Super Bowl XXXVI positional analysis
Posted: Wednesday January 30, 2002 3:33 PM
Dr. Z breaks down the man-to-man matchups for Super Bowl XXXVI between the Patriots and Rams.
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Matchups: Offense | Defense | Special Teams | My Pick
| OFFENSE |
| Patriots || || Rams |
| Troy Brown (80)
Fearless on his routes, a monster at the point
of the catch. Killed the Steelers with his punt returns. In his rookie year
Drew Bledsoe told his father that Brown, a fellow rookie, was the most
talented player in camp.
| WR |
| Torry Holt (88)
Slightly more productive than his running mate,
Isaac Bruce, although his per-catch average is lower. Kurt
Warner's second target, after Marshall Faulk, on his hot
| Matt Light (72)
The Patriots were keeping their fingers crossed
in camp, hoping this second-round draft choice would be their starter. He made
it and has shown steady improvement all season. Struggled against the Steelers'
| LT |
| Orlando Pace (76)
The Rams' best lineman, but he came out of
the Eagles' game with a sprained knee. If he can't go the dropoff is huge, with
Rod Jones (No. 60) going to LT and Ryan Tucker (No. 50) on the
| Mike Compton (77)
Valuable free agent import from Detroit.
Just what the Pats needed to solidify a unit that was a preseason question mark.
Handles the shotgun snaps.
| LG |
| Tom Nutten (61) |
Not a good year for this normally productive
lineman. Balance is off. Has had trouble with stunts. Will be a
| Damien Woody (65)
Burly 320-pound drive blocker who battled a
weight problem at one time. Our all-pro this
year. How good is he, athletically? Well, his genes must be special because
his daughters began walking at eight and nine months, respectively.
| C |
| Andy McCollum (67)
Equally at home at guard or center. Unifying
force in the middle. Has had to cover for Nutten.
| Joe Andruzzi (63)
Highly motivated overachiever who defines
this team. Picked up off the street last year after the Packers cut
| RG |
| Adam Timmerman (63)
Heady seven-year, ex-Packer veteran. Good
on the move, skilled trap-blocker.
| Greg Robinson-Randall (64)
Second-year pro who rises above
journeyman status when he's in the flow of the running game. Had problems with
Pittsburgh's Jason Gildon last week and will have more of them against
the Rams' rush specialist, Leonard Little.
| RT |
| Rod Jones (60)
Came to the Rams from Cincinnati in June.
Became a starter when Tucker, battling an elbow injury, struggled against the
Giants' Michael Strahan in October. Tucker still isn't right.
| Jermaine Wiggins (85)
Slow 6-foot-2, 255-pounder who's built
like a guard and normally has trouble shaking coverage but was just fine (10
catches) against the Raiders in the snow. Took over for Rod Rutledge,
No. 83, as the starter last week.
| TE |
| Ernie Conwell (84)
Would be a Pro Bowler on any other offense.
Will line up everywhere and will come up with the key catch. Good day blocking
for Faulk against the Eagles. Jeff Robinson (No. 45), a 275-pound
converted DE saw a lot of action as the second TE in max-protection against the
Eagles. Ricky Proehl (87) has seen infrequent action in the four
wideout attack that removes the TE.
| Tom Brady (12)
I'm assuming his sprained ankle -- taped up, shot up, fixed up, or something -- will be OK. Gets the ball out in a hurry. Makes quick decisions. If he reinjures the ankle and Bledsoe has to play, the Pats are in trouble because the coverage scheme might break down, as it did in the second half against Pittsburgh. Bledsoe holds the ball longer and the line will have had only a week to adjust, after blocking for Brady the past 15 games.
| QB |
| Kurt Warner (13)
The question is, how bad is the rib injury he
suffered in the late going against Green Bay? The Rams loaded up with their big
guys (Conwell, Robinson and FB James Hodgins) to keep him clean last
week. Against Philly he wasn't as precise as he usually is on his medium to
deep routes, but if he's OK, he's the best.
| Antowain Smith (32)
Sturdy banger, playing his best football
after four up-and-down years in Buffalo. J.R. Redmond (No. 21) comes
in for pass-catching. Kevin Faulk (No. 33) and Patrick Pass
(No. 35) were phased out of the offense last
| RB |
| Marshall Faulk (28)
Touched the ball 35 times out of the 67
plays the Rams ran last week. Gained 159 yards on the ground in an offense that
looked like something out of the days of the Lombardi Packers. Helped
the Rams control the ball for the last 7:46 when they beat New England in
Foxboro in November. The NFL's best running back.
| Marc Edwards (44)
Functional jack-of-all-trades fullback who
blocks well enough and catches passes, mostly on screens and flat routes.
| FB |
| James Hodgins (42)
Thumping, 270-pound blocker who figured
prominently in last week's massive ground attack, but will hurt the defense as a
surprise pass-catcher, too. Az Hakim (No. 81) comes in for him as the
third wideout. A threat, but will drop the ball.
| David Patten (86)
The burner, the deep threat. Turned
possession receiver against Oakland, caught nothing deep against Pittsburgh,
although he scored the Pats' only TD on a neat, 10-yard post-corner
| WR |
| Isaac Bruce (80)
Hurt the Packers with eight catches, held to
one by the Eagles. Will test the Patriots corners deep. One of the NFL's top
long-ball receivers with a 17.3-yard average per catch.
| CONSENSUS: Rams
| DEFENSE |
| Patriots || || Rams |
| Bobby Hamilton (91)
Active ex-Jet who moves inside when
Willie McGinest (No. 55) is rushing from his side. McGinest, who didn't
start last week, had one of his best games and provides much needed speed in the
| LE |
| Chidi Ahanotu (72)
An eight-year Bucs veteran, cut in April and
picked up by the Rams in camp. Will depart on passing downs for Leonard
Little (No. 91), a 257-pound ex-LB who comes around the corner at 90
| Brandon Mitchell (96)
Fits in well in the run scheme. Not much
of a rusher, though. Comes out on passing downs.
| LT |
| Brian Young (66)
Surprising second-year pro who came on so
strong in camp that he beat out first-rounder Ryan Pickett. Pickett
(No. 79) comes in in relief.
| Richard Seymour (93)
No.1 draft who gets better every week.
Terrific against the Raiders in the snow. Still learning, but will be a great
| RT |
| Jeff Zgonina (90) |
Muscular plugger who keeps the run defense
kosher. Replaced by another ex-Buc, Tyoka Jackson (No. 97), an
effective stunter and
| Anthony Pleasant (98)
A Bill Belichick reclamation
project who's playing some of his best football after the Jets just about gave
up on him. Might not start if McGinest gets the call on that
| RE |
| Grant Wistrom (98)
Undersized with a high motor and great
pursuit ability. Makes a lot of tackles across the field. Teams always start
out trying to run on him, usually with not much success.
| Mike Vrabel (50)
Came over from the Steelers. A hustler but
not great in coverage. Pats went with their dime package against the Rams last
time and he didn't start. Ted Johnson (No. 52), normally a middle
backer, saw some action at this spot last week.
| SLB |
| Don Davis (58)
The Pats have their ex-Jets, St. Louis has its
former Bucs who followed new coordinator Lovie Smith across the
Missiissippi. Davis is a sound technician who gets the hook for Dre' Bly
when the Rams go nickel.
| Tedy Bruschi (54)
Greatly underrated. Moves to the ball well
and better in coverage than people give him credit for. Sack specialist in
college and will occasionally come on the blitz.
| MLB |
| London Fletcher (59)
Big-play guy who gave the Rams defense a
jolt of electricity on their first Super Bowl team. A bit wild and
unpredictable but his game has settled down under Smith. Good run-stopper.
| Roman Phifer (95)
Still another ex-Jet whose career was
revitalized by Belichick. Playing the best football since his days with the
Rams in the early 1990s. Active and intense, but at 33 he's starting to wear
| WLB |
| Tommy Polley (52)
Second-round draft choice who took over
during the season and had a monster game against the Packers. Records high
tackle-assist numbers and is constantly improving in coverage.
| Ty Law (34)
Former all-pro who hit a slump last year but has
picked up his game this season. Physical player who bumps at the line and will
use muscle on the speedy Rams
| LC |
| Aeneas Williams (35)
Started to slow down a bit with the
Cardinals but has been reborn in St. Louis. Makes big plays every week. Reads
the QB as well as any corner in the league. Will usually play the slot receiver
in the nickel.
| Lawyer Milloy (36)
Team leader. Inspirational type of player
who lifts his game in the crucial situations. Came up with the final pick
| SS |
| Adam Archuleta (31)
The team's third defensive No. 1 draft
choice, and the best one. Violent hitter whose coverage responsibility is still
limited in the
| Tebucky Jones (34)
Has had trouble with deep receivers, but has a good nose for the ball and will make big plays, i.e., a crucial interception in the fourth quarter last week.
| FS |
| Kim Herring (20)
Starter for the Super Bowl Ravens last year.
Steady and unspectacular. Closes well on the ball.
| Otis Smith (45)
I'm getting tired of saying this, but yes, he's
another guy who once earned a varsity letter with the Jets. Not a blazer but
very smart. A teeth-gritter who will sell out on every coverage.
| RC |
| Dexter McCleon (21)
Once everybody's pigeon, has now tightened
up his game. Always looking for the ball. Sometimes
| Terrell Buckley (No. 27) for the deep coverage. Matt
Stevens (No. 26) is the nickel backer. Terrance Shaw (No. 22)
will cover the third wideout.
|| NICKEL BACKS |
The keynote figure is Dre' Bly (No. 32), a superstar on
the rise. The Rams prefer to keep two linebackers on the field in all
long-yardage downs, but when they do go dime, Jerametrius Butler (No.
23) gets the
| CONSENSUS: Rams 5-4-3, but Belichick's unpredictability is the
| SPECIAL TEAMS |
|New England kicker Adam Vinatieri (24-for-30 field goals regular
season) made the biggest kick in the team's history, a 45-yarder in the snow
against Oakland. The 49es are still kicking themselves for letting Jeff
Wilkins (23-for-29) slip off to St.
|Patriots punter Ken Walter, picked up during the season when Lee
Johnson was cut, trails the Rams' John Baker in gross average
(40.1 to 42.1) but he's way ahead on the net (38.1 to
|St. Louis has no one to compare with dynamic punt returner Troy Brown. The
Patriots' coverage units are better, led by a league-leading 4.8 yards against
| My Pick |
| Rams 27, Patriots
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