GreenBay Packer Nation

UnPACK the Play: Mike Neal Lookin’ Like Clay Matthews

The Packers had a dominant outing against the Patriots, no matter what the final score was. If the Patriots can complain about the pass breakup of HHCD to Gronk in the endzone, the Packers can decry many more TD catches that were just not quite meant to be. We broke down the Jordy Nelson TD pass just before the half that gave us six points in a game won by five. Now it is time to unpack the final Patriots offensive play, in which the Packers got their first sack of the night.

What you may not have noticed about this play is that the Pack went with 3 down linemen and Julius Peppers was in the center as an offset nose:

With this set, it is expected that Julius will take up two defenders, the center and the Patriot’s right guard. That, of course, is assuming that the Packers do not stunt cross…which they do. But the real magic happens on the right side of the defense (offense’s left) Where Daniels is down lineman but Neal is in a two-point. At this point, though, we should pause and note that the Packers are in dime, with six defenders in the backfield. That means that the Packers rush is short a man because the Patriots keep the running back in pass pro:

Compare that to the Packers front:

This set is custom made to put as many pass defenders on the field as possible, with the tradeoff being the pass rush is rendered anemic by the mismatch. But the Patriots didn’t count on the Packers Mike Neal…in very “Matthews-like” fashion, Neal gets his inside shoulderpad underneath right tackle Nate Solder, and with that leverage makes a game changing play. Tom Brady’s step-drop is right at the depth of Neal which means that the barn door is open for Neal to get a strong hand on Brady:

Note that this is his outside hand which is not ideal but gives enough stopping power to allow Mike Daniels to follow up the slow-down with a sack. This play, combined with the required first down by Aaron Rodgers on the ensuing drive, sealed the fate of the Patriots and delivered a victory for the Green Bay Packers.

If the Packers can continue this trend of a strong pass rush followed up by great play in the defensive backfield (great job Ha Ha!), this team has a realistic chance of realizing its ultimate goal.

GO PACK!!!