You may not have known it from casually watching the game or reading the stat sheet, but Clay Matthews III (CM3) was the focal point of the Super Bowl. When Matthews was on the field, both the Steelers’ and the Packers’ strategies revolved directly around Clay Matthews.
As I went back and watched the TV broadcast for the first time (I had only seen the game live previously), I decided to focus in on Matthews. All the post game talk had been about how Matthews was used by the Packers, but I was also curious about what the Steelers did to counteract the potential descriptiveness of Matthews.
I’ll discuss the Steelers’ strategy and then move on to Dom Capers evil plan for CM3. But first, here’s a tally of what Matthews did on each play.
Matthews Tracking Summary:
16: Running plays AT CM3
4: Running plays AWAY FROM CM3
23: Controlled Blitzes: (comes and then pulls up – making sure Roethlisberger didn’t have an escape route to his side)
10: Real Blitzes: (CM3 coming all out after the QB)
6: Drops in coverage
8: Plays “I Spy” with Roethlisberger.
The next time someone criticizes Clay Matthews for not having a sack or making any big plays in a game, remember this; one way or another, opposing teams must structure their entire game plan to account for Clay Matthews.
Some teams have taken the approach of double and triple teaming him and running their offense away from his side. The 49ers tried this, and I wrote about it in a previous Matthews Film Study of the San Francisco 49ers game.
Pittsburgh, as might be expected with Mike Tomlin and Dick Lebeau as their coaches, took the opposite approach. They decided to go right at him. Their plan was to run at him all day with good old fashioned power football. Tight ends, fullbacks, tackles, pulling guards, you name it, they ran them head on at Matthews all day.
On NFL Network’s Sound FX (around the 2:34 mark), Steelers running back coach Kirby Wilson says to Issac Redman about Matthews, “He doesn’t want to take on the run. He’s a pass-rush specialist… We’re going to keep pounding their ass on this play and make this guy quit eventually.”