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Old 02-05-2009, 05:18 PM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Super Bowl blueprint: A plan of attacking

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Super Bowl blueprint: A plan of attacking

February 5, 2009

Vinnie Iyer

After the New York Giants won Super Bowl 42, the rest of the copycat NFL sought to follow two of the staples of their success -- a strong, deep running game and a relentless, prolific pass rush. And for the most part, that was a good plan.

During the past regular season, six of the top seven teams in rushing offense advanced to the playoffs. In terms of rushing of passer, 11 of the top 17 teams in total sacks played into January, with 14 of them finishing above .500.

The Pittsburgh Steelers proved just how important the latter statistic is, going from leading the AFC with 51 sacks to winning Super Bowl 43. But then you also notice that neither the Steelers, nor their opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, really had a good running game all season, ranked 29th and 31st, respectively, in yards per carry.

The truth is, the NFL is now a passing league, and the championship blueprint no longer is just about running the ball and stopping the run. In addition to having a quarterback and wide receiver that can connect for big plays, a team must also be able to put pressure on the opposing quarterback and force some takeaways.

For the Giants, Eli Manning delivered in the clutch by throwing to Plaxico Burress. Justin Tuck then took care of business in getting after Tom Brady.

On Sunday, the Steelers obviously had their own special passing connection working with Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes. Their top edge pass rushers, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, both had a major impact on the game.

Even in a losing cause, the Cardinals were successful with Kurt Warner pushing the ball downfield to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Defensively, Darnell Dockett led the charge in the team getting to Roethlisberger.

In Super Bowl 43, the credit goes to offensive coordinators Bruce Arians and Todd Haley for their willingness to zip the ball around the field. Likewise, defensive coordinators Dick LeBeau and Clancy Pendergast stayed aggressive by keeping their front sevens on the attack.

The game plans were helped with throwing multiple looks, from three- and four-receiver sets to zone blitzes. Not surprisingly, the back-and-forth guessing game led to an exciting game decided by the final possessions.

Welcome to the new NFL, where there is no such thing as sitting back and just taking what the opposition gives you. The best teams are always in attack mode, throwing out the notion of a conservative offense and read-and-react defense.

What the New England Patriots did in 2007 is highly responsible for this. With their loaded passing offense, they went full throttle, never satisfied with the score in each win of their perfect regular season until they ended up scoring the most points in NFL history. They dictated play with Brady throwing the ball everywhere.

Of course, to stop such an offense, it took a defense willing to take some chances by mixing up who it would send upfield and do everything it could to get in the face of Brady. The Giants matched the Patriots' aggressiveness defensively, and they showed the athletes to execute the plan of disguising who was coming from where.

The Steelers' defense, under LeBeau, obviously excels at this, with Harrison, Woodley, James Farrior, Troy Polamalu and others. Although the Pittsburgh offense didn't always show a potent passing game because of its protection issues, Roethlisberger's big arm and ability to extend plays are key in Arians' scheme, which relies on attacking downfield -- often using Holmes.

Every playoff team that fell short of the Steelers and Cardinals' goal had some issue with not being able to attack enough.

For Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Tennessee, and the Giants (without Burress), the passing games fell short. For Atlanta, Indianapolis and San Diego, they all needed more from the pass rush. Philadelphia had something closest to the winning formula, and came closer to the Super Bowl than any of those other teams.

It also has become a big-play league. When a team can strike quickly offensively to gain the early lead, it allows its defense to be all the more aggressive in producing more big plays in the form of sacks and turnovers. A close second to scoring points is being able to flip the field position in your favor.

For the team that wins Super Bowl 44 in South Florida, it will need the successful passing and pass-rush elements that got the Steelers and Cardinals in Tampa. Looking for an early sleeper? How about the New Orleans Saints?

Under Sean Payton, the Saints' offense rarely puts on the brakes. Drew Brees is coming from a near-record yardage season, and has two fine receivers in Marques Colston and Lance Moore. Defensively, they made a smart move to bring in one of the league's most aggressive coordinators, Gregg Williams, to increase their big-play quotient there.

Attacking doesn't mean playing with reckless abandon, being both pass- and blitz-happy. It requires creativity to the point where the other team is left to play guessing games.

There are several ways to just get to the playoffs in the NFL, but getting to the Super Bowl requires a superior plan of attack.

Vinnie Iyer is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at viyer@sportingnews.com.
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Old 02-05-2009, 06:29 PM   #2
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Default Re: Super Bowl blueprint: A plan of attacking

Does Mesa never sleep?
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Old 02-05-2009, 06:51 PM   #3
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Default Re: Super Bowl blueprint: A plan of attacking


pat kirwan correctly predicted the steelers dusting off part of the patriots defensive gameplan from the rams/patriots sb....

playing the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage to jam the wr's and funnel them to the corners.

worked pretty well for the 1st 3 quarters.
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