Quick Reads
The best and worst players of the week according to Football Outsiders stats.

Super Bowl XLVI Quick Reads

Super Bowl XLVI Quick Reads
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Eli Manning NYG
30/40
300
1
0
129
129
0
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.
2.
Tom Brady NE
28/40
276
2
1
127
127
0
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
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Danny Woodhead NE
18
0
42
1
36
-6
42
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.
2.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE
44
0
15
0
15
12
3
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.
3.
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG
74
1
19
0
7
8
-1
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
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Brandon Jacobs NYG
37
0
0
0
-1
5
-6
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
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Victor Cruz NYG
4
4
25
6.2
1
28
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.
2.
Wes Welker NE
7
8
60
8.6
0
27
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.
3.
Bear Pascoe NYG
4
4
33
8.2
0
12
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.
4.
Hakeem Nicks NYG
10
13
113
11.3
0
5
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.
5.
Rob Gronkowski NE
2
3
26
13.0
0
4
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
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Mario Manningham NYG
5
9
73
14.6
0
-13
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)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
NE 12.9% 25% 14% 2%
NYG 12.7% 11% 5% 7%
VOAf (no opponent adjustments)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
NE 10% 30% 22% 2%
NYG -6% 21% 34% 7%

Comments

311 comments, Last at 11 Feb 2012, 5:05pm

285 Re: Holding

In reply to by Independent George

Ha! Good on Wilfork for his candor. He's probably my favorite player on the Pats. He's almost impossible not to like (and he's a beast).

290 Re: Holding

In reply to by Led

I thought the same thing. Watched this, and his attitude during the exchange was just awesome.

During the game I thought this could wind up being the turning point if the pats won, and it almost was. I guess giving Jacobs an 8 yard run on 3rd and 1 would have impacted his #'s a bit too.

295 Re: Holding

In reply to by Goathead (not verified)

This really endeared him to me. I've always admired him as a player, but he was so disarmingly funny in the spur of the moment I can't help but like him for that.

289 Re: Holding

In reply to by Independent George

It's a great example of the randomness inherent in officiating, and I think it illustrates how stats cannot yet account for those elements. The Giants had a lower VOA, I think in good part to their good fumble luck, but VOA can't capture what it would have meant to the Giants to build on their lead early in the game, if that nonpenalty is uncalled.

292 Re: Holding

In reply to by Will Allen

To be fair, David Diehl got away with more than a few egregious holds during the game, too. He had his arms wrapped around the defender's waist on several occasions; the officials might have gotten a little more flag-shy after the Boothe penalty.

297 Re: Holding

In reply to by Independent George

Both teams held a lot and egregiously. I think the NFL needs to redefine holding if they're not going to call it anymore. Like it's only a hold if the offender's arms wrap around the other player or something.

298 Re: Holding

In reply to by tuluse

I think a decent compromise would be to officially loosen the restrictions on holding, while expanding from 5 yards to 10 yards the area in which dbs could maintain contact with receivers.I'd just prefer a much more consistent standard for holding, as opposed to what we have now, which seems to be a nearly completely random occurence.

299 Re: Holding

In reply to by Will Allen

I like this idea a lot.

301 Re: Holding

In reply to by Will Allen

Good compromise. They could also make cut blocks illegal as a nice tradeoff for the defense while they're at it.

It boggles my mind that blockers are allowed to fling themselves at denders' knees, and nobody (besides D Linemen) seems to give a crap about it.

293 Re: Holding

In reply to by Will Allen

I think that penalty was at least as big and maybe bigger than any single Patriots fumble recovery would have been (with one fumble recovery by the Patriots being the 50% result expected by VOA). Not only did it turn the ball over and deny the Giants a great scoring chance, it prevented them from running more clock and set up almost the perfect situation for the Patriots to both score and exhaust the clock themselves. Impossible to predict what would have happened, but at the time I estimated a 7-10 point net loss to the Giants as the likeliest result. A huge penalty on a flat-out bad call.

300 Re: Holding

In reply to by GlennW

If the bogus-holding call doesn't get made, the Giants likely go into the half with the lead, and my guess is the 2nd half is much more wide-open than it was.

The biggest non-fumble recovery was actually huge. Just after the interception, Bradshaw fumbled around his own 10. If the pats get that one they have the ball at the Giants 10, and likely take a 9 point lead with around 13 mins to play.

Those 2 plays are probably comparable in terms of game impact.