Bill Belichick tempted fate on catch

Updated: February 10, 2012, 3:29 PM ET
ESPNBoston.com

Bill Belichick dared the New York Giants to throw to Mario Manningham and paid the price.

Before the Giants' game-winning drive in Super Bowl XLVI, the New England Patriots coach told his team not to get beat by receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

"This is still a Cruz-and-Nicks game," Belichick was heard saying in audio recorded for NFL Films. "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."

The Giants started the drive at their own 12-yard line with 3:46 left in the game and trailing 17-15. On the first play, Giants quarterback Eli Manning dropped a perfect pass down the sidelines to Manningham, who somehow made the catch and got two feet down for a 38-yard gain.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was also miked for NFL Films and after watching the replay of the grab, he said, "He caught it."

"That was flattering," said Cruz, who saw what Belichick said about the defensive strategy. "It was crazy just to hear him say on the sideline in the Super Bowl, he was talking about me and Hakeem, that was definitely a crazy moment to hear him say that. 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.

[+] EnlargeMario Manningham
Win McNamee/Getty ImagesMario Manningham caught this pass on the sideline in the fourth quarter, somehow getting both feet in bounds.

"It just says how talented we are (as a receiving corps) and how you can't really key in on one guy because at any point in time, all of us can really do well," he added. "And in the running game as well, once you try to sit back and play all these different coverages and try to stop us, that is when Ahmad (Bradshaw) or (Brandon) Jacobs will gash you."

Cruz said he saw some double teams while in the slot in the second half.

"More so on third downs, when I was in the slot, I was getting a lot of double teams," Cruz said. "They kept (Devin) McCourty over the top of me and (Kyle) Arrington right in my face. It was a challenge and it was cool, I was just happy my teammates came to play and Mario made some great catches on that final drive."

The Patriots challenged whether Manningham was in bounds. They lost, the Giants were in business and went on to score the go-ahead touchdown. The Patriots actually allowed Bradshaw to waltz into the end zone with about a minute left so they would get the ball back.

Before the score, Patriots Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork are overheard telling players in the huddle: "We gotta let them score, got to let them score."

The Patriots had been forced to give up the ball after receiver Wes Welker failed to make a tough catch that would have given the Pats a key first down as they tried to eat up the clock.

Referee John Parry, talking to another official, was caught on tape saying of the Welker play: "That was the game."

Among other interesting audio released by the league, Giants players were trying to figure out the health of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. He had suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC title game and didn't appear to be at full speed in the Super Bowl.

In the third quarter, Giants linebacker Michael Boley says: "Hey, 87's a [expletive] decoy, he's a decoy. ... He's about to be outta here."

Information from ESPNewYork's Ohm Youngmisuk was used in this report.

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