PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – It seems like an insane game plan, but Mike McCarthy’s strategy going into Super Bowl XLV was to attack and exploit Troy Polamalu.
Polamalu was the Defensive Player of the Year that season. He had seven interceptions in the 14 regular season games he played that year with a touchdown. He defended 11 passes, added six tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Yet Green Bay decided their best chance of beating the Steelers in that Super Bowl was to treat him like a weak link.
“Our game plan was to go at Troy,” former Packers receiver James Jones told the PM Team. “We felt like from watching film he’s a guesser. He sees a certain formation. He thinks it’s going to be this, but we will switch it up on him.”
“We felt like he would be a step behind all of us speed wise. We felt like we could utilize our speed, Troy was losing a step. We felt like we could take advantage of it.”
At the time Polamalu was 29 years-old, he would play four more seasons. So much of the talk leading up to the game was how Polamalu was going to wreck it. He was going to confuse young Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Jones tells 93.7 The Fan Green Bay heard all of that and felt differently.
“The antennas went up when Troy was playing man-to-man on you or we felt like we could get Troy where he would be on a number three receiver and you got to cover all that space,” Jones told Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller from the Super Bowl. “We felt like Troy couldn’t stay with our receiver, especially at that time we put All-Pro Greg Jennings at the three.”
Few teams in Super Bowl history had a player like Jennings at the three. He would finish with four catches for 64 yards, two of them for touchdowns. Rodgers overall was 24-39 for 304 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Polamalu finished with three tackles and no splash plays.
Jones told The PM Team he’s a fan of Polamalu, believes he’s better than Ed Reed and his favorite safety of all-time. He loved the way Polamalu played the game. But that night, if only for a few plays, Jones said they figured him out.
The other WR
While Jennings had a pair of touchdowns as they matched him up with Polamalu, he wasn’t nearly the leading receiver. Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for 140 yards including the opening touchdown. That play was one of the most perfect throws in Super Bowl history and Jones said they never ran that play that way.
The call was for a tailback screen to James Starks. Jones said they ran the play for four years and every time they would just dump it to the running back. He said McCarthy would tell Rodgers to never fall asleep on the go-ball options. But he never threw it there, not even in practice. Then in the biggest game of his life, he did.
“In the Super Bowl he cranked it up,” Jones told 93.7 The Fan. “The receiver’s only job was to outside release go-ball and just get the corner to run with you. The O-line is going to sneak out and block for the running back. And Aaron, in that moment, decided he was going to crank it up to Jordy Nelson for the touchdown. The first time he threw that pass in four years in practice or a game was the Super Bowl.”
Listen to more from the Super Bowl, Andrew Fillipponi is there all week joining Chris Mueller on the PM Team 2-6p on 93.7 The Fan.