NEW ORLEANS -- The Green Bay Packers have the NFL's No. 1 defense because they have the league Most Valuable Player in nose tackle Gilbert Brown, according to several Packers.
One player who may not disagree is New England Patriots center Dave Wohlabaugh, who must try to block Brown on
Sunday in Super Bowl XXXI.
"The guy is pretty huge, and what impresses me most is his lateral movement," said Wohlabaugh. "This guy engages in contact, gets off a block and into the flow. He has that rare blend of size and athleticism."
Packers safety Eugene Robinson said: "He reminds me of Cortez Kennedy in 1992. He is dominating. He takes centers and just pancakes them three yards into the backfield. He will have two people on him and just throw them off. Big Gil has made tons of plays. He is so strong and so hungry and he truly believes he can't be stopped."
The Brown-Wohlabaugh matchup is one of the most interesting in the game. The Patriots want to take pressure off quarterback Drew Bledsoe early in the game by establishing the running of halfback Curtis Martin.
Martin is more of a bob-and-weave, cutback runner and not much of a threat on the perimeter. Therefore, Wohlabaugh will have to move Brown, who will line head up on Wohlabaugh for 60 percent of the game.
"Sometimes, they move him on the guard or slant him into the gap," said Wohlabaugh.
"But for the most part, he'll be coming right at me, and I won't get a lot of help from the guards. He's a bull rusher. He is big, strong and likes to engage in a dogfight. He also has a very low center of gravity."
Brown played a key role in the Packers' defense, which allowed only 88.5 yards per game rushing.
He led all Green Bay defensive linemen with a career-high 52 tackles and also had one sack.
That doesn't sound like a great season, but Brown's role is to tie up two or three offensive linemen and allow fellow defensive linemen Reggie White, Santana Dotson and Sean Jones and linebackers Wayne Simmons, Ron Cox and Brian Williams to make the tackles.
"Wohlabaugh gets off the ball extremely fast and into position to make the block," said Brown. "He has quick feet and excels at pass blocking. It will be a challenge."
But Brown will win. He is listed at 6 feet 2 and 325 pounds, but probably weighs 350. Wohlabaugh plays at 290. No player has been able to block Brown one-on-one this season.
New England uses a zone blocking scheme, and Wohlabaugh will have to get help from guards William Roberts and Todd Rucci, not to move Brown, but just to control him.
Once that happens, the Packers win, because now one or two players have become free to make the tackle. Also, once the run has been shut down, New England becomes one-dimensional, and Bledsoe has been known to panic under pressure.
"That is why Gilbert should be our MVP," said Robinson. "He is totally unselfish and breaks a team down all by himself."