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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Green Bay Packers Followed Patriots, Saints’ Blueprint to Beating Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers went 12-4 during the regular season, losing only to the Ravens, Saints, Patriots, and Jets. They allowed the fewest points per game in the league, and their rush defense was one of the best all time. With a defense so strong, how could the Steelers be beat? As we found out this season, it wasn’t by trying to run on them, but rather by spreading them out and throwing.

It was this observation that led both Doc and Del to pick the Packers to win the Super Bowl, and the game played out as we expected. The Packers opened up the game throwing, then they continued to throw, and they threw even more. Green Bay attempted 39 passes while rushing just 11 times (78% passes). They gained 304 yards in the air and 52 on the ground (85% of their yards through the air), showing that their plan was to throw (specifically to Jordy Nelson) on Pittsburgh.

Like we pointed out during our predictions, we figured the Packers would follow the model started by the Saints and Patriots during the regular season. On Halloween, the Saints beat the Steelers 20-10. Drew Brees went 34/44 for 305 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick in that game. New Orleans ran it 18 times for just 32 yards, meaning they passed 71% of the time and gained 90% of their yards in the air.

Two weeks later, the Patriots followed a similar model and handed Pittsburgh its worst loss of the season. They beat the Steelers 39-26 and were leading 23-3 after three quarters. Tom Brady went 30/43 for 350 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks. They ran it 24 times for 103 yards, meaning they passes 64% of the time and gained 77% of their yards by throwing it. Their play distribution is also somewhat skewed because the Pats started running the ball consistently late in the game to try and kill the clock.

The point is that even though the Steelers have a fantastic defense and stellar run defense, they’re vulnerable in pass defense. The difference is you need an MVP-type quarterback who can expose them, not just some scrub. Drew Brees and Tom Brady had their way with Pittsburgh, and so did Aaron Rodgers. And what do all three have in common? All three have been Super Bowl MVPs.

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