Chris Matthews Catch

Chris Matthews vs Patriots – Super Bowl XLIX

Chris Matthews went undrafted in 2011, was signed and cut from the Browns training camp, played in the AFL, then went to the CFL and then finally found his way back to an NFL team. Despite playing only 10 passing snaps all season long he got his number called upon in the Superbowl and left a big impression on the 11 passing plays he was in.

Don’t be surprised over the off-season if there’s going to be a decent amount of talk about Chris Matthews future potential. Being 6’5, running a 4.5 (pro day number) and having great ball skills with good hands (even if it is in a limited showing) are all baseline traits that people fall in love with. Although Matthews has definitely shown in this game that he can contribute to an NFL team, does he show that he is a viable starter for one? It’s too small a sample size to get a definitive answer but there’s no reason to not look and see some of his traits. I’ve decided to break down 7 of the 11 passing snaps he played on so we can get a feel for what kind of skills he shows but as anyone who reads this will see, the puzzle is clearly missing a lot of pieces.


2nd and 5 at SEA 45 (4:19) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass deep right to C.Matthews to NE 11 for 44 yards (K.Arrington).

Right Outside WR, Vertical Route

Cover-1 Man

Kyle Arrington is directly over Chris Matthews in pure man coverage. He tries to come up and get a hand on him, but Matthews immediate release to the inside and shoulder dip doesn’t give Arrington any surface to make contact with. Matthews then begins driving up the field, keeping Arrington to his outside leaving a wide open space to the inside for Wilson to throw to. On the All-22, you can see Matthews slow up for just a moment before the ball arrives causing Arrington to bump into him before accelerating one last time to make the jumping catch. This last second slow affords him even more space to make the catch. Matthews also raises his hands to the sky as late as possible in order to ensure that he can make the catch without Arrington being aware when the ball is coming down, all very good moves.


1st and 10 at NE 44 (:17) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep right.

Right Outside Slot, Vertical Route

Cover-1 Man

This time Matthews is inbetween two receivers on the right side and is facing off coverage with the CB slightly shading inside. Matthews takes two strong steps towards the CB before breaking to the right of him, he reaches his arm out (it’s very hard to see, but he’s doing it) to try and push the defender back but he does it too early and allows Arrington to get two arms on him, slowing him down. I think he could do this better by taking a third step into the CB engaging him in contact before breaking off to the right or by just having better timing with the arm he sticks out. I prefer the former, since it’s those types of skills that translate into being a great long term WR in the league. Either way, despite Arrington being able to get a push on him Matthews is strong enough to run through the contact (more of a reason why he should have taken another step into Arrington) and then heads upfield. He does manage to get above Arrington and would have likely seen this ball thrown his way if not for Wilson being pressured.


1st and 10 at NE 11 (:06) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to C.Matthews for 11 yards, TOUCHDOWN. S.Hauschka extra point is GOOD, Center-C.Gresham, Holder-J.Ryan.

Left Outside, Fade Route

Cover-2 Zone

There’s an ambiguity with some plays as to who has what role on any given play, especially when that play is so far outside of what that team has done in that game. On this play, it’s tough to say (given the route combinations) what the role of the defense actually is, but it looks to me like a Cover-2 zone where all the CBs (minus Revis) are in zone with outside responsibility, while the safeties take the inside. This is something that works against a Corner/Dig combo to keep the players from getting picked off their man. Anyway, lets move onto Chris Matthews.

Here, Matthews releases up the field and does a good job threatening the vertical by keeping his shoulders over his knees and his back bent while he drives up the field, coming up from this driving position only when he’s ready to look for the ball. This gives Logan Ryan the need to backpedal deeper into the endzone instead of keeping his ground for the potential out route/a throw before the endzone. As it would turn out, the throw would be before the endzone and the backpedaling would put Matthews in just the right position to take a ball thrown high and to the outside shoulder (purposely, to keep from any contest) and turn it into a touchdown. You’ll see that Matthews also raises his arms just as the ball arrives (if you use the two buttons on the bottom right of a gif to slow down the gif, you can see this clearly). Again, Matthews shows great ball skills and the only point to improve might be to wait a step longer before turning for the ball so the corner is really forced to back up even further. These are somewhat subtle movements that are the difference between an every down player and the 4th WR.


1st and 10 at SEA 38 (13:48) R.Wilson pass deep left to C.Matthews pushed ob at NE 17 for 45 yards (D.McCourty).

Left Outside, Vertical Route

Cover-1 Man

Matthews is again seeing Arrington and again running a Vertical. He releases to the outside and is very mindful to keep a solid distance between himself and the outside boundary. This is a pure battle of speed and positioning and Arrington isn’t really losing either battle, the only open option is a tough outside shoulder thrown at the sideline. Wilson’s great deep accuracy sets up Matthews for the catch towards the outside shoulder, which he makes a well timed leap while turning back in order to catch the ball at it’s earliest point. It’s very obvious that Matthews has a good understanding of how to make the reach for the ball and how to adjust his body to ensure the catch. He also positions himself well between the ball and Arrington.


1st and 10 at 50 (8:07) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to C.Matthews to NE 41 for 9 yards (B.Browner).

Left Outside, Curl Route

Cover-1 Man

When you’re facing man coverage you have to beat your man and get open, and with each different CB you have to beat them differently. Well, Matthews certainly beats his man here. While in the previous plays he beat Arrington and Logan through positioning, here he beats Browner through pure physical skills. The route is simple, he breaks outside and begins heading upfield at which point Browner tries to push him off his route. Matthews however does a pretty strong and well timed rip move to completely throw Browner off balance, while keeping his own balance throughout the push which he also showed in the earlier play against Arrington. But Browner isn’t as small as Arrington, he’s a much bigger guy and him being able to withstand the contact, maintain his balance and then give Browner a “get off me” is all very impressive.

Afterwards, it seems that maybe the contact got to him a bit as he decides to wait for the ball instead of reaching for it with his hands as well as makes a small jump while catching it instead of keeping his feet set. These seem like minor things but if he catches the ball a moment earlier by reaching out and keeps his feet on the ground while doing so, Browner would be taking his first step towards Matthews just after Matthews turns his head around- giving him the opportunity to get this first down entirely on his own and possibly more.


1st and 10 at SEA 20 (7:55) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep middle to R.Lockette.

Right Outside, Slant-Vertical Route

Cover-1 Man

Matthews won’t see this target but there’s no reason to not look at his route here. On this play, Matthews is going to draw coverage from the great Darrelle Revis. Matthews motions towards the line before the snap, prompting Revis to play off of him with an outside shade. After the snap, you can see Matthews has a really nice bend in his back as he really drives up the field on his slant release, this bend is trying to signal to the Corner that he’s going into that direction. Revis doesn’t bite and stays to his outside shoulder and as he turns upfield he manages to cover a lot of ground on Revis and is able to get over him. It looks like Matthews duty on this play was to get his man to bite on the slant before breaking back to the outside and becoming the man closer to the outside- which he fails to do. If I had to pick a reason, he chose the wrong release and should have tried to close the gap between himself and Revis before going inside and then vertically. As you can see, Revis is watching Wilson as he fakes the handoff and can see that Wilson isn’t ready to hit the slant, which is why he doesn’t close that cushion sooner.


2nd and 10 at NE 49 (1:50) (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass incomplete deep right to C.Matthews (B.Browner).

Outside Slot Right, Vertical Route

Cover-1 Man

Onto the final play I’m going to look at, up against Browner again he faces him from a different starting position. As he breaks outside, Browner tries to get physical with him and Matthews uses his right arm to slap away Browners outside arm, and then brings down his shoulder when Browner tries to use his inside arm to get into Matthews chest, this movement causes Matthews to stumble a bit and allows Browner to regain control of the situation. Matthews starts turning up field and uses his arm to push off of Browner (probably a penalty) and at this point Matthews is wide open. He signals for the ball but Wilson’s going to throw it short, forcing Matthews to adjust and try to save this before it gets intercepted- which he does. Again, he shows a good combination of moves to get off press and power through it.


So What Have We Learned?

The answer is almost nothing. In a 7 play sample size it’s really tough to digest much about a player. From what’s visible it’s that Matthews has good skills on the ball, good balance, and is a very powerful long striding runner. Matthews doesn’t use the vertical stem enough in his releases and the two where he did he didn’t take it far enough to be as effective with it as it could have been. He showed some good hand play when it came to getting physical with Browner (although in one of the plays I didn’t show, due to a very poor camera angle, Matthews gets completely stonewalled by Browner and taken out of bounds) and he came through on tough catches. Still, the traits Matthews showed in this game are the kinds of things that make you interested enough in a player to take a late round chance on them. It’s a bit telling though that on all but one play the Seahawks only trusted Matthews to take vertical routes, a strategy my own New York Jets used with Stephen Hill. The difference is that Russell Wilson is a Quarterback that could actually make a lot of use of a player who’s this big and able to catch downfield, so even if Matthews doesn’t develop into a legitimate starting option- he’s shown that he will be a real threat that opposing teams will have to deal with.

Click here for the rest of Russell Wilson’s passes during the Super Bowl.

Edward Gorelik

Upon being contracted with the New York Jets Fandom Virus (NYJV), Edward plunged head first into the fountain of misery and comedy provided by the team on and off the field. A student by day, and professional couch General Manager at night, he brings his completely biased wisdom to NFLBreakdowns.

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