Bill Belichick is a mastermind, but even geniuses get the call wrong from time to time.
The New York Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions and not the New England Patriots. Months of second-guessing and hindsight has already started in full.
There is one lapse in judgement that is rearing its ugly head in the form of Mario Manningham and an epic reception that will live on forever as a Super Bowl game-changer.
ESPN reports a call was made for the Patriots to lock up pretty much every receiver but Mario Manningham. The report cites audio taken from NFL films and has Belichick issuing the following orders during a crucial moment during Super Bowl XLVI.
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.
We all know what happened next. With 3:46 left in the game, Eli Manning took the ball on the Giants' 12-yard line.
He opened up the amazing drive with an equally brilliant pass to the man the Patriots defense was told to ignore. Manningham caught a 38-yard pass that placed every last modicum of momentum with the Giants.
The drive would culminate with an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown that proved to be the game-winning score.
The report quotes Victor Cruz, who delves on the strategy to lock him and fellow receiver Hakeem Nicks up on the last drive.
That was flattering. It was crazy just to hear him say on the sideline in the Super Bowl, he was talking about me and Hakeem...it was one of those things where he is trying to win and he understands that Eli likes to get me and Hakeem the ball and I guess he (would) rather have Mario catch a 38-yarder up the sideline as opposed to me doing it or Hakeem.
Did Bill Belichick lose the game with this call?
It is easy to destroy Belichick for a call that changed the complexity of the game in favor of New York. The fact is, the Patriots secondary was suspect for the entire season.
He had to spread them to the most likely weapons that would be targeted. It was a no-brainer decision in the heat of the moment, but will now live in infamy as a legendary blunder.
When you look at the reception, it still took an amazing pass from Eli Manning to throw through a tight window. Manningham then had to pull off an extraordinary athletic feat to get two feet in and maintain possession.
Bill Belichick gets paid to make the tough calls. He made the wrong one on Super Bowl Sunday, and now, he will have to live with that fact.