Key Matchup: Lilja/Glenn, Seymour/Banta-Cain

Greg Talmage looks at two pairs of players that will have a major impact on how much time Colts quarterback Peyton Manning will have to throw the ball on Sunday. Find out how the Colts' left side of their offensive line stacks up against the Patriots' right side of their defensive alignment.

New England Patriots All-Pro defensive end Richard Seymour will be blocked primarily by two Indianapolis Colts on Sunday -- LT Tarik Glenn and LG Ryan Lilja. This week, however, I have a feeling it's Ryan Lilja that Richard Seymour will be seeing a lot of. I say that because of how I think New England will likely use their ROLB Tully Banta-Cain in this contest.

I'm basing this on what took place in this year's Week 9 contest between the two teams. In that game, Patriots ROLB Rosevelt Colvin gave Colts LT Tarik Glenn all he could handle off the edge. Colvin had 1.5 sacks and several hurries and pressures in that game. Colvin had success using his speed to get into Glenn's upper body quickly, making it difficult for him to anchor quickly. It was one of the rare times Glenn consistently had trouble with a pass-rusher.

This week, though, it won't be Colvin causing problems from the ROLB spot. After LB Junior Seau went down in Week 12, the Patriots revamped with their linebackers by inserting Tully Banta-Cain at ROLB while Mike Vrabel moved inside and Rosevelt Colvin shifted to LOLB.

On his radio show this week, Colts team President Bill Polian talked about how the late season changes to the Patriots linebacker corps actually gives them more pass rush options. He said, "They've put in Tully Banta-Cain, an outside linebacker, and moved Mike Vrabel into inside linebacker. What that does is give them more options in pass rush because they can move Vrabel around. We'll have a hard time identifying where he is all the time, then we've got to get him blocked. (Defensive end) Jarvis Green is as good as ever. (Defensive lineman Richard) Seymour is as good as ever, and completely healthy."

So it's a totally different personnel group in 3 of the 4 linebacker spots compared to the first meeting in November. Nevertheless, since New England had success getting to Peyton Manning by both blitzing from the ROLB spot and simply rushing that person off the right end, you can likely expect to see plenty of that again on Sunday.

Richard Seymour (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
When this happens, RDE Richard Seymour basically becomes a DT. In the Patriots 3-4 scheme, Seymour has two gap responsibilities (the gap between the LG and LT and the gap outside of the LT). So when Banta-Cain rushes or blitzes the edge he basically is assuming that gap responsibility outside the left tackle.

In the trenches, New England actually prefers the matchup of the right side of their defense against the left side of the Colts O-line. So expect to see plenty of Banta-Cain blitzes with Seymour simultaneously taking a hard inside in an attempt to disrupt and get pressure on the quarterback. Banta-Cain has registered 2 sacks this post season.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will do all he can to confuse and confound the Colts' offensive lineman by disguising all of Banta-Cain's actions. Is he blitzing? Dropping back? Which gap is he hitting? While the responsibility of handling a blitzing Banta-Cain will fall largely on LT Tarik Glenn, on some occasions Ryan Lilja will have to make a double-read and get to the edge to pick up that blitz as Glenn darts inside to hit Seymour.

When manned up, it's very important that Lilja holds his own against Seymour. New England sees this as a mismatch one-on-one and wants to exploit it. To do that, however, they need to create situations and only rushing Tully Banta-Cain does that.

Besides the pressure Seymour and Banta-Cain will be seeking to get from the pass-rush aspect of the game, Seymour and his up-front line mates in the base 3-4 will attempt to manhandle the Colts' interior blockers in the running game also. The Patriots' interior trio of Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren are really playing well right now. All three are capable of simply ragdolling a blocker, stepping up into the hole and stymieing a play.

If Seymour and Banta-Cain are giving the Colts' left side all they can handle, look for TE Ben Utecht to spend considerable time on the left helping with both of those guys.


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