Key Matchup: Mathis vs Anderson

Colts DE Robert Mathis will battle a savvy veteran Monday night when he tries to get past RT Willie Anderson en route to Bengals QB Carson Palmer. Greg Talmage breaks down that key matchup for you.

An insightful caller to the Bill Polian show this week asked, "Why don't the coaches have defensive ends play the run more on 1st and 2nd downs?" The Team President answered, "What people have been doing to us is showing pass and essentially running the ball from there. They're showing quarterbacks dropping back as though he's going to pass and then he's handing the ball off with draw action or counter action. Sunday it was most always counter…"

And he summed it up nicely saying "The fact is they're inviting both Robert and Dwight to go up the field, then handing the ball off, which eliminates them in the running game. We're going to have to do something to counter that."

Well, besides having to do a better job of reacting to runs even though the opposition shows a pass set, the defensive ends also have to deal with plays being run right at them. This week that will hold especially true for Robert Mathis.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The Bengals love to run behind RT Willie Anderson – and have had great success doing it. A 6-foot-5, 340-pounder known as "I-71," Anderson is a road-grading run blocker. While talking about Anderson, Raiders DT Warren Sapp said, "He blocks the sun. He's got everything you want in a right tackle — the knowledge of the game, feet, hands, head, the heart, the love. He gets it done."

Anderson uses his power base and strength to create movement in the run game. He has enough in-line quickness to get position, knows how to use his size to create a wall and can use his long arms to seal off on the back side. He does a solid job of getting off the snap and into defenders where he uses his frame and mass to engulf. Its no wonder Bengals Head coach Marvin Lewis has nicknamed this three-time Pro Bowler "The Rock."

Colts DE Robert Mathis knows coming into this game that Cincinnati is expecting to have great success running behind their powerful RT. He can expect Cincinnati to test this match-up early and often. If Anderson is able to get his hands and long arms on Mathis and use his mass and leverage to control the battle, it will be a long day in the trenches for Robert Mathis. And it'll be doubly tough if Mathis is also reading pass set on run counter actions and taking himself out of a lot of those plays by getting so far upfield. Mathis will need to use every move in his arsenal Monday night to keep Anderson from latching on and gaining control over him at the point of impact.

On pass plays, the Colts sack leader will look to use his speed and high motor to put pressure on Anderson's edges. Mathis beat Anderson for one sack in last season's contest in Cincinnati.

The Bengals RT is a good, diverse pass blocker. He has solid foot and lateral quickness, which helps him protect those edges against the speed rush. He plays with good balance and control, has a strong stab and punch, can anchor against power and recovers decently against double moves. Because he's a savvy veteran, Anderson plays with a keen awareness and reacts well to stunts or whatever diversion technique a defensive line coach might throw at him.

That said, Anderson is getting a little old and creaky. His age will show from time to time and cause him to get heavy-legged and too high a pad level at times. It's these rare opportunities that Mathis must watch for and exploit. They don't happen often, but when they do it can result in a sack on QB Carson Palmer or at minimum a pressure that could force him to make a costly mistake.

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