Thursday, September 23, 2010
D-Gaps: Matthews at head of the Pack
By Jason Vida
(Filling you in on what you may have missed on the "other" side of the ball)
No player, regardless of position, has had a better start to the season than Green Bay Packers' linebacker Clay Matthews. After recording three sacks and a crucial fourth-and-one stop of Michael Vick in the Packers' season-opening win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Matthews made things nearly impossible for Trent Edwards and the Buffalo Bills in week two, picking up three more sacks and five quarterback hits.
With six sacks through two games, Matthews enters the third week of the season with more sacks than 25 teams. The only clubs with more sacks than Matthews (other than the Packers) are the Detroit Lions (10) and Tennessee Titans (eight). Here’s the list of players with more sacks than Matthews through two games, since sacks became an official statistic in 1982: Antwan Odom (seven in 2009) and William Gay (6.5 in 1983). That’s it. With 14 games still remaining in his sophomore season, Matthews has already tied a Packers record for most sacks by a player in his first two seasons, joining Tony Bennett at the top of the list with 16.
Polamalu’s return has Steelers defense looking super
Injuries limited the Pittsburgh Steelers' Troy Polamalu to just five games in 2009. Without their star safety, the Steelers secondary was sluggish, allowing 221.6 passing yards per game in the 11 games Polamalu missed compared to 201.8 when he played. But Polamalu’s strength is not just limiting the opponents' passing yards, it’s in forcing opposing quarterbacks into mistakes. In Polamalu’s five games in 2009, the Steelers had seven interceptions (Polamalu himself had three). In 11 games with Polamalu sidelined, Pittsburgh registered a total of five picks.
With Polamalu back in the lineup, order has been restored in the Steelers secondary as Pittsburgh enters week three tied for the league lead in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. Polamalu has two interceptions in two games, giving him nine in his last 14 regular-season games dating back to 2008.
Ravens defense still the best of Baltimore
Despite the continued development of young talent in the backfield (Joe Flacco, Ray Rice) and the offseason acquisition of Anquan Boldin, it looks like the script remains the same for the Baltimore Ravens. A subpar offensive attack will again rely on its defense to keep opponents out of the end zone. And sometimes, even that won’t be enough. Through two games, the Ravens are the only team in the league yet to surrender a touchdown, but they’re 1-1 after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The loss was the Ravens' fourth when not allowing an offensive touchdown since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002, one behind the Steelers for the most such losses over that span.
Baltimore is the first team to lose one of its first two games of a season despite not allowing a touchdown in either contest since the 2006 Denver Broncos, who allowed six field goals to the St. Louis Rams in a week one loss before beating the Kansas City Chiefs 9-6. If the Ravens hold the Browns without an offensive touchdown on Sunday, they will be the first team to not allow an offensive touchdown in the first three games of a season since the 1944 New York Giants.