For the Super Bowl post-game analysis, let’s take a look at the key matchups that I had identified in the pre-game article:
BJ Raji vs Doug Legursky (Not Maurkice Pouncey)
Even though stat sheets aren’t going to show that BJ Raji dominated the line in Super Bowl XLV, he and the rest of the Packers defensive line unit did a terrific job.
Pittsburgh’s running backs Mendenhall and Moore were able to average more than four yards per carry and score a touchdown, but most of their rushing success was at the edge rather than up the middle. When a rushing team like Pittsburgh can’t get holes opened between the tackles they are going to have problems as the Steelers did on Sunday.
Also, the Packer’s pass rush up the middle collapsed the pocket on Ben Roethlisberger a number of times. This includes the play where Roethlisberger was forced to make a bad throw that ended up being intercepted by Nick Collins for a touchdown.
Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson vs Hines Ward and Mike Wallace
In spite of Charles Woodson’s collar bone break the Packers secondary held strong on Sunday. Wallace was able to break free a couple of times, including once for a touchdown, but he and Hines Ward were too often stopped on critical third down play that ended Pittsburgh drives and put the ball back in the hands of the Packers.
The Packers defensive backs also created two of the Packers three takeaways that ultimately proved decisive in the game where their offense didn’t turn the ball over once.
Aaron Rodgers vs Troy Polamalu
Aaron Rodgers’ numbers say it all – 304 yards, 3 passing touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. One of his touchdowns was a pass to Greg Jennings into a coverage hole that has been left open by Polamalu who had been faked out by Rodgers’ looking away from Jennings until he turned to throw the ball.
Some analysts have been saying that Rodgers should have had more yards because of all of the perfect passes that were dropped by Green Bay’s receivers. I think the important thing to note is that Green Bay’s receivers, especially Jordy Nelson, did such a fantastic job running routes and finding holes in the Steeler pass coverage that the drops just looked spectacular because they could have easily gone for touchdowns.
People expect there to be animosity between the quarterback and receiver when dramatic drops like that occur, but that’s rarely the case. When the receivers get open as often as the Packers receivers were, the conversation in the huddle is almost always a discussion of how that route succeeded or how that matchup is clearly favorable, and how to best go right back to it. Which is what Rodgers and Nelson did all night long.
Polamalu’s unit was simply unable to adjust to the Packers passing scheme and Rodgers’ execution, and this matchup went decisively for the Packers.
Pittsburgh Linebackers vs Green Bay Offensive Line
Fans will remember a game that was more or less dominated by Green Bay, but Green Bay didn’t dominate their own line of scrimmage. The Steelers pass rush was able to sack Rodgers three times on Sunday with two of those sacks coming from the linebackers. Rodgers was hurried and hit even more throughout the night and never did have an ample amount of time in the pocket.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, winning this matchup wasn’t as significant as losing the matchup between Polamalu and Rodgers, and the Green Bay quarterback was more often than not able to find his open targets before the pass rush got to him, sometimes only just.
Ben Roethlisberger vs Clay Matthews
On paper, Ben Roethlisberger clearly won the sack matchup against Clay Matthews who recorded no sacks, and the Green Bay defense which as a whole only earned one against Pittsburgh’s sturdy quarterback.
Instead of lone blitzers like Matthews fighting free and trying to make solo tackles, the Packers’ pass rush was so completely dominant that Roethlisberger never got much of a chance to slip away from tacklers as he so often does. Pockets collapsed on Big Ben all night forcing him to make bad throws including two interceptions.
When Roethlisberger did manage to escape it wasn’t backward or laterally – meaning he couldn’t throw. The pass rush from the sides (where Clay Matthews rushes from) instead pinched off behind Roethlisberger, forcing him up past the line of scrimmage where he could only run for yards rather than pass for them. Roethlisberger rushed four times for 31 yards in the game which seems like a solid rushing performance, but in reality those small victories prevented the Steelers from doing what they do best – letting Roethlisberger make time for receivers to get open for a big pass play as Santonio Holmes had done for a Super Bowl victory two years earlier.
Stay tuned for The Power Rank year-end wrap up!
Final NFL Rankings after Super Bowl, February 2011:
1. New England, 14-3, 10.65
2. Green Bay, 14-6, 9.49
3. Pittsburgh, 14-5, 6.41
4. Baltimore, 13-5, 5.83
5. New York Jets, 13-6, 5.10
6. Chicago, 12-6, 3.55
7. Philadelphia, 10-7, 3.07
8. San Diego, 9-7, 2.98
9. Indianapolis, 10-7, 2.91
10. Atlanta, 13-4, 2.55
11. New Orleans, 11-6, 2.53
12. Detroit, 6-10, 1.13
13. Miami, 7-9, 0.42
14. New York Giants, 10-6, 0.40
15. Tennessee, 6-10, 0.37
16. Cleveland, 5-11, 0.18
17. Dallas, 6-10, -0.71
18. Oakland, 8-8, -0.78
19. Houston, 6-10, -0.94
20. Minnesota, 6-10, -1.26
21. Cincinnati, 4-12, -1.36
22. Tampa Bay, 10-6, -1.40
23. Kansas City, 10-7, -2.15
24. Washington, 6-10, -2.36
25. Jacksonville, 8-8, -3.48
26. Buffalo, 4-12, -3.74
27. St. Louis, 7-9, -3.99
28. Seattle, 8-10, -4.80
29. San Francisco, 6-10, -4.80
30. Denver, 4-12, -5.70
31. Arizona, 5-11, -8.06
32. Carolina, 2-14, -12.06