Think you’re going to throw in Lawrence Timmons’ direction? ?
— NFL Canada (@NFLCanada) December 4, 2016
The Second Quarter InterceptionManning’s first pick of the day came following an impressive drive that started on New York’s own 29-yard line and stretched all the way into the red zone. The veteran threw for 47 yards on the drive, placing the Giants in a 2nd & 4 situation on the Pittsburgh nine-yard line at the time of the miscue.
On this play, Manning is looking to get it to tight end Larry Donnell on a seam route. There’s late pressure coming from his blind side by defensive end Leterrius Walton, but it doesn’t seem to affect his decision. Manning knew he wanted to get the ball to Donnell on this route, as it was his first read on the play.
After seeing his tight end, he looks toward the left side of the field to try to move the safety a little more away from Donnell, widening his throwing window in the process. Once Manning feels he’s looked off the safety enough, he turns back to Donnell and fires a dart towards him.
The problem was Manning seemed to never have noticed middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who had moved toward Donnell prior to the throw. Initially Timmons drops straight back into the middle of the field, but once he sees Donnell break his route back inside, he moves toward him in coverage.
Manning seems to never realize this, thinking he has an open throwing lane, so he doesn’t put any air underneath the pass. Timmons then undercuts the throw and comes away with the interception.
This play is an obvious, consistently favorite call of head coach Ben McAdoo. On mid-yardage passing situations in the red zone, the tight end seam route has been a go-to for the Giants since McAdoo first took over as offensive coordinator two years ago.
Against the San Francisco 49ers last season, the Giants won on a touchdown to Donnell on the same route, only to the opposite side of the field. In a 2014 game against the Washington Redskins, Donnell produced a huge three touchdown breakout game, with two of the scores coming off that same seam route.
This isn’t the first time Manning has been picked off in 2016 while trying to make this throw. Poor ball placement turned what could have been a Will Tye touchdown into a Redskins’ interception during Week 3. With so much film on the Giants running this route in similar situations, a ten-year wily veteran like Timmons knew what was coming when he saw Donnell coming back toward the middle of the end zone.
Had Manning seen Timmons, it would have been a difficult, albeit doable throw. Timmons just barely hauls in the pick over his head, but had Manning floated it just a tad higher, the result could have been a touchdown. Donnell had inside position on the safety and the extra time the higher pass would have taken to reach him would likely have not mattered.