Great quarterbacks are born in the fourth quarter, where they contribute to a game-winning drive by delivering an incredible pass to his target that ultimately becomes legendary.
The quarterback often ends up being revered for his performance and is given numerous labels, such as "elite," that put him in the upper echelon at his position. The two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady and Eli Manning, have been fittingly labeled just that by their peers and fans across the globe because of their ability in the clutch, which is made up of many factors that include pocket presence, quickly finding their go-to targets and managing the clock.
Tom Brady - Patriots
New England's signal caller, Tom Brady, can be argued as one of the best ever in late-game situations, often putting his team over the top in crucial games. Brady's got a great understanding of situational football, an important part of every game, and it shows on the field when he is calling the plays in the two-minute offense.
He understands the defense in this situation and is able to attack its weak points while keeping in mind the time on the clock. An example of this is when the offense enters the red zone, where he is able to take deep shots against a coverage that he knows he's going to get based off of the personnel grouping and/or formation.
Further, another example is on short-yardage plays, utilizing the quarterback sneak or dumping the pass off to the outlet for a first down. All of these things may seem simple to fans, but it can be a difficult task for quarterbacks, especially young ones.
Moreover, like other quarterbacks, Brady has his go-to-guys in crunch time and although it appears Brady often finds the open receiver as many like to say, he has a couple of favorite's: Deion Branch and Wes Welker.
Both of the receivers are crafty veterans that have reliable hands, quality route running and a great understanding of situational football.
All of these factors come into play in late-game situations and Brady excels at each. He has a great understanding of the game, possessing high football intelligence, and is able to be tough in the pocket by staying long enough to keep his eyes down the field to deliver the pass despite defenders creeping in.
Clutch Factor Grade: A
Eli Manning - Giants
Unlike Brady, Eli Manning was not considered an "elite" player up until this season, but has long made big throws in clutch situations that date back to his first Super Bowl win against the Patriots. This season, he took the next step in his development and became one of the best players at not only his position, but in the NFL.
Manning has shown toughness in the pocket this season when delivering the ball in clutch situations. He's left the pocket at times as well as stayed in the pocket and taken big shots, which was witnessed against the San Francisco 49ers in the Conference championship game.
What helps him deliver these big throws, despite pressure intensifying, is his strong arm. Manning's arm strength enables him to deliver all types of passes with velocity despite throwing from various platforms.
Moreover, when delivering the ball in the clutch he looks to several targets, none more this season than receiver Victor Cruz.
Cruz has been big for Manning and the Giants this season by coming down with big-time catches and creating separation. Against man coverage, he does a great job of running quality routes that enable him to separate while against zone coverage. He's able to find the hole in the zone as well as work back to Manning for the pass.
Clutch Factor Grade: A
Manning and his counterpart will battle it out this Sunday on the biggest stage of them all, the Super Bowl, where the pressure will be greater than in any other situation that they faced this season.
Who comes out on top is something nobody knows right now, but if either of the two have the ball in their hands in the final minutes of the game, there's a good chance they will be holding up the Lombardi Trophy soon after.