Eli Manning’s 4th quarter TD pass to TE Jake Ballard to beat the Patriots in Foxborough contained many key elements – a coverage breakdown, offensive execution, and a very familiar route concept.

The situation: Patriots 20, Giants 17. On 2nd and goal from the 1, with a chance to win the game, Eli hands off to Brandon Jacobs and he gets stuffed. Which brings us to 3rd and goal, only about a foot away from the goal line, with 19 seconds left and no timeouts. The scheme: Flat-7 (corner) combination on the goal line out of Heavy Personnel (3 TE, 2 RB), and use play action to the open (weak) side of the formation. The read: deep (corner route) to short (flat route), testing the discipline of the Pats’ defense.

Let’s break it down.


On 3rd and goal with less than 20 seconds remaining and no timeouts left for the Giants, you only have one play to run before settling for a field goal and sending the game to overtime. Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride dials up a very simple, safe play: the Flat-7 route concept – a route concept we see every weekend. Out of Heavy Personnel, Jake Ballard will run the corner route and FB Bear Pascoe will run the flat route. The picture above shows the pre-snap formation, and the routes with the defenders’ coverage responsibilities. The defensive concept is a standard goal line coverage, and is actually the perfect call to defend this play. The force player (safety James Ihedigbo) will take the first receiver to the flat (Pascoe) with the linebacker (Tracy White) matching to the first vertical route up the field (in this case, Ballard’s 7-route).

Check out video of the play here.

Tracking The FB: James Ihedigbo plays his responsibility perfectly. If the Giants were going to give the ball to Jacobs again, the fullback would take a tighter angle to kick out the force player and seal any outside penetration, releasing up then out. However, Pascoe is releasing into the route scheme. He takes a wider angle outside of the tackle box to work to the flat, not working up then out, but instead releasing straight out. Eyeing his responsibility and not the QB, Ihedigbo reads the angle and attacks Pascoe’s outsise shoulder, and takes him in his flat coverage.

Run/Pass Key: The linebacker, Tracy White, has one read here: the tight end. That’s it. The tight end will give away the play here every time, so linebackers are taught in these situations to be able to read, and to know the difference, between “High Hat” (pass) and “Low Hat” (run). If the tight end blocks down, attack the line of scrimmage and play the run (the tight end will block down with his helmet low, thus, “low hat”). If he releases up the field, with a “high hat”, play your coverage.

Eyes In The Backfield: This is where the Patriots lost the game. White, a substitute LB, took his eyes off of his run/pass key and put them in the backfield. There is no reason here for White to read the backfield action; there are six down linemen in the box keying the action of the QB and the RB. His first steps are to the line of scrimmage because of his poor run key, and that allows Ballard to get a step on him. A good ball fake from Eli and Jacobs forces White to hesitate for a second, and no one in the NFL can recover from a poor read on the goal line.

The Execution: Eli gives a good play action fake to Jacobs, and delivers a difficult throw in excellent location for Ballard to make the game-winning catch. In the Flat-7 concept out in the field, the corner route breaks at a depth of 12-15 yards every time. Closer to the end zone, though, the route changes. Ballard’s 7 cut is quick, and run at a much shorter depth to create room for the QB to work the top of the route. Eli’s first read is the corner route to Ballard, and he delivers in crunch time to once again beat the Pats.

The Giants went all-in with this play call. With just one offensive play left, they executed it to perfection.