Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White never wished to face the Green Bay Packers this Saturday. Instead, White expressed his fondness of taking on a mid-strength Seattle Seahawks side ahead of the Wild Card round.
One dash to the endzone thanks to Marshawn Lynch, and it’s fair to say that White is now familiar with the term “be careful what you wish for”.
While the Falcons may be cursing their bad luck at the present time though, Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff were pleased by the team’s overall performance a week ago against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.
In just about every area of the game Green Bay excelled. Yes, the issue of turnovers is a dangerous concern for Aaron Rodgers and the offense, but the blitzing prowess that defensive coordinator Dom Capers has instilled in this team shines through significantly heading into Atlanta.
However, don’t place all your eggs in one basket.
In rebuttal to Green Bay’s blitzing scheme that finally ended Vick’s potential MVP season, stands an offensive lineman that controlled the Packers six weeks ago when these two teams met during Week 12.
His name is Tyson Clabo.
Experts that know him call Clabo a force. He’s arguably one of the best right tackles in the NFL. And if you judge a player by his resume, Clabo’s certainly checks out after six impressive years in the league.
This weekend not much is expected to change at the Georgia Dome.
Occupying Smith’s unique bag of tricks is his offensive line, which has won an abundance of games for the Falcons during their 13-3 season. Matching up against some of the NFC’s best has gotten the better of Atlanta on occasions, but in regards to the victories – Smith can thank offensive line coach Paul Boudreau for his hard work since joining the team in 2008.
Of course, all of that elbow grease is expected to reunite as Atlanta pushes toward a desired Super Bowl appearance after a fantastic 2010/11 season.
Against Green Bay in Week 12 Clabo was fantastic. Not only was he the cliché “immovable object”, Clabo also limited linebacker Clay Matthews to zero sacks on the day, contributing to the Packers 20-17 loss.
Fast forward six weeks down the track, though, and the Falcons are greeted with a new look Packer defense that is striving off of sacks, interceptions, hard hits and big plays from all players on the field.
Last weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles the Packers recorded three sacks against Vick and one interception. Given that Andy Reid’s team showed tremendous wherewithal to fight back, Green Bay’s defense was one of the contributing reasons toward the Packers monumental victory in Aaron Rodgers’ early career.
Aside from the other ten men on the defense, Matthews is once again the main focus for Green Bay this weekend though.
In trademark fashion, Matthews’ usual technique is to rush the right hand side of the offensive line, or alternatively go straight up the middle in a bulrush effect. Whether or not this works against Clabo, is a totally different question entirely.
For the record Clabo hasn’t missed a game since 2007, and has been relatively healthy and active ever since. Six years in the NFL may seem like a short time for an offensive tackle, but in those years Clabo has seen a tremendous amount of success since joining the Falcons.
Perhaps the most intriguing factor that enters into this debate is the fact that Clabo once blocked for Vick during his Atlanta days. Green Bay applied tremendous blitzing pressure on Vick last week, therefore making Clabo wary of the Packers defensive tricks.
Both Matthews and Clabo will go at one another throughout this weekend’s affair. Each player has experienced both success and failure in individual games, but of course Clabo got the upper hand on Matthews during Week 12.
Clabo has been great when it comes to defending quarterback Matt Ryan this season, allowing only 23 sacks on the Falcons main man. This weekend will be another test for Atlanta’s front line after a week away from any action.
Keep in mind that center Todd McClure is going to be challenged on Saturday, along with left tackle Sam Baker. Not all of the pressure will come from Matthews, as linebacker Desmond Bishop and defensive tackles B.J Raji and Ryan Pickett will be responsible for some the heat.
Clabo must be contained unlike Week 12 if the Packers are to win. This is easier said than done, but then again, Capers’ defense isn’t quite the same unit it once was.
Ryan Cook is an Australian author for Acme Packing Company, and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer to Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Sports Haze.