When Robert Griffin III orchestrated a Washington Redskins drive late in the fourth quarter that included an overly suspenseful fourth-down conversion and a 24-yard scramble down the right side to move into New York Giants territory, the rookie’s perfect strike to a streaking Santana Moss for a 30-yard go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes in the game was the icing on the MVP cake.
However, due to shoddy and predictable defense, Eli Manning easily spotted a flying Victor Cruz down the right seam on their very next drive to give the Giants a 27-23 lead—and eventual win—with just over a minute to play.
Below is a breakdown of the Manning-to-Cruz game-winning touchdown in three simple slides.
It should also be noted that this play was prepared by the Giants not only in practice, but just before halftime when the Redskins were in almost the exact same coverage. Manning found Cruz on a slant pattern on that particular play—a play that set up the Giants’ game-tying field goal at the half.
The Giants show a similar formation, and it’s fitting given their scenario of trailing by three points with about 1:30 to go in the game and positioned inside their own 25-yard line. Again, Cruz lines up in the slot (this time) to the right of Manning, and Josh Wilson takes him from the line of scrimmage.
Behind Wilson (apologies for the scoreboard) is double-team safety help from Madieu Williams.
As you can see, Cruz is painted with a slight hitch in his immediate pattern, which is due to a hesitation move of what appears to be an inside slant fake. And although it’s slight, it’s all Cruz needs to create separation and space.
Wilson remembers that inside slant before halftime that left him off balance.
Just three yards off the line of scrimmage, and Cruz is entering his gear. Because of his move at the line, Cruz created space, and Wilson wasn’t able to get any bump on him. At this point, with Wilson turning his hips, Cruz’s speed wins every time.
Another important piece of the play to note here is the safety.
Wilson’s help is seen flat-footed as Manning hits the back of his drop. Williams is caught here dead to rights because his eyes are caught in the backfield reading the quarterback rather than the receiver. Manning takes an unsuspected three-step drop on this play, and Williams seems to be anticipating five or seven.
This screenshot is where the Redskins lose the game. Wilson is beat, and Williams is flat. Cruz is fast, and Manning is accurate.
On this final shot, Cruz has easily beaten the double-team of Wilson and Williams, and the separation is too much for the Redskins defense to recover.
Although the defense was a steaming pile of garbage on this play, give credit to Cruz for running an effective route and hauling in a big catch in the crunch. And if Manning doesn’t throw a perfect pass, this play probably doesn’t go for six.