Sometimes, one big man will thud into another, say 304-pound William (The Refrigerator) Perry against 265-pound John Hannah.
Other times, the little guys will battle: 182-pound kicker Tony Franklin against 204-pound kicker Kevin Butler, toe-to-toe.
From the very broadest perspective, Super Bowl XX will be the Chicago Bears against the New England Patriots Sunday at 5 p.m. in the Superdome. But it really is a contest between individuals.
Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon vs. the New England linebackers (any one): Now that he's wreaked havoc throughout Super Bowl week, McMahon obviously is ready for the game itself. McMahon is competitive and feisty; his mobility and originality have made the Bears' offense much, much better.
If his sore rear end hampers his running ability, the Bears could be in trouble. If the Patriots' defense -- especially outside linebackers Andre Tippett and Don Blackmon -- can contain him, Chicago still could be in trouble. But McMahon, who never seems to be totally healthy, rolls left and throws better on the run than almost anyone else. He enjoys throwing to his wide receivers, especially Willie Gault and Dennis McKinnon, from play action. There's no reason to believe that will stop now.
New England quarterback Tony Eason vs. Chicago free safety Gary Fencik: Is Eason healthy? If he is -- and he did return to practice today after flu hampered him Friday -- this could be quite a cerebral matchup. The Bears use their free safety in the 46 defense differently than most other clubs use theirs. He inches closer and closer to the line, and ends up being in a linebacking position by the time the ball is snapped. Naturally, the middle of the field is left open.
This works for the Bears because they believe their pass rush will get to the quarterback before he gets the ball to those holes. The Bears usually are right.
The thinking in this game is that Eason, who seems to be improving by leaps and bounds in the postseason, must read Fencik by the third step when dropping back to pass. Watch first-down plays especially; this is likely to be the greatest chance for the big play early in the game (a Chicago sack, a New England bomb).
Chicago right defensive tackle Perry vs. New England left guard Hannah: Tim-berrrrr! New England Coach Raymond Berry says his greatest fear in the Super Bowl is Perry falling on somebody in a red jersey. But does this scare Hannah, a 13-year veteran who seems to have been going to the Pro Bowl since it started? Are you kidding?
This is the classic matchup of Hollywood vs. Foxboro. They didn't face each other when the teams met in September because Hannah was injured and Perry was still being called a "wasted draft pick." This battle likely will be won by experience, and that means Hannah. He enjoys playing against big defensive linemen who get physical. Yo, Fridge.
Chicago defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan says he will move left defensive end Dan Hampton into Perry's spot if Perry can't do the job. Hampton says Hannah is the "best one-on-one blocker in the league." If it takes two Bears to do this job, it will alter the vaunted 46 defense. It's likely the Patriots will run left, behind Hannah and away from Hampton, at least at the beginning.
Said Chicago Coach Mike Ditka of the Perry-Hannah battle: "It ought to be interesting when those two collide."
Chicago right defensive end Richard Dent vs. New England left tackle Brian Holloway: Obviously, the Pro Bowl left side of the New England offensive line and the right side of the Chicago defensive line is what to watch. Chicago has the best defensive line in the game, and the Patriots' left side of the offensive line is its stronger side.
Dent has become the best pass rusher in the league. He was virtually unstoppable in two National Football Conference playoff games. One false step by Holloway and Dent will be off to the races.
Holloway, a strong run blocker, must have a good day for the Patriots to win. If he or anyone else allows Dent to join Eason in the backfield, watch out for fumbles and turnovers.
New England running back Craig James vs. Chicago middle linebacker Mike Singletary: The old Baylor linebacker meets his former Southwest Conference rival from SMU, and it could be crushing. To consider how difficult this matchup could be for James, remember the NFC Championship game two weeks ago, when "Samurai" Singletary wrapped up Eric Dickerson (James' SMU running mate) on a crucial third-down play with the game still very much in the balance.
Forget, for a moment, that James must gain a good chunk of yards on this defense. His most important role Sunday might be occupying Singletary. Singletary, in the Pro Bowl again, sacked Eason three times and had an interception in the earlier meeting between the teams.
New England will send James on reconnaissance missions out of the backfield to keep Singletary busy in pass coverage. Otherwise, James quickly will become a blocker on linebacker blitzes.
Singletary rarely makes mistakes; he is an extension of defensive coordinator Ryan on the field. James will be one of four running backs the Patriots will use: Tony Collins, Robert Weathers and Mosi Tatupu are the others.
Chicago running back Walter Payton vs. New England inside linebacker Steve Nelson: How would you begin to cover Payton? He can run inside, run outside, block, catch passes, even throw passes. If McMahon is ailing at all, it likely will be Payton to the rescue, although his statistics have not been impressive in the playoffs. What's more, Payton has never had a great day against the Patriots; he has played them three times and has yet to run for more than 70 yards. But the Bears have done well all season against 3-4 defenses.
The New England linebackers are very good, perhaps as good as Chicago's. Nelson and Larry McGrew on the inside are tough against the run. As a rule, the Patriots are quite good at stopping the run and at creating turnovers. They have had 16 in their three road playoff victories. However, the Chicago offense has not given up a turnover in the playoffs.
The Bears are trying to win this game for Payton, their answer to the Cubs' Ernie Banks, who never won a championship.
New England left defensive end Garin Veris vs. Chicago right offensive tackle Keith Van Horne: Veris is a rookie from Stanford, replacing the injured Ken Sims, who could not return from a broken leg in time for the Super Bowl. Van Horne is in his fifth year from USC.
With Tippett blitzing from his shoulder, Veris has an advantage. Van Horne is likely to be preoccupied, and Veris, who has four playoff sacks, knows what to do in that case. But this is the Fridge-Hannah battle in reverse, which should help the Bears. What's more, Chicago's offensive linemen, especially tackles Jim Covert and Van Horne, are excellent blockers. The Chicago offensive line is young, but considered very good.
New England receivers Stanley Morgan, Stephen Starring and Irving Fryar vs. Chicago cornerbacks Leslie Frazier and Mike Richardson: Fryar, who is back and healthy after cutting his hand in a dispute with his wife, said it best: "If they have a weakness on defense, and I'm not sure they do, it's in the defensive secondary." Morgan is considered by some to be the best receiver in the Super Bowl, and Starring has 4.4 speed in the 40.
The Patriots likely will try to isolate Morgan on Richardson, who is more susceptible than Frazier to being beaten on fade patterns. Neither Frazier nor Richardson was tested in the playoffs because of the swirling winds off Lake Michigan and the pass rush by Dent and others. But in the controlled, 72-degree comfort of the Superdome, anything is possible, especially if Eason has his pinpoint touch.
Chicago special teams vs. New England special teams: New England's punt return team has improved with Fryar's return. He led the league with a 14.1-yard average. But punter Rich Camarillo is a question mark after hurting his back doing situps a week ago, although he returned to practice today and had no pain.
The Bears had trouble on kickoff coverage this season; the Patriots on punt coverage. Gault and Dennis Gentry both returned kickoffs for touchdowns this season for the Bears.
New England's Franklin has made seven playoff field goals; Chicago's Butler, a rookie, made only three of 10 field goal attempts longer than 40 yards this season.