Super Bowl Mismatches

Updated: January 30, 2004, 12:42 PM ET
By By Ryan Early | NFL Insider
The game of pro football is predicated on individual match-ups. Coaches seek out a match-up in their favor and devise a game plan to take advantage. Each week we have previewed one lopsided match-up that should make an impact on each game, either through its exploitation or in changing a team's plans to try to compensate. For the Super Bowl, we breakdown every mismatch on the field that will help determine this year's champions.

Patriots Offense vs. Panthers Defense
LT Matt Light vs. RDE Mike Rucker

The Patriots are not known for their running attack, yet as the games have become more important late in the season and in the playoffs their success on the ground has increased. Over the last four games, they have averaged 118 rushing yards including a 96-yard effort against the Titans #1 ranked run defense. That's a 22-yard increase over their previous average. The Patriots have a nice inside-out combination in Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk. Their offensive line is known more for their pass blocking, but they do well on traps and draws to bring the defensive line to them and then seal them off from the play. While Matt Light won't blow even the undersized Mike Rucker off the ball, he will stay in front of the Panthers leading sacker and frustrate the defensive end for most of the game.

The Patriots have also stepped up in the passing game, not allowing a sack in their last two games. Light has stonewalled the Titans' Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter and the Colts' Dwight Freeney over that period.