Come the Super Bowl everything gets magnified, and so it is with the PFF Focus Points. Rather than simply giving you one matchup to look at, we’re dividing our efforts and taking a look at both blind-side protectors to check the impact of two of this game’s more intriguing spots.
PFF Founder and fearless leader, Neil Hornsby, takes a look at New England’s left tackle Matt Light while Sam Monson cast his eye over David Diehl, Light’s New York counterpart. Below is the account of what each learned during the game.
David Diehl vs. Patriots Defense
Diehl had an interesting week in the news. Selected by Greg Easterbrook as his non-QB/RB MVP, we spent much of the week pointing out how ridiculous a claim that was and how much of a liability Diehl had become for the Giants. In many ways, it seems as if both Diehl and the Giants were listening, given how this game went down for the left tackle.
The first thing to do is give credit where it is due, and Diehl was much better in this game than he has been in others, albeit against far weaker opposition. From 45 dropbacks (coincidentally the same number that Light saw), Diehl gave up a sack, a hit and a pressure, and one more play that was a borderline pressure as he did just enough to allow Eli Manning to get the ball away as he was put on skates by the punch of Shaun Ellis early in the fourth quarter.
As we mentioned, the level of competition wasn’t great; Diehl faced Mark Anderson on 24 snaps, Brandon Deaderick on 17, and Vince Wilfork on 14, and two of those players have no business attempting to pass rush in space on the perimeter. The only one of the three that Diehl even appeared to struggle with was Anderson and his speed, but the Giants were going to give him additional help.
In addition to chips from running backs and tight ends (and a chip coming from Brandon Jacobs can be like getting caught by the side mirror of a Mac Truck) the Giants were sliding their protection towards Diehl and ensuring that he had a constant stream of additional blocking help on his outside man. I’ve never seen as many pure double teams by the left guard and tackle on one outside rusher as I saw in this game as Kevin Boothe would make sure Baas picked up the DRT before quickly kicking out to help Diehl, regardless of the defender he was left with.
In the run game, Diehl was largely a non factor with runs either not going in his direction or being blown up way before his block mattered, but he had some plusses and negatives there. The only other play of consequence came in a strange pass-protection move from the Giants early in the first quarter where Diehl and Boothe crossed and the guard was beaten inside as Diehl came across to try and help, making it look like Diehl could have been at fault for the sack.
David Diehl had a much better game than we have come to expect from him, surrendering only minimal pressure from a sizable number of snaps spent pass protecting, but it came with significant help. The Giants deliberately slid their protection to give him a lot of double team help, and he was also lent a hand with chip blocks from backs and tight ends at times.
RESULT – Win for Diehl, assisted.
Matt Light vs. Giants Defense
On the first New England offensive play, Nate Solder came in as a tight end next to Matt Light and as he helped out against New York’s right defensive end, Jason Pierre Paul, you wondered if the Patriots were more worried about their left tackle than we were.
Light is one of those guys who “just gets it done” and rarely has very bad games, so it seemed a little over-zealous. As it turned out, the strategy on that play appeared to have been more based on field position than anything else as this was the last time he was given much by the way of overt help. Sure there were a couple of chips, but that was it as Light went head-to-head with the best the Giants had to offer and came out on top.
It looked apparent–both at the time and in hindsight–that the Giants felt Osi Umenyiora had the best chance to get pressure against him. On 28 occasions he went up against the defensive end; the 11 times he matched up with Pierre-Paul being the next most. That accounted for 60% of the snaps with the rest made up mostly of running plays where he got to the second level and was blocking one of the Giants’ linebackers.
To start with, it seemed Umenyiora’s speed might be telling and with 9:11 gone in the second quarter he faked slightly outside and then blew past inside the tackle for a very quick hit on Tom Brady. However, as the game wore on, either Light became more accustomed to him or the Umenyiora ran out of gas, because after that take-down, he never got close to the quarterback again.
As for the others, Chris Canty only achieved a late pressure while Pierre-Paul and anyone else that went up against him got nothing at all as the Patriot held firm and gave Brady a remarkably pressure-free blind side.
In the Patriots’ 19 running plays, he missed an early block getting outside on cornerback Aaron Ross that resulted in a tackle for loss. Thereafter, there was really not much of note to report; for a tackle he is adept at getting to the second level, but didn’t have any outstanding blocks of either a positive or negative nature.
Matt Light had an excellent game and, without help, initially contained and then dominated the Giants’ defensive ends. What pressure there was came from elsewhere and in 45 dropbacks all he surrendered was a single hit and one late hurry.
RESULT – Significant win for Light.