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.”
Part 1 of this two-part article can be found here.
Dallas Texas Super Bowl Baby! The day was finally here. The cellphone alarm woke my cousin Pete and I up around 8:30AM. We each took a quick shower, changed into our game day attire, and headed downstairs for the free breakfast at the hotel.
Once again, there were plenty of Steeler Jerseys to be seen, with just a spattering of Green and gold mixed in. We joined a couple of fellow Packer fans about our age, introduced ourselves and talked Packers while we ate breakfast. These two fans were originally from Wisconsin, but had both re-located after getting married (to Alabama and North Carolina, I believe).
They talked about some of their early memories in Green Bay and were eager to hear our stories about how we became and stayed Packers fans while living in New Jersey. We had planned to get out earlier and make it over to the NFL Experience, but ended up talking with these guys for almost an hour.
One of the guys was convinced my cousin would make the perfect Vince Lombardi, in a fedora and topcoat and kept coming back to that during the conversation. They randomly threw a little Packers history trivia at us, probably figuring what do a couple of guys from Jersey know, but of course, we handled it all without a problem.
Finally, it was time to hit the road and start our game day adventure. We took off for the “NFL Experience” at the Dallas Convention Center and found we had to park almost a half mile away. The tiny lots next to the Convention Center were already full. We walked along to the Convention Center with a couple of Cowboys fans and their uber-cute girlfriends. As I do with any Cowboys fan I meet, I made them say “thank you” to the Packers for getting Wade Phillips fired. Saying thank you is the least they can do, right?
Approaching the Convention Center, we were dwarfed by a giant XLV as we proceeded into the building. There was a $25 fee, and to be honest, I had no idea why I was paying or what I was paying for, but it didn’t much matter. This was Super Bowl Sunday, damn it – I expected to be fleeced.
What an excellent adventure it was. As I sit down to write this, I realize that at this time last week, I was on Texas I-30, driving to Cowboys Stadium. A battle between two teams with the most respected organizations in sports awaited, and the game did not disappoint. Especially if you were a Packers Fan.
Since returning to reality back home in NJ, work has kept me inundated and unable to properly enjoy or reflect on that weekend (really, I could have used a week off after the game – I’ll have to remember that if there’s a next time).
So as I sit here on this football-less Sunday, I’m going to look back and properly reflect on my experience. And as Elton John said, “I hope you don’t mind if, I put down in words…. how wonderful life is when the Packers are Champs.” Sorry Elton…
3:00AM Saturday, Feb 5th. RING! RING! RING! The alarm goes off. “You have got to be kidding me”, I think to myself. But there was no hesitation. I jumped out of bed and into the shower. I was on the road by 3:45 to catch a 6:20 flight out of JFK airport in NY.
Just getting into Dallas had been a huge concern all week. I closely watched weather.com and accuweather.com to check on Dallas weather and NY weather. I followed the series of storms hitting Dallas, and the multiple airport closures. I had just paid more than 3 times face value for a Super Bowl ticket, what if I can’t get there? Not to mention there was a storm predicted for Saturday morning in NY. What if I’m delayed there and miss my connecting flight? Ahhhhhhhhhh!
Fortunately, I’m really not the worrying type, so I put all of this out of my head and convinced myself all would be OK.
As I hit the road, I leave to light flurries. The latest weather report predicted a 7:00 start to the snow in the airport area. So basically, I am racing the snow east to the airport, and if all goes well, I’ll be in the air by the time the first snow hits in NY.
We’ve seen how Super Bowl winners and losers both get plundered for spare parts after they win their championships.
Jonathan Vilma and Jammal Brown were lured away from the ’09 Saints. Bryant McFadden and Larry Foote left the ’08 Steelers. Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby all eventually departed Arizona. The Packers will have to deal with eager suitors for Cullen Jenkins and James Jones, among many others.
Re-signing Jenkins should be the priority for this club in the offseason, depending on how effective they think Johnny Jolly can be. It’ll be interesting to see how much money they’re willing to give Jones, as well as how much he’ll be offered by clubs that saw his big plays against Atlanta and his big drops against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
There’s no indication that Donald Driver will hang up his cleats, but if he does (or his $5 million salary is deemed too high for a No. 3 WR) and Jones leaves, the Packers will be forced to take a receiver high in the draft.
Also on draft day, the Packers will have decisions to make on their offensive line. Chad Clifton coming back for another year would help, but the Packers will have to figure out if Bryan Bulaga can be their long-term LT. We also need to find a permanent fixture at RT if that’s the case. A dedicated return specialist might be in the mix, along with competition at kicker.
Daryn Colledge, long regarded as the weak link on the offensive line, should face fierce competition in training camp from a T.J. Lang fully recovered from wrist surgery last offseason.
The Packers will have an abundance of players in training camp, including a barbershop quartet of OLBs (Walden, Zombo, Poppinga, Jones) and a bouquet of strong safeties (Bigby, Peprah, Burnett, Smith). I’m excited to see what Frank Zombo looks like in his second season of transitioning from defensive end to OLB. Additionally, this might be the year that Thompson spends a high pick on a complement to CMIII (Casey Matthews, anyone?)
A.J. Hawk’s $10 million-for-this-year contract will need to be restructured. If a salary cap is reinstated, the Packers will be spending a ton of their money at ILB (Chillar, Barnett and Bishop all have fairly recent new contracts) and may consider trading one of them away.
Met up with a plethora of great Packers fans last night. I will write about it during the week, after I’m none basking in the glow of yet another Packers Championship.
Packers 24, Steelers 20.
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.
Whew. It’s Friday afternoon-journey-into-night as I’m typing this, and we are almost at kickoff. Or close enough, anyway. Maurkice Pouncey is out, Aaron Smith is out, Erik Walden is questionable and Frank Zombo is probable. I’m going nuts over here. (Before I forget, here’s two good links for information.)
THREE THINGS THE PACKERS HAVE TO DO TO WIN THIS GAME
1. Protect Aaron Rodgers. Pick up the blitzes, account for Troy Polamalu, give him time to find the Packers’ receivers downfield against the Steelers’ average corners. The Packers will run just enough for the play-action fake to have some credibility, so use it when it’s there. The Steelers have three men on defense that can make the game-changing play on any given snap: Polamalu, James Harrison and LaMar Woodley. Shutting down two of them is damn near impossible, but if the Packers can minimize their impact, they have a solid chance here. Rodgers will have to be as elusive as he was against Atlanta or New York, and more so.
2. Get Roethlisberger on the ground. We all know that Roethlisberger is one of the hardest quarterbacks in the league to sack; 6’5″, 241 and incredibly strong, he can throw the ball with defenders draped all over him. Much has been made this week of the Packers sacking Big Ben five times in 2009, but missing five others. Cullen Jenkins, this year, has missed more sacks then anyone I’ve ever seen. The Packers will get pressure against the Steelers’ offensive line; that’s a given. But “pressures” won’t win this game. Sacks will, and forcing Roethlisberger into terrible throws. A few turnovers would help the Packers immeasurably.
The Steelers will hit you. They will go out and act like the toughest team on the field, and usually, they are. Everyone saw Hines Ward break Keith Rivers’ jaw. Everyone saw the hits James Harrison leveled this season. That’s part of the Steelers’ personality. That’s what they’re known for. They’re brutal and they’re confident. The Packers aren’t going to break the Steelers’ resolve, particularly not with experience.