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Sacks down, double-teams up for Packers' Matthews

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CHRIS JENKINS
December 31, 2010
— Even as someone who drew plenty of attention from opposing offenses, Green Bay Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene was stunned by the number of blockers Clay Matthews found himself fighting through during last weekend's blowout victory over the New York Giants.

Greene said the Giants clearly made taking Matthews out of the game their No. 1 priority on offense, using an unrelenting combination of tight ends, running backs and offensive linemen to keep him at bay.


"If you really look at this game and see how many double and triple teams that are going his way, it really is unbelievable," Greene said.


The Giants held Matthews without a sack, something that's happening to the second-year defensive star more and more in the second half of the season as offenses recognize just how dangerous he can be.


Matthews still made an impact, with one tackle for loss and running 20 yards downfield to punch the ball away from Giants running back Brandon Jacobs for a fumble. And for all their efforts to neutralize Matthews, the Giants committed six turnovers and lost badly.


Going into Sunday's regular-season finale against Chicago with a potential playoff berth on the line, Matthews said he isn't frustrated as long as the Packers keep winning.


"Frustrated is not the right word," Matthews said. "If I'm not getting that kind of attention, then I'm not doing my job. I was close to the quarterback a few times, but it's part of the game plan. Overall, I thought we did pretty well on defense and came away with a big victory."


After getting 10 sacks as a rookie last season, Matthews was nearly unstoppable at the beginning of this year, with 8 1/2 sacks in the first five games. But since sitting out the Oct. 17 game against Miami because of a hamstring injury, Matthews has been held to four sacks in the last nine games.


A shin injury has limited Matthews' ability to practice in recent weeks, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers acknowledges that Matthews' health might have something to do with his dip in productivity.


Greene said Matthews' sack numbers are dropping mostly because he's simply getting so much attention.


"As a coach, I'm just saying, 'You know what, it is what it is,'" he said. "'You've got a name. And teams aren't going to let you get started. So the thing is, keep chopping wood. Because that one play, they're going to leave you single. And that's when you have to make something happen." '


It certainly doesn't help that the Packers are down to their third-string outside linebacker opposite Matthews after a season-ending injury to Brad Jones and a knee injury that has kept Frank Zombo out the last two games.


The return of defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who has sat out the Packers' last three games with a calf injury, certainly would help draw some attention away from Matthews.


But Matthews is optimistic about the emergence of nose tackle B.J. Raji, who has three sacks in the past two games and drew his own share of double-teams against the Giants.


"There were times when they were sliding three my way and had two on him," Matthews said. "They had what they had in mind, but he was doing a fantastic job. Fortunately for me, they're going to have to start showing him some respect now, and that'll take a guy off (me). It's a good little tandem. That's why once we're full strength, it's going to be hard to single guys here with the amount of talent we have."


While Matthews might not like all the attention he's getting for the time being, he might as well get used to it.


"That's going to be a norm now for Clay, especially if he's sitting there at the end of the line of scrimmage," Capers said. "That's why you like to move him around a little bit so you can't always identify where he is."


Capers would like to move Matthews around at the line of scrimmage more frequently, but doesn't feel comfortable doing so until Matthews can return to practice more consistently.


"We like being able to do that during the course of a game," Capers said. "Probably haven't done as much of that lately, because when a guy can't practice, you can't do as much stuff with him. You need to get him out there lined up in one place and have him play."


Capers said Matthews looked more like himself Sunday.


"What I saw was, when he was lined up on a tight end, he looks like what Clay normally looks like," Capers said. "He sets his hips pow! and he pops the tight end and knocks him back. If you're playing the run, it all starts with that hip explosion, being able to put your chin up under those guys and knock him back. And he did that."


Matthews said he's feeling better every day.


"Just at the right time, too," Matthews said. "Hopefully we can get a victory here and move forward."



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