Sure-handed Patriots' wide receiver Wes Welker dropped albeit a difficult ball, without question, was the turning point of Super Bowl XLVI. With the Patriots up 17 to 15 and with exactly 4 minutes left in the contest, Welker could not corral Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's throw. If we look back at this crucial play, on the surface, Brady did not make an accurate pass. Thus, this caused Welker to twist his body around to look for the ball. Consequently, Welker let the ball slip throw his fingers. Instead of the Patriots adding to their lead and perhaps winning this Super Bowl, they were forced to punt. Then it was Eli Time.
Boston Globe's Greg Bedard wrote an article about this infamous drop which will forever be part of Super Bowl lore. Unlike Jackie Smith's regrettable dropped pass from Roger Staubach in Super Bowl XIII, Welker's drop had a higher degree of difficulty. Bedard asked NFL coaches about this play. One is an anonymous quarterbacks and the other a receivers coach. Here is their take:
Two veteran NFL assistant coaches - a quarterbacks coach and a receivers coach - were asked about the play. They don’t know the exact play-call and how the Patriots teach the play, but they agreed that the back-shoulder throw was not the type of pass Welker expected.
“You don’t have to throw a back-shoulder on that because you’re in the seam, and if you’ve thrown it properly, you beat the safety by taking some air out of the throw,’’ the quarterbacks coach said. “I think that was an inaccurate ball. Anytime you get an inaccurate ball, that’s a tough catch when you’re running vertically toward the goal line like Welker was.
“I wouldn’t count that as a drop if I were charting my football team.’’
The receivers coach agreed, to a point.
“You expect that ball to be in front,’’ he said. “But in the end, it was a catchable ball. Was it where it should have been? No, it’s not where you normally expect it. You’d like it out in front and just run into it.
“It was behind him and it would have been, not a great catch, but a good catch. And he just missed the ball.’’
On the contrary, according to Eric Edholm at Pro Football Weekly, he looked at this play through a different prism.
Brady floated a pass that hit Welker in the hands. He twisted around, the pass
not quite perfect but darned good, and dropped it. Furthermore, the Giants secondary blew their coverage. The Giants botched their coverage on the play, rotating from a two-deep to a
single-high safety look. One problem: Not everyone got the message. Kenny Phillips was out of
position, and it allowed Welker, who was running up the inside edge of the
numbers, to get free, more wide open than he — or any other Patriots receiver —
had been all game. "We were in a man-coverage concept, and the set they came out in (five wide
receivers) moved us to a different concept," Giants defensive coordinator Perry
Fewell said. "We tried to communicate that; everyone wasn't able to hear it."
Based on Edholm's analysis, Brady's throw not perfect but darn good, a busted coverage which allowed Welker to find an open space in the Giants defense, and a reliable receiver not being able to secure the football. Was there something else going on here?
Using physics, Dr. Eric Goff, Associate Professor of Physics and Chair of the Physics Department at Lynchburg College, provided his explanation on Welker's dropped pass. "Though not perfect, Brady's pass found Welker between three Giants defenders. Welker was rotating clockwise in an attempt to make the catch. Newton's laws tell us that initiating rotation takes a torque, which is a force multiplied by a lever arm distance," Dr. Goff said. He goes on. "In Welker's case, the force came from friction between his shoes and the turf; the lever-arm distance was the distance from his shoes in contact with the turf and the vertical rotation axis passing through his head and torso. Catching a ball while rotating is tough, but Welker had made tougher catches in his career."
Goff is much smarter than me. However, in his analysis, he does not account for the playing surface. Even though Lucas Oil Field has been praised by players for being an outstanding surface, unfortunately, it is an artificial surface. And artificial turf does have its limitations. According to Skylar Christensen of naturesfinestseed.com: Artificial turf has a higher coefficient of friction, meaning that players are more likely to “stick” to the surface instead of sliding naturally across it. After viewing the replay on of this play in slow motion, it appears, Welker's foot gets "caught" in the turf. As a result, he was unable to gain his balance. As Goff did state, the force came from the friction between his shoes and the turf. Nevertheless, the force of friction is much greater on an artificial surface than grass. Putting this together, one can deduce this is why he did not make this catch.
In a season in which this Giants team caught many breaks, the biggest break happened to be the playing surface at the Super Bowl. If this game was played on grass, perhaps, Super Bowl XLVI could have had a different outcome.
What's next, articles about the length of the players' shoe laces? Glenn, love the effort, but this, combined with the "hoisted by his own petard" article, makes me think you're really looking for angles to the game that aren't actually there. There's plenty to talk about. You don't have to force the issue so much.
I hope this thread will be over soon. It reminds me of Groucho Marx who said famously, "Who you gonna' believe, me or your own lyin' eyes?" Some observers don't want to accept the video evidence, and so you have to wonder what the point is of publishing the video at all. By Welker's account and those of his teammates, the pass was pretty normal and the catch should have been made without greater than usual effort. He had to go up to get it and so what? The best--and mundane-- explanation as to why he dropped the pass is loss of concentration. He twisted his body to the right because he wanted to land on his legs and run with the ball--before he caught it. How many times does that happen? Maybe some Giants fans are guilty that we got lucky to win the game. But that doesn't mean that the Giants didn't DESERVE to win. Good teams take advantage of lucky opportunities. Welker dropped the ball and Manningham didn't. We won the game.
Glenn...My point was....I DON'T CARE. We won the Super Bowl and that is what I am happy about. I am sure many of us have heard countless times over he past 4 years how lucky the Giants were to have beaten New England. I don't want to hear a discussion that gives the Pats an excuse for losing to us again. We are their Daddy!!! Plain and simple. I acknowledge that Wes Welker is a great receiver. I just think this discussion is pointless. We are talking about bodies twisting and rotating, grass vs. turf. We played in a dome which for all intents and purposes is a perfect enviornment. Give me a break please. He is human and he dropped the ball. It happens. New England is a great team. In 2007 they were 18-1. In 2011 they were 15-4. Our record against them was 3-1. The Pats against the rest of the league was 33-2. That's all I'm saying....Be happy. I think it is time we have a discussion on how the Giants franchise has to be considered a Top 5 Franchise of all-time. ( Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Dallas, New York & San Francisco in that order )
@I Bleed Blue A super win. I hear you. And I am in agreement with you. For a change, the breaks fell in the Giants favor. The fumbles which did not become turnovers. The Pats best offensive weapon was injured. No BS ref calls. A reliable receiver dropping a crucial pass. A victory to enjoy.
@I Bleed Blue I care. It was a well researched post and made for interesting reading. What would you like the blog to talk about?
@capt georgeI think I stated what I wanted to talk about.
I bleed blue. Is it over the top? Perhaps. And did he drop it because of pressure of the moment? I do not think so. Welker is a guy who does not drop passes. Besides the turf being an alleged problem, the area of the drop has to be considered too. A football field is unlevel. Was there a down slope in the are of question? I could not cull any information about this. Unless we are able to inspect the field in person, we may never know.
my thoughts are that brady made a poor pass because welker had to twist and jump--remember he is short--and that welker could make this difficult catch maybe half the time but didnt. slow motion is deceptive and makes it look much easier than it really was.
@xtian Agree. It would have been an outstanding catch if he had made it. I'm very surprised Brady said he'd throw it there again. Given how badly Welker had beaten the DBs, there were certainly easier ways to make that play
The pass was extremely difficult to catch, and in other circumstances the "drop" would not even raise an eyebrow. Welker had to rapidly twist as he was running downfield, jump as high as he could, and then extend as far as possible up and to his right just to get his hands on the ball. Because of all this and maybe because as Glenn points out he couldn't fully twist his pivot foot on the turf, he had zero margin for error. And in trying to grab the ball he erred by an inch or two so he missed it.
As a Giants fan I think more about the blown coverage. I know that with the SB victory we don't need to think of the bad stuff, and also that the defense is credited for improving in the last 2 games of the regular season and the postseason, but I still wonder at the totally blown coverages against key receivers. In addition to Welker, these include Jennings twice for potential TDs (Rodgers misses the first, and Osi strips the second) and Vernon Davis 2d TD 1 on 1 against Phillips who's beaten as soon as he lines up two yards outside of Davis on the line of scrimmage. It makes me wonder whether they really shed the problem which plagued them during the season.
I also think the impact of that play is exaggerated - if Welker catches that ball, NE has a first down at about the 20 with 4 minutes left and a 2 point lead. The game isn't over: If they don't score a TD, Eli still gets the ball back with plenty of time to win the game. And the Pats still had a play to go for the first down. Romo's overthrow to Austin running past Ross with 2:20 left in the first Dallas with the boys up by 5 (a few minutes after they had gift wrapped at TD for Bryant) was much more likely to have ended the Giants' season if Austin had caught it.
I'm sorry but this analysis is way over the top and unnecessary. Welker dropped a ball he normally catches. With all your analysis Glenn, you neglect to talk about "PRESSURE OF THE MOMENT" and that plays a big part of this. Ball is dropped by a very good receiver. Giants take over and a 38 yard pass completion to the Giants 3rd best receiver gets the job done. Period. End. The Giants now have their 4th Super Bowl title in 25 years. Now that is worth talking about!!!
As a Giants fan I must say that they were lucky indeed to have won the Super Bowl. The video of the catch overrides the tortured analyses of the experts. Welker's whole body was facing the ball, which entered his hands and then was dropped. Nobody near him. And it appears to me that Welker knew he muffed the catch based on his body english on the ground after the play was over.
@booneavenueboy yes, his body language clearly indicated he knew he could have and should have made that catch. Did Brady make the catch harder because it was put in a spot where it wasn't 'easy?' Yes. But all we really have are the words we quoted from Welker in the recap of the Super Bowl that night... "It's a play I never drop, I always make." I admire the responsibility the WR accepts in that situation. After watching that play over and over from the different angles on the youtube etc.. I exhale and remind myself.. THE NY FREAKING GIANTS ARE SUPER BOWL XLVI CHAMPIONS! K*ss my a** Rodgers. At the end of the day, you and your receivers didn't get the job done either. Very little separated all of these teams. THE NY GIANTS ARE SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS!