Return of Clay Matthews Helps Packers Clinch NFC North
One thing most everyone can agree on is that linebacker Clay Matthews is the most important player for the Green Bay Packers on the defensive side of the ball. Ever since coming into the league, Matthews has been an unstoppable force for the Packers. He had a down year last season, mainly due to constant double teams and with lack of help from his teammates.
However, this season couldn’t have started out better for Matthews. He matched his total amount of sacks from 2011 with six and a half in just two games. Green Bay was off to a hot start on defense while the offense struggled to find their groove. Then the worst thing imaginable for the Packers happened as Matthews got hurt. After missing the last month with his hamstring injury, he returned to action this weekend just in time for the crucial divisional matchup against the Chicago Bears.
Matthews made an immediate impact as he finished the game with five tackles and two sacks and a pass deflection. His presence on the field was more than just the numbers he ended up with. Throughout the entire game, Matthews was able to disrupt the line and apply pressure to quarterback Jay Cutler.
With his two sacks yesterday, Matthews has 11 for the season which is more than threes the amount of any of his teammates. In fact, during the month that Matthews was out, the Packers defense was only able to accumulate a few sacks. There is absolutely no pass rush without Matthews and for the matter the defense has a hard time stopping the run without him as well.
In the three games Matthews was out, Green Bay allowed two 100-yard rushers which included a 200-yard performance by Adrian Peterson. The Bears’ Matt Forte had 20 carries for just 69 yards and was held without a touchdown. Matthews is an underrated rush defender, but he has the quickness to get the running backs coming around the edge and has the power to stop the run up the middle. It was no coincidence that the run defense for Green Bay got considerably better this weekend with Matthews back.
Now with the return of Matthews, the Packers are getting healthy at the right time. The NFC North is now theirs for the second year in a row and the team now has sights on the second seed which would give them a bye into the second round. The only piece that is missing from the Packers defense is Charles Woodson who is scheduled to return back to the starting lineup next weekend.
If the Packers want to make a deep run for the Super Bowl, they will need Matthews in the lineup. This defense lives and dies by his performance. While the draft this season was dedicated to defense to give more help to Matthews, he still has to do a majority of the work himself. If he continues to play like he has this season, then opposing offenses need to be worried heading into the playoffs.
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