats recover Bradshaw's fumble within the Giants' 20 yard line. And if Nicks' fumble was recovered, then the Pats are up at least 20-12 (assuming a field goal after Bradshaw's fumble and no points off the Nicks' fumble), and then who knows if the Giants would have been able to tie it up on that 4th quarter drive. I'm not one to attribute things to luck often, but it's hard to come away from this game feeling otherwise...

Chris Collinsworth put it well; "I could watch these two teams play all the time". They were both extremely able and well-matched teams, and if this were played 100 times, maybe they each win 50. This one just happened to one of the 50 where Mayo and Spikes stripped the ball with just a bit too much rotation, or at just the wrong angle. Congratulations to the Giants.

Also, who knows if Gronk will be 100% next season. The Pats only have 6 picks at the moment in the draft, but four in the first two rounds. Here's to hoping those picks offset the players we lose in the free agency.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:54pm

Even when it is a real phenomena, as it is with the Pats, instead of a rationalization for poor performance, "bend but don't break" has a real shortcoming, in that it risks your offense playing underneath its own goalposts all day, especially if the opposing punter is good, and it cuts down on your offense's possessions. No, the Pats defense didn't give up a ton of points. Yes, their inability to get off the field quickly substantially harmed the Patriots chances of winning.

by Willy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:03pm

Agreed. Weatherford should have been the MVP. I was more scared of him that game than I was of Manning.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:36pm

You must be kidding!

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:58pm

No. That was probably the best performance by a punter since Scifres robo-punter game in teh 2008 Wild Card game against the Colts. Weatherford's only touchback had a great chance to be downed inside the 5.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:54pm

Yes the punter had a good game but to say you feared him more than Manning who led the team on the winning drive at the end is just another way to diminish Eli. Silly hyperbole.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:07pm

I don't believe that part of what the person in front of me said. I do think that he was on the short-list of Giants MVP candidates, and after Eli and Tuck probably was the most important player for the Giants.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:26pm

I've been blaming the Pats' defense for the loss, and I'm glad that the numbers support me. I don't know if you know this, but a good defense is supposed to have negative VOA and DVOA. The Pats DVOA is very large - in the wrong direction.

Look at the play log. The defense didn't once get off the field without allowing at least two first downs. The best you could say is that it was playing "bend but don't break" defense, but it did so in such an egregious manner that the Pats consistently started each drive with horrible field position. Three of their drives (or was it more?) started inside the 10, and the best position they had was at the 29. This kind of defensive performance puts a lot of pressure on the offense.

I refuse to buy into the line of logic that says that it's the offense's job to play spectacularly to compensate for a mediocre defensive effort. Part of the problem is that the offense cannot score if it's not on the field! And the Giants dominated time of possession, 37:05-22:55. I'm blaming the defense for that.

I suspect (well, actually I know) the defense's numbers would be worse if they were not credited for the two fumbles they forced but which were not recovered. And in terms of the impact on the game, those fumbles basically didn't happen.

by Willy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:35pm

Ah, that's right, my mistake.

by dryheat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:57pm

And the Giants dominated time of possession, 37:05-22:55. I'm blaming the defense for that.

Not me. I'm blaming twice giving the ball away on first down. If the safety doesn't happen, and if Brady doesn't get big-play hungry when the short passing/sub-running game is working, the time of possession is probably close to 50/50.

All the cliches ring true here....nothing correlates winning better than turnover margin, and the game comes down to who makes one or two plays more. The Patriots have had their decade-run of excellence by making those plays more often than not. If I were to describe the game in one picture, I would put up a split frame of the Manningham catch and the Welker non-catch.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:08pm

The safety happened because the Pats got the ball at the six yard line and the refs threw a flag in a situation where they had never before (at least in my experience) thrown a flag.

But really, your argument is that the time of possession difference is because the Pats gave up the ball twice on first down? So, if the safety had happened on 3rd down and the pick had happened on third down, that would have made, what, a difference of 1 minute on the clock?

What about the fact that the defense could never get off the field? Why don't you hold that against them?

This is what I'm talking about. It's nearly impossible to get people to hold the Pats' defense accountable for a poor performance because everybody mentally grades them based on their expectations.

If I were to describe the game in one picture, I would put up a split frame of the Manningham catch and the Welker non-catch.

This is the mainstream perspective. Reduce a game of 133 plays to two camera ops.

And yet, according to the stats above, Welker had a better game than Manningham did.

by dryheat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:45pm

I don't see anything controversial in what I said. Yes, I believe that by pissing away at minimum, two series of downs (and the way the Patriots were moving the ball at the time, the INT probably cost them considerably more) on ill-advised throws was a prime culprit in that huge time of possession disparity. What was the TOP breakdown after the Giants second possession? 10 minutes to 10 seconds?

Your point regarding defensive expectations is valid. Of course it is the defense's fault they couldn't get off the field. The offense didn't help them much though in those situations by not getting them time to rest and talk adjustments with the coaching staff, particularly after the safety (they also had another 3-and-out which only took 25 seconds off the clock between Tynes Field Goals. I don't think the defense had a huge number of 3-and-outs all year....but if you were to pick one unit to place the lion's share of blame on for the loss, would it be the defense that gave up 15 or 18 points, to a prolific offense or the offense that could only score 17 -- and 0 in the last 26 minutes?

This is the mainstream perspective. Reduce a game of 133 plays to two camera ops...Well yes. That's kind of implied in summarizing the game in one shot. The Patriots failed to make a tough, clutch, play that would have gone a long way towards winning the game. The Giants succeeded in making a tough, clutch, play that went a long way towards winning the game.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:42pm

Dryheat is correct. The safety alone gave NY a free possession against a defense that had just gotten off the field, as well as eliminating an opportunity to run off 2:00 of clock even with a 3 and out. That single play accounted for most of that 15:00 disparity, particularly if you think NE might have converted a first down or two before punting.

by GlennW :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:14pm

> This is what I'm talking about. It's nearly impossible to get people to hold the Pats' defense accountable for a poor performance because everybody mentally grades them based on their expectations.

Well, when you build a team by loading up on offense but pulling people off the street to play defense-- just score enough so the defensive performance is mitigated-- you probably should consider expectations. Plus, the bottom line of 19 points allowed by the defense was pretty damned good. Blew away my expectations, and not bad at all even if expectations were just for an average defensive performance. (Related question: isn't the defensive DVOA baseline substantially above 0.0 at this point? I know that only a handful of teams had a negative defensive DVOA this season.)

by Goathead (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:17pm

And if they don't call holding on Boothe the TOP is probably 41-19.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:13am

nothing correlates winning better than turnover margin

That's not true. Sign of point differential has an r^2 of 1.

by Bill_Monty :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:53pm

I've been one of the biggest believers that Peyton Manning's choking reputation in the playoffs is undeserved, and even I'm surprised at how far ahead #18 is from everyone else in playoff performances according to DYAR, sheesh, makes me feel even better about my opinion lol

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:27pm

The problem with looking at average performance is that this is not a great stat for detecting what people call "choking" (defined here to be having an unexpectedly poor performance in a high pressure situation). Variance would be more informative. Manning's had some absurdly good playoff games (particularly against the Broncos) and has had a few dismal performances. Several of his dismal performances were in his early career.

See http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/M/MannPe00/gamelog/post/

He didn't play to his level until his fourth playoff run, and even then he had a poor AFC championship game.

Since the Super Bowl run, he's been essentially himself in the playoffs.

Whatever problems he had in the playoffs, they were resolved long ago.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:00pm

I don't think Manning has had a poor game in a loss since the 2003 Title Game.

Even in 2004 he played well. The Patriots defense was incredible, and they held the ball for over 40 minutes in that game. Still, I think that game ended when Dungy punted on 4th and 1 on the Pats 40 on the first drive of the second half down 6-3.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 2:59pm

Two basic problems with this.

1. Quality of defense. Who cares? The object, thank you Herm Edwards, is to "win the game". Eli did more to produce a victory, when it counted most, than did Brady. What more needs to be said?

2. Manningham as "least valuable receiver". That's like saying Bobby Thomson was the least valuable hitter on the 1951 Giants in Game 3 of that playoff. He made the game's most critical play-- thanks in part to a terrific decision and throw by Manning-- at the game's most critical time.

At some point I think statistical analysis really does run the risk of reaching paralysis-- either the outcomes are viewed solely as verdicts by luck or chance, or the sample sizes are always too small to tell if a) truly was better than b) or vice-versa. Tell all those empty seats in Oakland that the playoffs are just a crapshoot so who cares that the small-market/Moneyball A's, with the 2nd best regular season record in their sport from 1999-2006, never won a title or even advanced to the World Series. At some point one has to have the gumption to say just a wee bit more. So here's mine.

For all of Peyton's statistical merits, the simple fact is that he has a losing record in the playoffs and only one Super Bowl victory, and his brother has a winning record with two. For all of Brady's historical achievements, the simple fact is that he has a .500 postseason record since the Pats last SB victory in 2004 and, like his coach, has no championships since their cheating was discovered. Both are sure-fire HOFers, yet both had their legacies tarnished at least a bit by what Eli and Co. did on Sunday night. For all of Eli's deficiencies, what he does with the ball in his hand in the 4th Quarter, particularly late against NE, matters a lot. And don't think that the likes of Brees and Rodgers aren't looking over at him and coveting what he now has that they don't-- and realizing that all the regular season rationalization in the world can't overcome the two rings. Watching how they-- and Peyton and Tom-- deal with all the motivation Eli has just given them will be one of the most fascinating subplots of the next several years in the NFL. And oh by the way, and I say this a Packers fan, the Giants aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:19pm

Hmmm. Interesting.

I tend to view these things through two prisms:

(1) The Playoffs are Sample Size Theatre: The NFL playoffs are simply not long enough to provide a meaningful sample size for performance. They are no more predictive of future success - much less future playoff success - than other games. This week, like the first week of the regular season, ought to be termed National Jump To Conclusions Week. Just because Eli was awesome in the Super Bowl - and he was - doesn't mean he's going to light the world on fire forever. I think he -will- but I thought that because...

(2) Quarterbacks (and even more than that, quarterback statistics) are a product of their system: I don't take Drew Brees 5500 yards terribly seriously, for instance, because New Orleans throws fifteen screens for 100 yards every game that on the Giants (for instance), would mostly be running plays. If you remove screen play yardage, Eli and Drew probably had about the same yardage totals on "real" passing plays. Matt Stafford threw 660 passes this year, and Peyton threw 680 the year before. Does Staffords 5K yards and Peyton's 4800 mean those were the most productive seasons of their careers? Is Stafford's 2011 more impressive than, say, Aaron Rodgers'? Eli's?

Personnel matters, too. Peyton Manning's 2010 was insane not because his statistics were great, but because he did so playing behind five stadium turnstiles, and throwing to receivers who 2011 proved were "just guys". It was probably the most impressive season of his career - even more than 2004, in a way - but it was a numerical regression. This sort of thing matters as much, if not more, in the 4th quarters of close games.

This is not to take anything away from Eli. He plays in the most challenging (for the purpose of statistic compilation) offensive system of any pro quarterback in the discussion, with the barely possible exception of Rodgers. His offensive line is a ghost of it's 2007 self, and his receivers are butterfingered, though talented. Putting 4900 yards on the board is an achievement, and his postseason performances are a great sample, even if a small one.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:39pm

I got news for you guys. In terms of "sample size", the NFL season is too small to draw any conclusions. We're not talking about baseball and 162 games. You'll never have the kind of certainty in football that you have in baseball.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:39pm

Then try to use 10 or 20 data points, in the form of playoff w-l record, as a means to make fine distinctions among above average qbs. It's just pointless.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:08pm

When it comes to the Super Bowl you have to throw your sample size out the window. It's about execution. Football is less random than baseball. Eli executed the big pass and Brady didn't. The Pats couldn't stretch the field and it's not JUST because the Giants secondary is better and the Pats don't have a WR at Nicks' level. Brady can't stretch the field as well as Manning. Face the facts. It's a real flaw in Brady's game. Great as he is and has been.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:12pm

Are you simultaneously arguing:
- we can't really judge players based on playoff games, due to small sample size issues;
- this Super Bowl somehow proved something about the overall relative quality of Eli Manning and Tom Brady?

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:24pm

No.. I am merely stating that the performance on the field in that game revealed an important difference in their games at this stage in their careers. All reads are not the same, all throws are not the same. Eli executed the historic throw to Manningham and Brady blew the much easier throw to Welker.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:23pm

"Football is less random than baseball. Eli executed the big pass and Brady didn't."

How is that different than "Manny got the big hits and Pujols didn't."

The fact that it's a lot easier to model baseball mathematically doesn't mean that it's more or less random than football.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:34pm


Baseball is a game where skills determine binary outcomes.

Football is a sport where discreet athletic matchups and athletic achievement determine victory on the field.

You don't get to run the 100 meter dash 50 times. You get to run it once for the medal. Likewise, on the football field there are athletic tests that often determine what you are as an athlete and often determine victory or defeat. Eli made the throw and Brady did not. Furthermore, I don't think Brady can make the throw that Eli made to Manningham.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:56pm

Baseball is a game where skills determine binary outcomes.
Football is a sport where discreet athletic matchups and athletic achievement determine victory on the field.

So now you're arguing that football is a game where skills don't determine binary outcomes?
And that baseball is a sport without "discreet athletic matchups" where "athletic achievement determines victory on the field."

I think this is called "word salad."

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:36pm

mmmmm salad!!

Not absolutely but more or less yes. What makes baseball more "model-able" is that almost every even is reducible to a binary outcome. Football is more of a track meet measured by running, jumping and distance.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:23pm

Hey, if I had to fill an NFL roster today, I'd take Eli Manning over Brady, because I'd prefer Manning's ability to stretch the field. That is not the same as me saying I can empirically prove Eli is a better qb. I don't think it can be empirically established that Brady is better than Manning, either, of course.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:28pm


by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:30pm

If I had to fill an NFL roster today, I'd take Manning over Brady because he's five years younger.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:38pm

Of course. Even if their ages were the same, however, I prefer Eli's skill set right now to Brady's.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:08pm

I'd also take him because he is 4 years younger. Also, I think Eli is better throwing into tight windows. Brady doesn't have to do this much because that offense is just designed and called well, but one thing the Manning's do well is throw into tight windows. One of my favorite examples was Manning's throw to Cruz on what I believe was the penultimate drive for a 1st down, while Cruz was seemingly sandwiched.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:19pm

People make this argument a lot, and I just have to reject it. It all depends on what you define to be an "event". You could define the entire season to be one event. Or you could define each game to be an event.

Or you could define every single play to be an event.

If you define every play to be an event, then the sample is certainly large enough for most of the kinds of investigations you'd be interested in.

As for baseball, yes it does have a 162-game season, but I would argue that each team fields a considerably different set of players each day, depending on who the starting pitcher is. In the NFL, at least you are looking at the same team each week.

I also think some people underestimate what kinds of things can be accomplished with a small sample size. For example, I might need only 10 coin flips to determine with a high degree of confidence that a coin is biased. The p-value for getting 10 heads in a row (or even only 9 out of 10) is much better than what you'd see in most scientific papers.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:44pm

Now let us imagine flipping, instead of a coin, an object with fifty sides, labeled 1-50. And we call each even number a "win" and each odd number a "loss". Would you make any strong conclusion if, after 20 tosses, the w-l record was 5-15, or 15-5?

(edit)To be more clear, would you make any conclusions about the side labeled "2", or "33", based on such results? That is what it seems, to me, people are doing when they use a playoff w-l record to make a conclusion about individual performance.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:05am

The null hypothesis would be that evens should be as likely as odds.

Plugging the numbers into this calculator:


The result "X <= 5" has a probability of .0207. We would need to double that for "X >= 15."

Your p-value is then .0414. That's usually considered significant. You could safely reject the null hypothesis.

I agree with your point about "2" and "33".

by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:32pm

"For all of Peyton's statistical merits, the simple fact is that he has a losing record in the playoffs and only one Super Bowl victory, and his brother has a winning record with two."

Sounds like somebody wants to start an Irrational Eli-Peyton thread!

Good luck recruiting people to the Eli side, which you apparently represent.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:35pm

First, football is a game played with many dozens of players on the field, and lacks the one on one measurable event that hitter vs. pitcher has. Even ignoring the sample size issues, it simply is not possible to employ statistics, no matter how advanced, to make fine delineations, regarding performance, as opposed to production, between two great quarterbacks, on anything more than a purely subjective, nonfalsifiable, basis. You like a porterhouse steak more than a ribeye? Hey, good for you.

When it gets to the point that we are making fine delineations by way of 10 or 20 data points, in the form of a playoff won/loss record, and a good chunk of those data points could be reversed, if a db catches an easily intercepted pass (Montana), a HOF tight end catches a pass he has caught a hundred times (Bradshaw), a referee decides to keep his flag in his pocket (Roethlisberger), a field goal is moved 4 feet (Kelly), or some other last second field goals are not made (Brady, several times), among other examples, we are just putting a veneer of empiricism on something no more illuminative than saying "I like bourbon more than scotch".

Note that I just mentioned Super Bowl games above. If I went through every close playoff game every great qb has had, and noted how each outcome could have been reversed by changing a random event, completely unrelated to qb performance, before we even start talking about player interdependence, it would make using a playoff w-l as a means to evaluate qb play even more suspect. That's even before we consider how the structure of the tournament, meaning one loss and you lose your chance of adding to your playoff resume, no matter how well you performed in that playoff loss, renders the entire exercise of limited value.

Simple facts often don't tell us much of anything, with regard to what is being explored. The simple fact is that Brady has a better scoring record with global
supermodels than either Manning, and that simple fact tells us about as much as their respective playoff w-l records, regarding their performances as qbs.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 3:45pm

For all of Peyton's statistical merits, the simple fact is that he has a losing record in the playoffs and only one Super Bowl victory, and his brother has a winning record with two. For all of Brady's historical achievements, the simple fact is that he has a .500 postseason record since the Pats last SB victory in 2004 and, like his coach, has no championships since their cheating was discovered. Both are sure-fire HOFers, yet both had their legacies tarnished at least a bit by what Eli and Co. did on Sunday night. For all of Eli's deficiencies, what he does with the ball in his hand in the 4th Quarter, particularly late against NE, matters a lot.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it basically puts an entire team's performance on the shoulders of its QB; there are 52 other guys who count, too, and another 53 on the other sideline. Do you really count Peyton Manning's 1-point playoff loss in 2010 against him? Do you really think less of Brady for losing a close game based on the outcome of 2-3 plays?

There is no shame in losing, particularly when losing is something better than 30 other teams did in that particular season. I've said this many times on many different threads: sometimes, you just get beat.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:10pm

And let's not forget that Superbowl XLIV basically turned on a recovered (surprise!) onside kick by NO. If Indy falls on that ball, they're up by 4 points with the ball and a short field to start the second half. Peyton could easily be 2-0 in Super Bowls.

(And that's without even getting into Brees's 3 dropped INTs in the NFCCG that allowed him to reach the Bowl)

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:04pm


I still can't believe his "I'll try to recover this onside kick with my facemask" strategy did not work. Cost us a Super Bowl, while also making an extremely risky, albeit ballsy, decision hailed as genius.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:46pm

It should also be pointed out that Brady, Manning, and Manning are collectively perfect in Super Bowls in which their teams had even average talent on defense. Of course, in Peyton's case, that's zero for zero.

Quick and Dirty: Let's assume that each player's defense allows 20 points per game, every game, and that each offense scores as they historically did. The Patriots are one-and-done in 2001 and 2003 (they did not make the playoffs in 2002), and are in overtime in 2004 to get the chance to move on (they would win the AFCCG and SB in '04 though, on this assumption). Since 2005, the actual game results would be the same. The Pats haven't won scoring less than 20 or lost scoring more than 20 since then except... SB XLII. So Brady gets a ring after all.

Peyton loses out in 2006, losing in the divisional round, but punches his ticket deeper into the playoffs a year later. Not a big difference.

Eli gets an overtime shot in 2006 to get past the Eagles, but of course loses the next SB to Brady's counterfactual 20 in SB XLII. Then he has to go to OT against Green Bay this year.

So really, based on this - admittedly silly - counterfactual assumption, we could posit that the difference in rings between Peyton and Brady is basically a matter of the early '00's NE defense, and that they both might or might not get a chance at a SB later with a poor-to-mediocre defense.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:11am

The Pats' defense in 2007 was pretty damned good for most of the season. I think it's unfair to say that they didn't have "even average talent on defense." They had a top 10 defense that season (top 5 actually, IIRC).

The defense wasn't the problem in 2007. That year, the problem against the Giants was the offense, namely the collapse of the o-line. Actually, the defense was pretty good in 2001, and 2003-5. In 2002 they had a huge problem stopping the run up the middle, a problem the fixed by grabbing Ted Washington in the offseason and then drafting Wilfork a year later.

I would happily stipulate that the difference between the rings that any QB might own depends almost entirely on the quality of his teammates. If any of the top five offenses had had the luxury of playing with the defense of the Ravens or the 49ers, they'd have rolled easily to the title. It really is a team game.

by duh :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:53am

My impression / memory of that 2007 defense was that it wasn't the same after Rosie Colvin got hurt in week 11 ...
Number of games they gave up 300 yards in offense weeks 1 - 11 3 (10 games)
Number of games they gave up 300 yards in offense weeks 12 - 19 7 ( 9 games)

Some of that could well be they played better offenses but I always thought that was a big loss that was never recognized.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:09pm

"Quality of defense. Who cares?"

Anyone who actually wants to know which quarterback actually played better. The score tells us who won the game, but adjusting someone's numbers for the quality of defense they faced tells us even more about how well the player performed.

Or are you equally impressed by someone throwing for 300 yards against the 2011 Patriots as you are by someone throwing for 300 against the 2011 Ravens?

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:13pm

"Quality of defense. Who cares?"

Anyone who actually wants to know which quarterback actually played better. The score tells us who won the game, but adjusting someone's numbers for the quality of defense they faced tells us even more about how well the player performed.

I agree that DYAR does a better job of telling us which quarterback played better. But I would also say that YAR can do a better job of telling us why one team won a given game.

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:18pm

Oh, definitely. DYAR tells us which player/team played better, given the opponent; YAR tells us which team "deserved" to win (for lack of a better term); points scored is which team *did* win.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:09pm

Manning had 156 YAR. Brady had 134.

Hernandez had -3 DYAR. Eight catches for 67 yards and five first downs (including a touchdown), but six incomplete passes (half of Brady's non-spike total).

2. Manningham as "least valuable receiver". That's like saying Bobby Thomson was the least valuable hitter on the 1951 Giants in Game 3 of that playoff. He made the game's most critical play-- thanks in part to a terrific decision and throw by Manning-- at the game's most critical time.

It was only a critical play because Manningham had played so poorly up to that point. The big catch was his last target of the game. Up to that point, he had four catches for 35 yards in eight targets. That's 4.4 yards per pass. That's lousy. If he had played better, New York may have already been ahead in the fourth quarter. Further, like Jacobs, SOMEBODY had to be the least valuable receiver. If not Manningham, then who do you suggest?

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:14pm

I actually agree - Manningham had played poorly to that point - and he played poorly after, immediately running the wrong route on the following play!

It does seem very odd to me that Gronkowski was 3rd most valuable...he appeared to be pretty much a complete non-factor...but it was kinda a weird game for receivers, with both defenses basically employing the same plan and not much going on in the running game for either side.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:48pm

This was about par for the course for Manningham - he'll mix an incredible play that showcases his athleticism with a series of mental errors. It's frustrating to watch as a Giants fan, because really evident how high his ceiling is.

Manningham had a pretty big drop in the 1st half - I think it was on 3rd and 11, right after the Boothe holding call. It was not an easy catch, but it was much easier than Welker's "drop" in the 4th. Collinsworth also correctly called him out on another deep sideline pass where he drifted towards the sideline at the start of his route, leaving Eli with less room to place it for him.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 4:56pm

Manningham is maddeningly inconsistent. It's almost as if Eli should never throw him the ball unless it's an over the shoulder catch of at least 20 yards.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:08pm

I vaguely remember a Manningham play a couple years ago where he caught a ball in stride away from his body, juked immediately, slipped past the defense and raced towards to the sideline, only to fumble the ball without being touched as he tried to cut back up the field.

It's maddening.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:32pm

Well, the Vikings will likely call him the day before he officially becomes a free agent, and thus will be found guilty of tamperimg, and then have to give a couple draft picks to the Giants, so it's all good.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:25am

Par for the course for U-M receivers. Edwards is the same way.

by armchair journe... :: Thu, 02/09/2012 - 4:31am

Jason Avant would like a word with you.

As would Amani Toomer.. and probably Steve Breaston.

There've been a couple other Michigan alums in the league besides Edwards & Manningham.


by nat :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:29pm

Thanks. I meant YARs when I asked for individual VOAs.

That looks about right. Manning produced more than Brady. That extra production is almost entirely due to facing an easier defense.

Manning had the better day, but against the easier defense. The two effectively cancel, in terms of judging the QBs' performance. But you don't get points for difficulty in the NFL. To win, Brady had to be better than Eli. He wasn't better. Being "just as good" was not enough.

by tuluse :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:16pm

Or the Patriots defense should have played better.

by andrew :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:53pm


I know, he probably was less least valuable by not being thrown to as much....

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:11pm

Just a couple of reactions to the above:

I am sort of straddling camps on this one when it comes to the NFL. (Baseball is more skewed by those 162 games) Those who say it's all about the ring/all about the postseason/all about the QB are as shortsighted as the DVOA approach which basically makes us all slave to play-by-play statistics which I think can by claiming context actually remove some of the important context by which to judge players.

To wit: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have established regular season standards that probably no active QB in the league-- with the possible exception of Aaron Rodgers and he had a late start-- will ever match. They are two of the best 10 QBs to play in the modern NFL (post merger); very possibly two of the best 5 to play the game. That said, Brady lately and Manning over his career have suffered postseason disappointments that risk diminishing their luster some. And I don't think that's an unfair statement or that the data presented above refutes it. Eli Manning, OTOH, who best case in the regular season may reach an Aikman-Simms-Fouts-Kelly level of play-- almost certainly a cut below the four or five best QBs of his era-- is producing a pretty damn impressive postseason resume, and particularly helped by his increasingly impressive 4th Quarter abilities. It will probably never be enough to overcome the regular season achievement gap between he and his brother or Brady or maybe Rodgers, Brees or the smaller gap with Roethlisberger-- but he has our attention now and we can't simply dismiss him with regular season numbers.

Manningham made a fantastic play when it mattered MOST. He ran a bad route earlier and was properly snagged by Collinsworth for it. Other than that, i can't get too excited about his so-called "lousy" plays in terms of targets and average yards/catch. I'd have to watch the 11 on 11 coaches film to truly know what he did or didn't do in the context of the entire game. And like 99.9% of other football fans, I will never do that. But if you said tomorrow, next week, next year, or 20 years from now, tell me about Manningham vs. Welker (or Branch or even Cruz) in the Pats-Giants 2011 Super Bowl, there is no doubt in my mind who was the standout performer. Only Nicks and Hernandez made bigger contributions to their team's success-- Welker very likely made the biggest misplay of the entire game. The notion that Manningham's play was "critical only because he had played so poorly up to that point" is almost comical.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:20pm

Except Manningham had a huge 3rd down drop on a deep post in the 1st half. I'm about 80% sure it was right after the Boothe holding call, but that was a huge misstep people forget about because it happened early in the game.

He made a fantastic play in the 4th - nobody is doubting it. But he also flubbed a lot of much easier plays earlier in the game. The other Giants fans on the board will back me up on this - he'll regularly blow an easy play, then make a spectacular catch & run which overshadows the earlier miscue.

Of the Giants 3 receivers, Manningham has the biggest upside on account of his speed & agility, but he's the third option because he lacks the consistency of Nicks or Cruz. I credit him for the great play late, but you can't pretend the bad plays early didn't happen, or that they didn't have an impact on the game.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:27pm

Manningham is good but he'll never have more upside than Nicks who has a great combo of size, atheleticism and hands.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:38pm

OK-- But for a 12 man on field penalty, Cruz made the biggest blunder in the entire game for the Giants with that fumble. Bradshaw almost did the same. I am not defending Manningham's body of work before this game or doubting his pecking order among the Giants receivers. I am questioning any statistical model that claims he was the "least valuable receiver" in the entire game. At some point you have to remove the green eyeshades, take a deep breath, and say "Mario Manningham, more than anyone else on his team except for Eli Manning, saved the Giants' ass tonight. Mario-- this Super Bowl ring's for you!"

And as to the better defense theory, come on. Teams had two weeks to prepare. Players had a bunch of assignments on both sides of the ball. It's not like either side was playing the Little Sisters of the Poor. The two QBs got the ball in an essentially even game three times near the end-- Brady failed twice, though the second time was a longshot; Eli came through with flying colors. We all know who had the better game, no matter what DVOA tries to tell us. Do you blame Eli for the holding penalty in the 2nd Quarter??-- without it, the Patriots probably never take the lead in the entire game. Whereas Brady (or Belichick's) decisions to throw long on the next to last series, his actual pass to Welker, his pass to Branch on the final series which was tipped-- all must count something against him-- just as Hernandez' drop does not.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:32pm

On the 12 man penalty/fumble, one thing that occurs to me is that as Cruz was being held up, the ball was ripped out of his arms by a 2nd defender. Perhaps with only 11 men playing D, he is simply tackled.

I've seen a lot of discussion of the QB comparison hinging on the Giants better D and better WR's, so it was easier for Eli. Sounds great, but in watching the game, did the Giants really have more open receivers than the Pats? It seems to me in hindsight that the Pats did about as well if not better covering Giants WR's as vice-versa. Eli made 3 very good, very difficult throws in that game that jumped out at me in real time, barely out of the reach of a defender into a small window.

The problem with the #'s is they assume a weaker D results in more open WR's, which I just don't think was the case.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:47pm


by Independent George :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:10pm

The reason Cruz doesn't get dinged for the fumble is because according to DVOA, the Cruz fumble never happened. The fumble was wiped out by the penalty; it was Bearded Cruz, the evil, tango-dancing wide receiver from the other universe who fumbled. I hate that guy.

Is that a failing of the statistical model that the penalty which wiped out the turnover is treated differently a fullback who jumps on the ball? I suppose it is. But I don't see any objective way of doing it differently.

The best comparison for Manningham isn't Bobby Thompson, but Terrell Owens in that Niners-Packers playoff game. He was dropping passes for the entire game, but caught the winning TD in the closing seconds to seal the victory. Was that catch important? Damned right it was. But it's also true that had he not dropped so many before then, that TD might not have even been necessary.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:32pm

Peyton Manning is a far greater regular season QB than Tom Brady and it is not even close. Brady's postseason success keeps him in the conversation with Peyton. Without it, let's say hypothetically they both won just one Super Bowl, Brady would not be in his league, no way, never.

Brady's legend grew starting in 2007 when he started accumulating big regular season stats, relatively late in his career. To say that Eli or Big Ben couldn't do the same over the next 6 to 8 years is just wrong. They might, and they could easily wind up historically right next to Brady.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 5:54pm

There's a thread specifically and explicitly for this, you know.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:47pm

I didn't. Do you agree with the point??

by Judy (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:04am

What was your point?

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:19am

He's new here and he doesn't know about the Irrational Manning-Brady thread.

For several years (literally), FO comment boards were clogged up with arguments about which of the two was better. The arguments were livelier before
(a) Manning won a Super Bowl and made another one, significantly improving his playoff resume,
(b) Brady significantly improved his game (starting in 2007) in terms of his regular season stats.

I think most of us have gotten tired of the argument.

by GO PATS (not verified) :: Fri, 02/10/2012 - 12:38am

OH really, ok i'll bite. Lets see:

1. Who has a better winning % in the regular season? umm ... Brady
2. Who has a better TD-Int ratio? umm ... Brady
3. Who holds the record for most TD's in a season? umm ... Brady
4. Who broke the almost 20 year yardage record previously held by Marino? umm ... Brady (and Brees)
5. Who has played more than half of his career with a bunch of scrubs on offense? umm ... Brady
6. Who has a better lifetime QB rating? umm ... Brady
7. Who play in crappy weather for most of his games (Brady) and who plays most of his games in ideal weather conditions (Peyton) and still Brady has put up his amazing stats.

Personally I think both are great but when you make idiotic comments such as "Peyton Manning is a far greater regular season QB than Tom Brady and it is not even close" I think after what I posted above, your argument holds no water. Perhaps you also want to talk about about playoffs???

by Atheist Joe :: Fri, 02/10/2012 - 3:02am

Since I have already been scolded for bringing up the Brady-Manning comparison, scolded because there is a thread dedicated to this debate elsewhere on this site, I'll just say two things.

Peyton Manning was the unquestioned best QB in the NFL for about a decade, an amazing reign. Yes Brady got championships but statistically he doesn't match Peyton.

You can feel free to look at this list:


11 4000 yard seasons to Brady's 4. Mostly in an era when 4,000 yard seasons meant something.

remember before 2007 Brady was not the brilliant regular season passer that he eventually became. Peyton was brilliant for a decade. Sorry if the truth hurts. Brady is an all-time great. Peyton is greater.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 02/10/2012 - 4:13am

1. Ah yes, the New England Bradys. I forget do they field a team or just the one guy?
2. Totally a reasonable stat and not cherry picked at all. TDs are a dumb stat to use for quarterbacks, like the other 80 yards of the drive are somehow unimportant.
3. See #2.
4. Ah, I see. You're arguing that Brady is 4% better than Stafford. Or let's acknowledge that passing yardage this season was off the charts, oh and what big name quarterback missed the ride?
5. Why are you bringing Joe Flacco into the argument?
6. The stat which double counts completion percentage, Brady's specialty, and also includes TDs (see #2). It's a gross barometer, especially over the last decade.
7. Crappy is subjective, and I doubt most games in NE are crappy weather games, to say nothing of the away games. I'll grant a dome helps some.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 6:23pm

I am not defending Manningham's body of work before this game or doubting his pecking order among the Giants receivers. I am questioning any statistical model that claims he was the "least valuable receiver" in the entire game. At some point you have to remove the green eyeshades, take a deep breath, and say "Mario Manningham, more than anyone else on his team except for Eli Manning, saved the Giants' ass tonight. Mario-- this Super Bowl ring's for you!"

And the Giants' ass would not have needed saving if he had played better earlier. They were behind, in part, because of his struggles. So, two questions:

1) Which receiver, over the course of the game, do you think was less valuable than Manningham?

2) Suppose Manningham's big catch came on the Giants' first drive instead of their last. Would your opinion of his performance change?

And as to the better defense theory, come on. Teams had two weeks to prepare. Players had a bunch of assignments on both sides of the ball. It's not like either side was playing the Little Sisters of the Poor. The two QBs got the ball in an essentially even game three times near the end-- Brady failed twice, though the second time was a longshot; Eli came through with flying colors.

The Patriots had one of the worst defenses in football all year. They were awful. The Giants defense, over the course of the regular season, was below average, but I think it's patently obvious that's due to the injury issues they suffered, and once those key players returned they were pretty darn good.

Not including sacks, Manning averaged 7.4 yards per pass against New England in the Super Bowl. Here is a full list of starting quarterbacks who averaged more yards per throw against New England in a game this year: Dan Orlovsky, Philip Rivers, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jason Campbell, Matt Moore, Chad Henne, Vince Young, Rex Grossman, Mark Sanchez, Tony Romo. I would hardly call 7.4 yards per pass coming through "with flying colors."

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:24pm

sorry, Vince, but you're entering the territory of the ridiculous. It was obvious to anyone who watched the game, and was mentioned several times during the game and numerous times after the game, that both defenses were playing deep Cover 2-- essentially denying the long ball and forcing a short passing game. Which makes Manning's yds/pass stat basically meaningless. And should give him more credit for being patient and taking what the defense gave him. And any assessment of the relative worth of the two offenses prior to this game therefore becomes much less germane.

But it is germane that in that context, when the teams had played to a draw by the 4th Quarter, each QB decided to throw long. Brady failed, in part because his crucial throw was slightly off (yes it was, even though he threw away from the safety as many of his apologists have pointed out. A perfect pass would have hit Welker more in stride and without having to contort to the other side-- and still not been affected by the safety). His failure was strategic as well as tactical, since a few more controlled short passes would have meant a sure FG and a probable victory; Eli succeeded, over the advice (apparently) of his offensive coordinator, thanks both to an incredibly accurate throw and the most acrobatic/clutch catch in a SB since perhaps Lynn Swann.

it's as if you guys saw the Ali-Frazier fight in Manila, and decided it was even despite the fact that Frazier was ordered not to leave his stool by Eddie Futch before the 14th round, or that the original fight in the Garden was even despite the fact that Frazier knocked Ali down in the 15th round. When it mattered Eli and Manningham came up huge and Brady and Welker did not. That should outweigh just about everything else in the game, assuming those two did not throw multiple interceptions or drop four passes/make a fumble or two, etc....

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:14pm

It was obvious to anyone who watched the game, and was mentioned several times during the game and numerous times after the game, that both defenses were playing deep Cover 2-- essentially denying the long ball and forcing a short passing game. Which makes Manning's yds/pass stat basically meaningless. And should give him more credit for being patient and taking what the defense gave him. And any assessment of the relative worth of the two offenses prior to this game therefore becomes much less germane.

To be honest, I think film study would show tons of Cover-3 and quarters. You're right, there was nowhere to go downfield. But if New England was devoting that much manpower to stopping the deep ball, there should have been opportunities for big plays underneath -- not just completions, but catch-and-run opportunities.

Frankly, we're splitting hairs here. While you liked his game better than I did, we both think he played well. The real point of contention is Manningham. Which brings me to your final paragraph:

When it mattered Eli and Manningham came up huge and Brady and Welker did not. That should outweigh just about everything else in the game, assuming those two did not throw multiple interceptions or drop four passes/make a fumble or two, etc....

1) I agree that Manning/Manningham were better than Brady/Welker in the fourth quarter. That's obvious. I disagree, strongly, with your claim that the first three quarters of the Super Bowl don't matter.

2) Manningham did not specifically drop passes, but he had several bad plays in the early part of that game, and I think it's wrong to ignore them:

* Third-and-10 after the phantom holding call in the second quarter, just short of midfield, a pass to Manningham falls incomplete. That's a missed chance to keep a drive alive.
* Third-and-10 at the New England 25 on the Giants' first drive of the second half. A first down gives New York a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Instead, Manningham gains 5 yards. (To be fair, those 5 yards made it a 38-yard field goal instead of a 43-yarder, which helps.)
* Early in the fourth quarter, the Giants cross midfield, down two points. Manningham is the target of an incomplete pass on second-and-5, and then, following a false start penalty, he's the target of another incompletion on third-and-10. On the verge of field-goal range, Manningham twice failed to give his team a chance to take the lead.
* Immediately after his big catch, when the Giants were still at midfield and needed another couple of first downs to get into field-goal range, he was the target of an incompletion on first down.

Even if you want to ignore that last one (since New York did go on to score the winning touchdown on that drive), that's three drives that scored a total of three points. If Manningham picks up those first downs, maybe they go on to score four more points, six more points, ten more points, and New York is actually protecting a lead at the end of the fourth instead of trying to take one.

And after all that, I am going to ask this question for a third time: What receiver do you feel had a worse game?

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:25am

To interject, one could make the argument that Ochocinco had a worse game. But he didn't have negative plays like Manningham did, largely because he never learned the playbook and spent most of the game on the bench. That's more of a meta-argument.

I suspect Tiquan Underwood had a worse experience during the game. Man, it's gotta suck to be cut less than 24 hours before the Super Bowl. But since he's cleared waivers, he's a Patriot again.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 10:57am

Well if we accept that in the Patriots offense, their tight ends play an advanced role-- akin to a WR in most other teams, I'd say Gronkowski, Cruz, Welker and Branch. See below for my reasoning. I can't remember all the plays you cite and whether or not Manningham was culpable in their lack of success or , if so, how much. But the 5 yard gain was a curious decision by Manning, I thought. It seemed to me that Manningham was simply running some sort of 5 yard slant with hopes he could beat the defender for the extra 5 yards. He was clearly not the first option in that situation. Turns out the coverage was very tight and he didn't break a tackle-- but that is hardly on him, or if it is in part, his share of that failure is pretty minor.

But here's my larger point-- and I apologize upfront if my conclusion about how DVOA is formulated is fundamentally off-base. But my sense is that while specific down and distance game situations are a big part of the model, as is the quality of the defense/offense each side is facing, the larger question about game situations (see the entire debate about garbage time) is pretty much ignored. And therein-- Manningham and Manning being prime examples-- is the rub. Now i believe fan graphs has essentially customized their analysis of each baseball plate appearance to its impact on the actual game result-- so that a 3 run homer in the 9th when trailing by 8 runs is less meaningful than one hit in a tie game in the 6th.

Can't FO do the same? If a game, theoretically now, were constantly tied-- meaning scoreless-- then a four yard run from the 50 in the first quarter would, by definition, be less impactful than one with two minutes left in the game. Why? Because whatever the first run does to increase the likelihood of the offense scoring it has occurred with over 45 minutes left in the game and with a significant likelihood that the eventual score, if it occurs, can be overturned by the opposition. Whereas the impact of the 4 yard run with two minutes left is counterbalanced by there being little or no chance that an eventual score by the offense can be matched or exceeded by the opponent.

Actions that happen early in close games would get a certain weight-- call it 1. Actions that happen late in close games would get a higher weight-- call it 3. (this is arbitrary-- maybe the proper number in the final minute is more like 30-- I don't know) Actions that happen when team A has a certain lead in the first half would get a higher weight, since they could either expand that lead thus making A's chance of winning the game significantly higher, or reverse or wipeout the lead. The same actions in the second half-- if the score were within 7 pts-- would obviously be even more important. And so on. In other words each play is judged by its impact on the following measure-- the chances of the two teams winning the game before it took place, and the chances of the two teams winning the game after it took place. The same Manningham catch in the first quarter might have only changed the Giants win expectancy by perhaps 6 percent-- from 47 to 53, say. But his actual catch in the 4th quarter changed it by, I would think, at least 20-25 percent-- maybe even more. It was 4 times more important because of the specific situation when it happened. If it had been a 3rd down play, of course, then it goes up even further, which DVOA does compute. Fundamental point being maybe Manningham did cost his team some points earlier in the game-- let's say the same amount as he helped create with the 4th quarter sideline catch. But when he did it, there was still ample time for the Giants, and he himself as it turned out, to recover and still get a winning score. When he and Eli hooked up in the 4th quarter, it opened the door for a drive that would give Brady and the Patriots almost no chance to recover.

And again if I'm dead wrong about this in terms of DVOA's inner workings, I apologize. But I think context is everything... so why not take context to its fullest point?

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 11:20am

You're looking for Brian Burke's WPA (Win Probability Added)

That's also a very useful stat, as is DVOA. Taken together, they give you a good (but, of course, not complete) view of game elements not obvious when you're watching it live.

Anyway, according to his analysis, Manningham is still third amongst Giants receivers with 0.17 WPA. Cruz edged him with 0.19 WPA, Nicks an excellent 0.33. Amongst the Pats, Welker led with 0.15, Hernandez had 0.05, Deon Branch 0.0, Chad Ochocinco 0.01, and Gronkowski -.01.

It should also be noted that despite being nearly even in WPA, Cruz' receptions also accounted for 5.3 EPA (Expected Points Added), and an astonishing 100% success rate, whereas Manningham's was a comparatively miniscule 0.1. His stats are explained here - basically, his numbers roughly jibe with FO's. Manningham made an outstanding catch in the 4th quarter (worth 0.15 WPA by itself), but was largely irrelevant before that.

You'll have to click on the graph to see the WPA for each individual play to put it in context.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 11:37am

OK-- now that's a stat I can embrace. And it jibes with my sense of the game: Nicks was the most effective receiver. Manningham rates higher than all the Pats' receivers, including Welker (I had Hernandez ahead of MM, but I defer to the WPA), and superior to his own teammates save Nicks.

Couldn't DVOA accept WPA at least in part into its model?? I mean Herman Edwards, right??

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:24pm

It's an idea but isn't it possible that you would simply be artificially conflating the subjective narrative of the game with the objective measurements that go into DVOA?

7 points is 7 points whether scored in the first quarter or the last minute to win the game. I'm not sure that you'd end up with a more useful statistic with your approach.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:38pm

Sure but when "objective" measurements determine that the player who made the biggest play of the game was the least valuable player at his position, then some subjectivity is necessary.

And again I don't think the 7 points are equal. Just as the 7 pts Aaron Rodgers produces in the first quarter in a 3-3 game vs the Vikings is not equal to the 7 pts he produces early in the 4th quarter up 41-10.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:24pm

Sure but when "objective" measurements determine that the player who made the biggest play of the game was the least valuable player at his position, then some subjectivity is necessary.

I'm curious - how would you rate Terrell Owens in the 98 playoff game vs Green Bay? He dropped, I believe, 5 passes in that game, but caught the game winner in between three defenders. Great play at the end, but he was a real liability for the first 59 minutes. (Coincidentally, in that same game, his more-productive teammate also seemed to fumble the game away, but was saved by the officails).

Obviously, late plays carry more weight, but I'm not sure it's weighted as heavily towards the end as you seem to indicate. The reason late plays matter more are because there's less oppoprtunity to compensate for a bad play. On the other hand, I think you underestimate the effect burying a team early has on the game. An early lead tends to cause greater risk-taking by the opponent, on both offense and defense. Comebacks happen, but more often mistakes compound when a team tries to claw out of a hole. DBs jump routes that lead to big gains, linebackers overpursue, QBs force throws into tight windows.

Manningham obviously had some huge plays at the end, but he also (literally) dropped the ball early. That 3rd down drop in the 2nd quarter gave the ball back to the Pats, who subsequently scored a TD with no time left at the half. If he holds on, the Giants most likely hold a 12-3 a 16-3 lead at halftime. There's still plenty of time left in the game, but it's still a huge swing going the other way.

by DGL :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 2:43pm

It all depends on what you're trying to measure. If you're trying to measure "value" in terms of how much a player contributed to his team winning or losing that game, something like WPA is a more useful metric. If you're trying to measure "value" in terms of how much a player is demonstrating the ability to win or lose games in general, something like DVOA/DYAR is a more useful metric.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:19pm

"Sure but when "objective" measurements determine that the player who made the biggest play of the game was the least valuable player at his position, then some subjectivity is necessary."

Gotta disagree. Using a baseball analogy, since they are so popular in this thread:

The Mighty Casey comes up 4 times with the bases loaded. He goes 0-4 with 2 strikeouts, a pop out, and a grounded into double play. Then he hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th inning, "winning" the game for his team. Is that really a good game?

Also, WPA is fun but I doubt it's highly predictive or is any better at evaluating true performance levels than any number of advanced stats. It's most useful for identifying what the biggest plays of the game were.

by GlennW :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 3:34pm

Still, some subjectivity is required to rate Manningham's performance, much more so than in your baseball example. Manningham is mostly being docked for 4 incompletions out of the 9 balls thrown to him. Those incompletions could be all about Manningham, or nothing about Manningham. They could be mostly about Eli Manning. Frankly, of all the single-game ratings that FO publishes, I pay the least attention to the WR numbers simply due to the small sample size. From the other end, readers seem to take *all* the single-game rankings way too seriously. At that level they're rough datapoints, and I would imagine that FO would be the first to admit this.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:42pm

None of this argument is the same as Paul's.

Receiving DYAR is indeed quite flawed but not because it doesn't accurately weight the "importance" of certain catches.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:39am

1) Which receiver, over the course of the game, do you think was less valuable than Manningham?

Spanish 85, perhaps?

Or Gronkowski, who spent the game being covered by the least warm body the Giants had on defense for that given play, and wasn't capable of knocking the ball away from a substitute teacher half his size?

by t.d. :: Fri, 02/10/2012 - 12:30am

The Patriots also looked worse on defense than they were with the injuries to Mayo and Chung. With those guys, the Pats were below average, not terrible

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:02pm

I think it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that Manning outplayed Brady, what with the bad IG and int, both occuring on first down. But the legacy stuff is really quite silly.

Had Welker caught the pass, NE almost certainly wins even if Brady never throws another ball. Manning scores all of 6 points over the final 50 minutes against the worst defense ever and even some of his successes are bad plays. Case in point, on NY's first TD, Manning never saw Mayo and layed up the easiest interceptable ball you'll ever see, only to be saved when Jerod took himself out of the play. An average ILB bats it down. A good ILB picks it off. A great one takes it to the house.

That was far from the only bad throw turned into a catch by a great WR play or bad decision turned into a good play by luck or defensive mistakes. Of course, Eli had his share of great plays as well.

Just enjoy each respective career and let a larger multitude of plays cancel out situations like these.

by Harry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:10pm

Penalizing Brady for the "intentional grounding" seems a trifle unfair considering that the call was utterly ridiculous. Fine, it may be the letter of the law, but it seems like in the Superbowl you let teams play, you don't make nit picky calls that can determine the outcome of the game. If you throw the ball 10 yards over anyones head out of bounds that is fine, but throw downfield and you get docked 2 points and a change of posession? Far too harsh for the crime. Good refs use some discretion.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:18pm

There was literally nobody there. It was grounding while he was standing in the endzone. He could have held the ball, if you prefer, and been drilled by Justin Tuck. If he had a better option he should have taken it.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:31pm

Brady had already decided to throw the ball away before Tuck came into the picture. Tuck's appearance was more coincidence than anything else.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:42pm

Huh? Then he should have thrown it where there was a receiver if he was assuredly disposing of the ball on his own terms, instead of grounding it, which is what he did, while standing in the endzone. Grounding in the endzone is not an exotic call. You ground in the endzone and it's a safety. You know that if you watch enough football.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:09pm

I agree he should have put the ball somewhere else, but just like DPI requires the ball to be catchable, intentional grounding by rule requires the throw to be made specifically out of fear of taking a sack. Simply throwing a ball away while being in the pocket isn't enough, even if no receiver is in the area.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:38pm

And you don't think Brady had a fear of taking a sack there? Then why does he unload the ball? And it's just a coincidence that Tuck comes storming through the hole a second later? You don't think Brady sees that? You're making a lot of apologies for Tom. Face it, he's mortal. And the refs made the right call. it's obvious.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:46am

Unless it's a delayed spike. No pressure need be present for that to be grounding.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 9:04pm

Brady's mistake on the play was standing still for way too long. If he'd slid to the right, maybe 3-4 feet, the refs would have given him the benefit of the doubt. Standing still, in the pocket, in the end zone and then making that throw is a big mistake. I've seen LOTS of QBs get away with grounding without getting outside the tackles, but the usually get close. Brady deserves the blame on that one.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:30am

Absolutely correct. Brady had no business drawing the penalty there. It's true that the refs hardly ever make that call for long passes down the middle, but he only had to take a couple steps to the right to get out of the tackle box, at which point he could have thrown it practically anywhere and not gotten flagged. (As long as it reached the line of scrimmage.)

God that first quarter was depressing, between the safety, the defense that couldn't stop the Giants, and the 12 men on the field penalty.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:45am

"Article 1 Definition. It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage
because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. A
realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that lands in the direction and the vicinity of an
originally eligible receiver."

The bit here that's critical is direction and vicinity.

The ball landed not only 25 yards away from the nearest eligible receiver, that receiver was running opposite the direction the ball was thrown. Two Patriots were running a double-out towards the right sideline at the 25. The ball landed to the left of the field at the 45.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 7:12pm

Oh, and someone in this thread asked about this, but yes, the YAR/DYAR numbers do account for the inentional grounding penalty on Brady. It comes out as a worse play than his other sacks, but not quite as bad as the INT.

by Led :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 10:04pm

Wasn't the actual effect of the grounding penalty worse than an INT? It gave the other team possession of the ball and also 2 points. And it was a first down play so giving up possession has maximum negative value. I can appreciate that, on average, a play like Brady's wouldn't be quite so harmful (because you can't presume that it occurs in the endzone for a safety every time), and DYAR reflects average outcomes. But that just means that, within any single game, DYAR may over or under value a player and needs to be "eye checked." Two turnovers on first down, minus 2 points and less than a 45% completion percentage in 7 of the 9 drives is not very good. Granted, he was awesome during the other two drives, but I don't think it all adds up to a game that was as good as Manning's no turnover, 75% completion percentage performance.

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:08pm

As usual Greg Cosell gets it exactly right.


I argued above that Manning executed a championship throw and Brady did not.

RickD contended that it was just an out pattern.

That's absurd - that throw was by far the best play of the game and a lot more than an out pattern but a stick throw in a tight window. A quintessential QB play.

I contended above that I have not seen Brady make stick throws in tight windows like that recently:

"I don't know that Brady can make those throws as consistently as Manning. That's not his game. I've seen plenty of Brady in the last few years and it's a lot of quick reads and quick passes beneath coverage, then he burns the defense deeper in space. Maybe it's me but I'm not seeing Brady make stick throws in tight windows as much."

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:11pm

Joe, you are a Manning suckoff. We get that. Do you have anything else to offer?

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:28pm

Nah ... I know this is a zone that's only safe for Brady suckoffs like yourself...

by NickB (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:29pm

Joe - perhaps you were too quick to rule out the Mannings as deities before you came up with your user name?

by Atheist Joe :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 8:39pm

I guess the high schools let out.

by rich316 :: Tue, 02/07/2012 - 10:10pm

The two deep passes that impressed me the most in this year's playoffs were the Manningham catch, and the Brady-to-Branch TD v. the Broncos. Branch had a little more space than Manningham, but it was still a great, great throw.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:36am

I'm sorry if I called the pass route by the improper name. And I don't think I said that the play was unimpressive. It was an excellent pass and Manningham ran an excellent route.

But I think you're really underestimating Brady if you think he couldn't possibly make that pass. I'm pretty sure he made a similar pass to Branch relatively recently. And I've seen him make that kind of pass a number of times over the years.

Brady doesn't have great touch on deep passes, but I think 35-40 yards is still within his range. Most of his egregious long passes are over 50 yards in the air. And sometimes he even can make some of those.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 9:55am

Yeah, nobody should say that Brady can't make that pass, since we've all see him make outstanding passes this year. BUT, it is fair to say that in the 4th qtr of this year's superbowl, Brady was a bit off target. The throw on Manningham's catch was perfect and the read was excellent (since there was blanket coverage on the primary and secondary targets). If the pass had been as far off target as Brady's was to Welker, it would have been incomplete.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:33am

You knew this was coming. I just never get tired of watching Hitler throw a hissy fit.

by rich316 :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 4:19am

That's actually one of the funnier Hitler Reacts I've seen in a while.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 1:34pm


I rather enjoy the one where he learns of Ned Stark's death, if only because 'Stannis' actually sounds kind of like 'Stalin'.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/08/2012 - 10:50pm

I'm watching 'Sound FX' on NFL Network right now. Looking at it now, the Kevin Boothe holding call was clearly wrong, but what cracks me up is that the ref thought it was a flop, but was overruled by the umpire.

"77 White on the offense"

"You're good with it? I thought he spun off of it. 77?"

A little while later, the umpire talks to Wilfork.

Umpire: "Did that guy hold you? Did he spin you to the ground, or did you flop?"

Wilfork: "No, that was a bad call."

Umpire: "It was a bad call on me?"

Wilfork: "Yeah."

Umpire: "Why didn't you tell me that before I threw it?"

Wilfork: "Most of them, you guys miss - I deserve one! I'll let you know when you miss one."

Thank God I can laugh at this now.