Super Bowl 2011: Green Bay Packers Linebacker Clay Matthews Looks To Break Out
Super Bowl 2011 has the main on-field story line of the Green Bay Packers' two elite pass rushers, nose tackle B.J. Raji and linebacker Clay Matthews, trying to penetrate a banged-up Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line in order to throw Ben Roethlisberger off his game.
Much of the talk has centered (pun not intended, but it works nonetheless) on the absence of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, and what to expect from his replacement, Doug Legursky. Most have analyzed the potential matchup between Legursky and Raji, who usually lines up front and center on the Green Bay defensive line.
But an interesting take that this piece raises is the fact that Legursky's biggest concern might not be Raji after all, but instead could be Clay Matthews. Raji is an up-the-middle pass rusher, but his bursts through the line usually come at the expense of opposing interior guards, not from direct overpowering of centers.
Clay Mathews, however, picked up eight of his 13.5 sacks during the regular season from pass rushes that went straight up the middle, according to numbers pulled together by STATS, Inc. How would a linebacker that is listed as an outside linebacker end up rushing up the middle?
The answer comes from the Packers relying on lots of movement and re-shuffling of their defensive personnel prior to snaps. Matthews often shifts inside pre-snap, but even more often, he uses spin moves or re-directional rushes to end up attacking the middle of opposing offensive lines.
So Doug Legursky will have his hands extremely full in Super Bowl XLV, as he'll have to first and foremost account for the numerous shifts and alterations to formation the Packers might try before the snap. Then he'll have to deal with the possibility of the traditional up-the-middle rush that Raji might provide. If Raji is accounted for elsewhere, though, Legursky will have to keep alert to any surprise attacks from Matthews or other Green Bay personnel not usually rushing up the middle.
It's a lot to handle for a largely untested offensive lineman. Clay Matthews is playing at an extremely high level, and has benefited greatly from defensive coordinator Dom Capers' creativity in scheming for the pass rush. The key for Pittsburgh is getting a grasp on Capers' creative schemes as early as possible in the Super Bowl.
For Matthews, he's hoping that Legursky and the Pittsburgh offensive line are slow learners and he can continue to find gaps to blitz through and get Big Ben on the ground.
Want more coverage of today's big game? Check out Super Bowl XLV: 10 Reasons This Could Be The Best Super Bowl Ever.
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