Super Bowl 2011
by Tony Medley
No surprise to me that Chicago
didn’t belong on the same field with Green Bay (in fact I think I said
that last week). Whoever won the Green Bay-Philly game was going to the
Super Bowl. And Green Bay was lucky Michael Vick threw a pass to the
wrong guy at the end of the game.
Chicago’s cover 2 is very well
played by their two safeties. But there was a huge hole in it on the
left side zone between the line and the safeties and every third and
long in the first half, Rodgers found it for a long completion. While
Rodgers couldn’t throw the long pass, he was able to show the
intermediate pass to open receivers against this weakness (which is
evident in all cover 2 defenses). The game was the rout I expected until
Chicago got lucky and Rodgers got hit in the head, Green Bay thought the
game was won and pulled in its offense, and Cutler went out. Had the
game gone on a little longer, the Chicago third string quarterback might
have pulled it out.
The Steelers-Jets game can be
summed up in two words, “Brian Schottenheimer.” The Jets’ offensive
coordinator tied Sanchez’s hands all year long and the biggest game of
the year was no different. There’s an old axiom in football, “establish
the run to establish the pass.” Problem is, that doesn’t work when
you’re playing against the top run defense in the league, which was
After Pittsburgh scored on
that long first drive, ever time the Jets got the ball in the first
half, Schottenheimer started with a run. Each time it was stopped at the
line of scrimmage, so Sanchez was always faced with a second and long,
which was disaster for the Jets’ first half offense.
But that wasn’t the end all of
Schottenheimer’s mistakes. The Steelers only earned two touchdowns, so
the Jets should have gone into half down 14-0, but with little time
remaining on the clock, Schottenheimer had Sanchez throwing, resulting
in a sack, fumble, and 10 more points.
Finally during the half time
somebody on the Jets realized that in order to run against the Steelers,
you must establish the pass. Then you can run. In the second half
Sanchez was allowed to throw on first down and the Jets’ offense got
into gear. Sanchez’s effective passing game allowed the Jets to get off
some valuable runs.
But Schottenheimer still
wasn’t through. The Jets, down 24-14, had a 1st down on the
Steelers one yard line. Schottenheimer called two passes, one of which
should have been intercepted and run back for a TD. Score a touchdown
there, and the Jets will win the game. No wonder Rex Ryan was so angry.
Next year if Schottenheimer is still here, I’m going to be looking for
another team for whom to root.
But both games are instructive
for the Super Bowl. Sorry to tell my Packers’ friends, but Green Bay
will be lucky to beat the Steelers. Green Bay had no competition against
Chicago (who had no competition against Seattle). The NFC is woefully
weak, especially compared with the AFC which has at least four teams
stronger than anyone in the NFC; Pittsburgh, the Jets, New England, and
Baltimore. Even though Pittsburgh has injury problems on its offensive
line, it is a much better rounded team than Green Bay.
Green Bay’s offensive line is
still suspect. Rodgers still is run out of the pocket a lot, and the
running game is unlikely to be very successful given the weakness of the
offensive line. But Green Bay isn’t straddled with a guy like
Schottenheimer, so will be smart enough to establish the pass first with
their exceptional quarterback Rodgers. If the passing game works, James
Stark will have a better opportunity to run and Green Bay might have a
However, Rodgers was no
Superman in the second half of the Bears game. Which one will show up
Sunday? Also, a fly in his ointment is Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh’s
defensive player of the year. He freelances all over the place. Nobody
knows where he is or what he’s going to do, even Pittsburgh. If he’s
healthy, something I doubt, he could be a big difference because he’s in
a class by himself as a disruptive force.
Pittsburgh’s running game is
much stronger than Green Bay’s, even if their starting center doesn’t
play. Rashard Mendenhall was virtually untackle-able against the Jets,
and the Jets have a good run defense. Their quarterback, Ben
Roethlisberger, is a proven winner and is extremely difficult to sack.
Their receivers have specific alternate routes to run when
Roethlisberger is flushed out of the pocket. That’s when lots of their
big plays occur.
Everyone is gushing about how
these are the two best teams facing one another, but nobody mentions
that neither Green Bay nor Pittsburgh scored a point in the second half
of their conference championship games. If they are so great, how did
they each lose the second half badly?
I like Green Bay, but
Pittsburgh seems much the stronger team to me, and I can’t understand
how Green Bay could be favored.
February 4, 2011