Green Bay has a great opportunity to clinch their second consecutive NFC North title and their sixth victory against Chicago that includes the 2010 NFC Championship game. In order to do this, they will need Matthews applying pressure to quarterback Jay Cutler.
Matthews returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since injuring his hamstring on Nov. 4 in a win against the Arizona Cardinals. At the time, Matthews’ nine sacks ranked second in the NFL but five weeks later, it is good for 12th in the league. Since Matthews went down with the injury, the Packers have only recorded seven sacks – five of which came in one game – in four contests.
Green Bay has been able to skate by with a 3-1 record due to a solid offense that has found a renewed running game and a defense that has really stepped up in the passing game. However, it was the Packers pass rush against the Bears in Week 2 that gave them the 23-10 victory at Lambeau Field. Make no mistake about it, Green Bay will need that same toughness and speed off the edges in order to have similar success this Sunday.
The Packers sacked Cutler seven times for 52 yards, and never allowed him to get comfortable in the pocket. Matthews was the biggest contributor as he posted 3 ½ sacks, seven tackles, three tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and defended one pass. The result was four interceptions and an offense that was unable to find a rhythm. Green Bay’s secondary made great plays on all four picks but the defensive backs will be the first to say it was all due to the outstanding pass rush up front.
The secondary is in good shape, which means the Packers can still win the game without Charles Woodson, who will be forced to watch from the sideline. However, Green Bay desperately needs Matthews back and in full force.
“I feel good,” Matthews said. “It was nice being back out there practicing. As coming back from any injury, obviously I took limited reps. I’ll increase them as the week goes on. We’ve had an adequate amount of time to get healthy and come back fresh the last part of this season.”
It is difficult to say how productive he will be after missing 5 ½ weeks of football, but Matthews is a freak of nature and may go off on the Bears considering the stakes have never been higher this season.
“We’ll do a good job of keeping [the hamstring] warm, staying warm, and monitoring the situation,” Matthews said. “But ultimately I have to be my biggest coach, and if I start to get fatigued and tired, instead of maybe pushing it maybe take myself out for a play here or there.
“But when I’m in the game it’s going to be full speed.”
Michael is a MLB and NBA Featured Writer for Rant Sports, but covers topics for various teams in baseball, basketball, and football. Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelTerrill and on Facebook.