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Belichick before game-winning drive: “Make them go to Manningham”

Super Bowl XLVI

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots waits on the field before the New England Patriots take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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As expected, Patriots coach Bill Belichick planned to defend the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI by taking away what the Giants do best. And that meant shutting down receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

So before what became the Giants’ game-winning drive, NFL Films microphones caught Belichick giving this directive to his team, via “This is still a Cruz-and-Nicks game. I know we’re right on them. It’s tight, but those are still the guys. Make them go to Manningham, make them go to [Bear] Pascoe. Let’s make sure we get Cruz and Nicks.”

The Giants indeed went to Manningham, and Manningham made an uncanny catch of a perfect 38-yard throw from quarterback Eli Manning to spark the effort that allowed the Giants to win the game.

Though Manningham didn’t have huge numbers, reliance on him in one of the game’s biggest moments meshed with something former Colts coach Tony Dungy had been saying last week. In the 2006 AFC title game, during which the Pats raced to a 21-3 lead, Belichick found a way to take away both Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. The Colts then adjusted, targeting tight end Dallas Clark and taking advantage of opportunities in the running game.

And so with Belichick so determined to take away what the opposing offense does best and with opposing offenses now figuring it out, the chess match needs to move to the next level, with Belichick making the enemy think he’ll be taking away the top weapons and then pouncing on the guy to whom the ball will actually go.