Marquee Matchups Review

| October 13, 2011

This week in Marquee Matchups we take a look at three matchups that didn’t pan out quite as may have been anticipated given the tale of the tape.
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In Houston we take a look at a battle pitting brute force against finesse that set the foundation for the Raiders stifling of a Texans’ offense. In Minnesota, we dissect the inevitable when an All-Pro defensive end matches up with an offensive tackle from the other end of the scale. Then, to round out the week, we head off to Indianapolis, where two players stepped up and proved why this sport isn’t played on paper as the best pass rusher in the league from the last two seasons is shutout.
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Houston LG Wade Smith vs. Oakland DRT Richard Seymour
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The Oakland Raiders showed up emotionally ready to play and honor their late owner this Sunday in Houston and nowhere was that passion and drive to win for Al Davis more evident than on their defensive line. Against a Texans offensive line that has looked excellent to start the season, the Raiders’ D-line was simply dominant.

It would perhaps be unfair to call this a matchup of technique against physicality but this how it appeared to play out as the Raiders defensive line, led by Richard Seymour simply didn’t let the Texans win the first contact and establish the zone scheme.

The man left with the unenviable task of trying to block Seymour was Wade Smith who simply never contained him in the run or pass games. Smith wasn’t graded for a single positive block against Seymour all game long, the dominance from Seymour lasted from early in the first quarter until the end of the game. Matt Schaub will be seeing Seymour in his nightmares this week so often was the former Patriot in the backfield with him.

Against Smith, Seymour picked up two sacks, one hit and four pressures as he led the charge in a pass rush that didn’t let the Houston passing game, minus Andre Johnson, settle.
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Headline Play
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Seymour was dominant against the Texans’ interior offensive line but it was Smith who took the brunt of the punishment. At 9:33 in the first quarter with the Texans driving inside the Raiders’ 10-yard-line, with a 1st-and-goal from the 6, Seymour was able to get under the pads of Smith standing him up and forcing Arian Foster outside. From here, Seymour was able to shed the block and get outside to tackle Foster for a loss as the Texans’ back also had to cut around the penetration of Desmond Bryant. Any number of plays would have fit here for Seymour; simply put, Seymour and others on the Raiders’ defensive line were too much for the previously impressive Houston group.
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Arizona LT Levi Brown vs. Minnesota DRE Jared Allen
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This is the sort of matchup that helps a pass rusher pad out his next contract and boost his season stats. Jared Allen didn’t necessarily need that boost, boasting seven sacks entering this week, but the beat down he put on Levi Brown in the Metrodome this week is the sort of individual performance that identifies the gulf between the very best and the very worst in the NFL.

Ever since Levi Brown entered the league, he and Jared Allen have consistently been at opposite ends of the performance spectrum; Brown never living up to his status as a first round draft pick while Allen consistently showing why the Vikings gave so much to Kansas City to acquire him. That proved no different this week, unlike our final matchup where two unproven players stepped up to shut out an elite pass rusher, Levi Brown showed again this week why he is a danger to his quarterback on any given week, let alone when he faces a player the caliber of Allen.

Brown yielded two sacks, one hit and four pressures to Allen (with another nullified by a penalty), marking the third time in five games this season that Brown has yielded two sacks to Kevin Kolb’s blind side. This was also the fourth time in five games that Brown has yielded six total pressures, an alarming rate for a blind side tackle to be giving up pressure at. Brown was a failure at right tackle and the decision to move him to left tackle was baffling at the time, with his continued poor performance, it’s now surely only a matter of time before Brown is jettisoned from Arizona.
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Headline Play
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In a game where Allen beat Brown for two sacks, a hit and five pressures, it’s possibly doing him a disservice to only pick out one play but early in the fourth quarter (9:45 to be precise) Allen’s dominance was encapsulated in one effort. Allen was quick off the snap and Brown simply could not cope with the speed and strength of the Viking off of the edge. Allen quickly got around and turned his shoulders past Brown, not allowing even a hold as he closed quickly to sack Kolb.
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Indianapolis OT’s Jeff Linkenbach and Quinn Ojinnaka vs. Kansas City OLB Tamba Hali
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Facing Curtis Painter in only his second career start, with Tamba Hali going up against a pair of unproven offensive tackles, the Kansas City Chief defensive backs must have been licking their chops at the prospects of some dead duck passes to pick off. Courtesy of a fine display from Jeff Linkenbach and Quinn Ojinnaka that pressure never came and consequently, neither did the interceptions for the Kansas City defensive backfield.

Linkenbach and Ojinnaka both have the sort of track records that usually would lead to career days for Hali, but that simply didn’t transpire this week as both raised their games, with only Linkenbach yielding a single pressure to Hali. With both coming to play, Hali couldn’t pick one side and sit there while getting after Painter; he played both sides and was equally fruitless on his pass rush from either.

On only four occasions did the Colts’ offensive tackles receive help from backs or tight ends in pass protection, all of this fine work they did keeping Painter upright was their own work. Offensive tackles are quick to be derided when they leave their quarterback with no chance of success. As impressive as Painter’s display was on Sunday his OTs deserve just as many plaudits for their display.
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Headline Play
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It’s tough to pick a highlight play for an offensive lineman, realistically you don’t want highlight reels for them, you want them to go completely unnoticed. That said, the job that Quinn Ojinnaka does on Tamba Hali on Pierre Garcon’s 67 yard touchdown reception in the second quarter is more than noteworthy. Hali takes off to the outside early but Ojinnaka is able to slide out and neutralize him perfectly. Getting good first contact to knock Hali off balance, the Chiefs’ pass rusher never recovers. This allows Painter the time to pump fake and go deep. At the end of the play, the Colts were up by two touchdowns.
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