This week’s episode of “Detail,” Peyton Manning’s film study and analysis show on ESPN+, asks a critically important question: who was Tom Brady throwing to? Here is the play in question:
On the surface, it seems pretty cut and dry. As you can see in the above clip, Rob Gronkowski pulls in an 18-yard grab on second-and-eight. So what’s there to discuss?
Despite Fox color analyst Troy Aikman heaping praise on Brady for his “unbelievable” throw, Manning isn’t certain Gronk was the intended target. In fact, after a thorough dissection of the play, Manning is pretty sure the 43-year-old meant to throw to a different receiver.
“Is he ever really looking at Gronk? I don’t think so. I think he’s on Evans,” argues Manning, who believes Brady was looking to throw a hitch to Mike Evans, but misfired. Fortunately for the veteran, Gronkowski was conveniently in the area, swooping in to save Brady’s bacon. “Watch his eyes. I’m telling you, he’s on Evans.”
While some saw Brady’s sideline dart to Gronk, which occurred during the Bucs’ 38-10 rout of Green Bay in Week 6, as the latest masterstroke in the career of a living legend, Manning, for one, is holding his applause. “Will we get Tom to admit who he was throwing to? I don’t think so,” said Manning, acknowledging his rival’s well-documented stubborn streak. “He wouldn’t admit that he didn’t know that it was fourth down. There’s no way he’s gonna’ admit that he wasn’t throwing to Gronk.”
Luckily Brady didn’t have to explain himself after the game, a luxury granted by the more forgiving nature of Zoom press conferences. “How lucky are these guys?” asked Manning. “The Zoom interviews, they’re easy to do. You don’t have to explain it, but on ‘Detail,’ we’re gonna’ call it out.”
This is probably more teasing than anything—despite Brady and Manning’s on-field rivalry, there was never any real animosity between them. And certainly, Brady deserves credit for leading the Buccaneers to an impressive 5-2 start, their best since 2010. But while the rest of the world fawns over Brady, Manning is of the firm belief his completion against the Packers was, as Bob Ross would call it, a happy accident.