All week I’ll be bringing you, our faithful readers, various keys to the game in no discernible order. Here’s the first one:
Charles Woodson vs. Amani Toomer
Eli Manning has been nothing short of rock solid so far in the playoffs. A big reason for that is his ability to find Amani Toomer on his second and even third read. Watching the games against the Buccaneers and the Cowboys, you can see time and again he comes off his first read rather quickly (usually Burress) and moves his eyes to find Toomer. Whether this is by design (which I doubt) or Manning trusting Toomer the most out of all his receivers (which I find more likely) he has been able to make plays both big and small with Toomer on the receiving end.
In the playoffs, this has happened due mainly to one thing - the opposing teams have had their best corner on Burress for the duration of the game. With his injures lingering, Burress has been at less than full strength against the likes of Terrence Newman and Ronde Barber (yes, the Bucs played mostly zone, but they usually had Barber on Burress’ side) meaning Toomer has been seeing the likes of Phillip Buchanon and Jaques Reeves. That will be worlds apart from facing Charles Woodson, who is on another planet compared to those stiffs.
Now, real football is not Madden. You don’t just lock one-on-one corner-on-receiver and never worry about it again. No doubt, Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will be working on all sorts of ways to move Toomer and Burress away from the perimeter (and the Packers’ corners) and move them into the slots (and the Packers’ safeties). But for the majority of the contest, you’ll see Burress vs. Harris and Toomer vs. Woodson, and if his first two playoff games are any indication, Manning will be looking for Toomer, but this time, more often than not, he won’t like what he sees.