Let’s talk Super Bowl XLV. A 31-25 Packers’ victory over the Steelers that brings the Lombardi Trophy home to Green Bay. My game notes, analysis, plus X’s and O’s from the NFL’s biggest stage in Dallas.
Five things that stood out
1. The Collins INT: Let’s start here, because this was an excellent play from the perspective of the pressure up front and the free safety position. DT Howard Green gets a solid push inside to hit the arm of Ben Roethlisberger trying to throw the pump-9 (fade) and the ball hangs in the air—easy bait for a free safety with range like Collins. But, even if Roethlisberger gets off a clean ball, this is still a play that Collins will make. As a safety, when you see a “pump” from the QB to No.1 on a vertical route, you break from the middle of the field. It is a free pass to go ahead and use your range to go attack the ball. Big early play in the game from Green Bay as Collins takes the INT back for a score.
ICONRodgers threw for 3 TDs on his way to winning the MVP of Super Bowl XLV
2. Rodgers on the big stage: He doesn’t stop. His WRs dropped some big passes and he took hits—clean, solid hits—for the majority of the night, but he kept throwing the football. The first TD pass to Jordy Nelson he throws to the up field shoulder in a position that prevents the DB from making a play (even with solid coverage). Plus, what I view as the biggest play of the night, Rodgers hit Greg Jennings on an inside seam route vs. 2-Man on 3rd down that was threaded vs. trail-man technique (DB sits inside and plays on the hip of the WR). You can’t throw the football better than that on those two plays. Type of QB you want to win for—and that goes for the defensive players and the special teams guys as well. His numbers (24-39-304-3 TDs) are deserving of the MVP award.
3. The lack of impact from Polamalu: That has to stand out for Pittsburgh because there was no big play feel from Polamalu. Didn’t get home on pressure and the Packers challenged him in the red zone. You need impact plays from your top tier defensive names, and in Pittsburgh that starts with Polamalu. Without a doubt a great player—and the best overall safety in the league—but I didn’t see him making the necessary plays that are a symbol of the Dick LeBeau scheme in Pittsburgh.
4. Playing without Woodson: Green Bay has done this all season with injuries, but even last night I expected a dip in production when you lose a leader in the huddle like Woodson. He impacts your sub packages vs. the multiple Hi-Lo concepts (underneath crossers) that Pittsburgh runs out of their bunch and stack looks, plus you lose a playmaker. However, typical of the Packers’ season, they got that big play when Clay Matthews and Ryan Pickett forced the fumble vs. Rashard Mendenhall. The Counter OF (guard pull weak, kick out) is a scheme that gave the Packers’ issues early, but Matthews and Pickett got penetration and played it perfectly—getting the ball on the ground. In NFL football, when you lose a big name, someone has to step forward and make something happen. That’s what I saw.
5. The Pittsburgh turnovers: Already talked about the Collins’ INT and the fumble on the Mendenhall run, but we can also add another Roethlisberger pass that was picked off by Jarrett Bush. A basic underneath concept with Bush sitting between the hashes that turns into a DB drill. Read the QB and come downhill on a ball forced from Roethlisberger. The result of those three turnovers from the Steelers? 21 points for the Packers. You give a championship team like Green Bay extra opportunities to put the ball in the end zone and you are asking to get on that plane with a loss. Very sloppy play from the Pittsburgh offense at times.
Breaking down the X’s and O’s of Super Bowl XLV
Jennings' 1st TD: Remember this, because when Greg Jennings is aligned at No.3 he is there for a reason—to get the ball. I saw it vs. Chicago this season and against the Steelers’ in ’09. Jennings first TD came on the skinny post vs. Cover 2. We talk about it all of the time, because there is a hole down the inside vertical seam over the linebackers and between the safeties. Pittsburgh doesn’t get enough depth from their linebackers in this situation. That creates space for Jennings to break his route and for Rodgers to deliver the ball. As tough as it gets in Cover 2 on the safeties. Need help underneath.
ICONJennings caught 2 TDs vs. the Steelers.
Jennings' 2nd TD: Another red zone situation with the Steelers playing 2-Man this time vs. Jennings once again aligned as No.3. The Packers run a Double Smash-7 (flag). Think two short 5-yard square-ins from No.1 and No. 2 with Jennings testing the top of the defense. What Green Bay creates is a one-one-matchup vs. Polamalu playing the deep half. Tough play for sure, but the Pittsburgh safety can’t guess and has to play Jennings through the top of the route. Yes, it does create a two-way go on the safety, but there is a reason Green Bay ran Cover 2 and 2-Man beaters all night—to challenge the Steelers’ secondary.
The 2-point conversion: Risky? Without a doubt when we see the triple option with Roethlisberger unfold. It is a great call in that situation—because it isn’t on tape. Use WR Antwan Randle El on the short motion to create a split look with the QB in the gun. Ride the back through the mesh point and then option the last man on the line of scrimmage. No different than something you would see at Nebraska in the early 90’s. I’m a big fan of option football, but the Super Bowl is the last place I figured to see it.
Using Matthews as a “spy” on Roethlisberger: I go back and forth on using a “spy” because it takes a player out of coverage. However, go back to the 3rd down play late in the game that forced a sack on Roethlisberger. Dom Capers plays coverage for Green Bay and uses a 3-man rush with Matthews spying on the QB. The key is Matthews “adding” to the rush when the Pittsburgh QB steps up into the pocket. The result is a free sack for Frank Zombo just for keeping contain. Something we talked about last week, don’t let Roethlisberger step up and move in the pocket. Its only one play, but we all know how crucial it was to get him on the ground in that situation.
-Even with the drops, Nelson won his majority of matchups. 9 receptions for 140-yards and a TD on the Super Bowl stage is impressive.
- Give credit to WR Hines Ward. The veteran (7-78-1 TD) isn’t going to test the defense vertically, but he still plays a role in this offense because he can work the short to intermediate game. Plus, the TD was an example of a veteran making something happen on a broken play.
- How about Doug Legursky? Played a solid game at center for the Steelers and I didn’t see much from the Packers’ B.J. Raji.
- TE Heath Miller (2- 12) was missing in this Pittsburgh game plan. That hurt.
- Tramon Williams. Was quiet for most of the night, but the play he made to end the game was another example of how solid his technique has been this entire post season. A basic curl route, but Williams is patient in his backpedal, reads through the receiver to the QB and then breaks downhill. A quick plant and drive on the ball.
- The final drive. I said all week that Roethlisberger is the QB I want to have in a game winning situation, but that wasn’t the case in Dallas. He didn’t play a clean game last night and I was wrong.
- Finally, I’m happy for Donald Driver. I had the chance to play with him for two years up in Green Bay. He is a true pro—and deserves that ring.
Thanks to everyone who read my game notes throughout the season. Now…it is time to start over and move on to the NFL draft.
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