First off, there is not a finer commentator on the NFL game than Cris Collingsworth, in the most humble opinion of this writer. He criticized Mario Manningham‘s route on a fly pattern earlier in the game during which he wavered too close to the sideline and when Manning delivered a strike, Manningham could not keep both of his feet in bounds. But following what commentators around the world were calling the play of the game during which Manningham caught a pass on the opposite side of the field at the sideline and managed to keep his feet in bounds, Collingsworth explained that it was different this time, because the safety had taken up residence inside. It was brilliant analysis and something you don’t get from commentators who tend to merely offer praise to the players in reaction to the play that just transpired and nothing more. I really feel that a viewer could learn a lot about the game, just by listening to Collingsworth analyze the action.
I really think yesterday’s game was among the most enjoyable to watch overall, despite the fact that the commercials were simply not up to par.
In the end, this was New England’s game to win or lose. I get torn over plays like those that occurred in the waning seconds yesterday because a good receiver can really add extra margins for error on the part of the quarterback. Two plays really come to mind. The first one was a pass to Deion Branch on a crossing route about 20 yards off the line of scrimmage. Branch looked to have plenty of room to run after the catch but the pass hit the ground. Two things happened on the play that Collingsworth was quick to mention. One was that Brady threw the ball behind Branch and second was that Brady had to throw the ball behind Branch, but Branch should have recognized the situation and stopped running. The result is an incomplete pass and a lost opportunity to advance the ball significantly down the field. In the end it only cost the Patriots a down and five seconds. So really nothing lost other than what could have been.
The second and second most widely played highlight occurred earlier and is the pass to Wes Welker. Wes Welker catches everything. Collingsworth even said Welker would catch that pass 100 times out of a hundred. But again, there was coverage to the inside and Brady had to throw the ball to Welker’s outside shoulder. Welker is running down the field essentially leading with his right shoulder when the pass is on a trajectory to go over his left shoulder. Welker has to adjust by twisting nearly 180 degrees while maintaining some semblence of balance. The ball hits his hands but by now all of Welker’s momentum is down to the ground. He can’t snag the ball. Not saying this one would have sealed the victory for New England, but that one would have sealed the victory.
I guess the point of all of this is that for a pass to be complete, the quarterback has to be reasonably accurate and the receiver has to be sure handed and sure footed. Welker is a fine receiver who usually makes catches that forgive the inaccuracy of the quarterback. This time he wasn’t able to. That being said, it takes more than one play to win or lose a game.