Key Matchup: Mathis vs Kaczur

Patriots second-year offensive tackle Nick Kaczur takes on speedy Colts defensive end Robert Mathis on Indy's fast track. Greg Talmage breaks down this key matchup that will have a major impact on Tom Brady's comfort level in the pocket in Indy today.

Last week, New England's offensive tackles—Matt Light and Nick Kaczur did a very nice job of slowing down the outside pass-rush of Charger stars Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. Light and Kaczur will have another challenge this week in Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

Of the two match-ups, Light vs. Freeney and Kaczur vs. Mathis, it's the Kaczur/Mathis battle that interests me the most. Kaczur has had some trouble with speed rushers. So combine Mathis' speed with the fast track of the RCA Dome and the crowd noise and it all makes for what should be a very challenging matchup for the second-year offensive lineman. While Kaczur is coming off an impressive playoff performance in San Diego, he had a very up and down, injury riddled year at RT.

Here's what the Boston Herald had to say recently about Kaczur's play this year, "Second-year tackle Nick Kaczur is coming off a disappointing 2006 thanks to injury. A starter for virtually all of 2005 at left tackle, Kaczur underwent off-season shoulder surgery and never really recovered."… "Kaczur was often a liability on the right side this season in pass protection, with his shoulder robbing him of strength at the point of attack."

Nick Kaczur (left) congratulates RB Laurence Maroney (AP Photo/Phil Coale)
Kaczur has good size, a wide base and long arms. He also has strong hands and a quick punch in pass protection. He has enough foot quickness and balance to get outside and can slide laterally with speed rushers. His punch and ability to slide out will be vital to having success against Mathis. Kaczur's lower body is a bit stiff, and he as a result is susceptible to double moves.

His challenge this week, Robert Mathis, shows excellent burst off the line and has solid lean and body control to turn the corner. Besides raw speed, he also can consistently wins with his spin move and uses hands well to counter. If Kaczur is having trouble adjusting to the spin, he could be in for a very long evening. On the flip side, Mathis can easily be dominated and controlled in-line when opponents get their hands on him.

Like most speed guys, Robert Mathis loves the fast artificial surface. Of his 34½ career sacks only seven have come outdoors on grass. Mathis posted multiple sack games at home this season against Houston, Jacksonville and Philadelphia.

If Mathis wants to know how tough Nick Kaczur can be, all he has to do his ask Dwight Freeney. Freeney was shut out by Nick Kaczur in the 2005 regular-season game at New England – no tackles, no sacks, no passes broken up … no nothing. That game, though, was outdoors and before Kaczur's shoulder injury.

Still, it should be a very intense and important matchup on the edge. Mathis has 1.5 sacks this postseason and Kaczur is starting to play as though his shoulder problem that caused him to miss the first third of the season is a non-issue.

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