When Light's out, Cassel sacked

Craig Wolfley focused his attention on the all-important James Harrison/Matt Light match-up in New England on Sunday. Wolfley watched from the sideline as Harrison and the Pittsburgh Steelers got the upper hand on the Patriots, 33-10.

George Foreman had it. So did an old heavyweight by the name of Ernie Shavers. Between the two of them they left numerous men sprawled on the canvas in boxing rings from here to Las Vegas. Add James Harrison's name to the list of men that understand the power, and the art, of the uppercut.

Yeah, I know that I'm presenting the uppercut in two very different formats. In boxing, the object is simply to render the man across from you senseless. In football, obviously that's not the goal, but the aftereffect can sometimes be the same. Your opponent is senseless, or in the case of Patriot's Pro Bowl tackle Matt Light, all common sense leaves you at the moment of contact. Hey, Matt, you've just been Silverbacked.

Watching from the sidelines on a wonderfully miserable day in Foxboro, I was anxious to see how Matt Light would attempt to block Harrison. Normally a slick field notches down the ferocity of an opponent's pass rush and takes away the speed rush to the corner. But the edge rush was still in play because of the field turf which provides good footing in all weather conditions.

Matt Light is a very good player. Make no bones about it. He has good balance and sets well to take the corner from the edge rushers. He's a strong man and has good, not great, but good athleticism. Light uses his hands well, and while not technically a puncher, he's still good at locking on to a player and has escorted many a speed rusher harmlessly around the corner on a pass play.

Throughout the first half New England quarterback Matt Cassel got rid of the ball in a timely fashion -- all to the favor of the Light. But even then I got to see how Harrison started setting Light up with his bull rush. James has that uncanny knack of planting his noggin into your chin and then "climbing the body" as Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell likes to say. Having freakish strength such as James Harrison's adds quite a bit to the overall effect. Time after time Harrison bull-rushed and then worked the corner. And pass rush after pass rush he closed the gap and started to shave the edge of the corner and get closer to the Patriot quarterback.

At 4:59 of the third quarter and the Steelers leading 20-10, boom, here it came. Harrison started up field on a rush. With a slight head bob to the inside and a slap with his right hand, Harrison went uppercut with that tremendously powerful left arm. Light, having been set up by the constant pressure of the bull rush, braced for the anticipated impact. Light dropped his head, making him "head heavy," and he was late with his hands, because Light was anticipating catching Harrison, rather than punching him. That's all Harrison needed to turn the corner on Light.

The uppercut was thrown deep under the outside arm of Light. Harrison dropped his hip a little and worked it under Light's hip and then lifted with the power of his inside leg, hip, shoulder, and arm. Harrison is almost Judo-like in his precision of procuring all the necessary body angles and explosively wrapping it together in a burst of power and speed. Like a one-legged partner in a square dance, Harrison spun Light on the edge with a ballistic Do-ce do.

"Under and up, the rising blow" -- I've heard that so many times from Chuck Noll. And while I'm no Einstein, Chuck's geometry is well taken. Whomever gets the leverage and creates the power rising from a lower vantage point will be the winner.

After the high velocity initial impact, Light stepped back and behind with his outside foot, thereby sealing his fate, and ultimately that of quarterback Matt Cassel on this play. Essentially, Light, by taking the ill-fated bucket step, opened the gate like a guardsman of the castle dropping the drawbridge under a heavy siege.

And not unlike the ancient 16th-century Samurai warriors swarming a castle intent on sacking and pillaging, Harrison turned the corner on Light, led the charge, sacked the "Cassel," and pillaged the football. Fumble, lost ball. Second Samurai on the spot, Lamar Woodley, jumped on the ball and the battle was all but over. It actually ended moments later when the Silverback did it again.

Do I really need to say it? Lights out everybody.


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