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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Ending the Brady/Welker Super Bowl 46 Incompletion Debate

Much like Super Bowl 42, the 4th quarter incompletion in Super Bowl 46 (and that game overall) brings a great deal of frustration to many Patriots fans (including myself). Both Brady and Welker took a fair amount of criticism from fans and the media. However, looking back at the play, the truth is that neither player deserves blame. 


As pretty much every player and coach (particularly Bill O'Brien, Shannon Sharpe, Trent Dilfer, Steve Mariucci, and Eric Mangini) has mentioned before, on that particular play, Welker ran a seam route, and Tom Brady decided to backshoulder the throw to keep the pass away from New York Giants safety Kenny Phillips (who was favoring the left hash-mark on that same play). If thrown inside, Kenny Phillips was approximately just 6 yards away (the pass itself was thrown 25 yards through the air) from breaking up or intercepting the pass. Thus, coverage dictated where Brady threw the ball on that particular play. 

Welker wasn't expecting the pass to be thrown outside--as he was running a seam route-- and as a result struggled adjusting to the throw while running full speed. In addition to the throw being a little high, Welker had to turn and spin around to attempt to make the catch, which he nearly accomplished. Because of the degree of difficulty required in order to haul in a back-shoulder throw while running full speed, it makes sense to not classify that particular play as a drop (as the definition involves passes that could be caught with normal effort). However, the pass was still catchable, and judging by Welker's reaction after the play, he felt that he should have caught it. Furthermore, Welker struggling to adjust to the pass made the throw LOOK bad, even though in reality it wasn't. 

It might make most sense to give Tom Brady a middling grade for the throw itself (i.e. a 5 or a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10), because while it's understandable as to why Brady made that particular decision (honestly, the only really correct decision), the throw didn't hit Welker in the chest either (which would've made the catch easier) despite the fact that Brady was able to Welker square in the hands.

What also should be taken into account is the fact that neither Brady nor Welker had much previous success at converting such a play. Since deep, vertical, backshoulder passes are neither player's strongsuit, it's probably not that surprising that the play resulted in an incompletion. 

Overall, while a connection definitely could've been made (despite the fact that neither player had much previous success at converting such a play; it's not Brady's fault because a pass deflection or an interception does the Patriots offense no good, and it's not Welker's fault because he wasn't expecting the pass to be thrown outside and had to adjust to the throw as a result. In the end, it's a tough play overall (tough throw, tough catch), and both Brady and Welker are off the hook.

Lastly, that particular play--contrary to public opinion--would not have decided the game, as there was still 4 minutes left to go in the game and the Giants had both the two-minute warning and one timeout. A game isn't decided on one play, at least not when there's that much time left to go in a 2-point game.  




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