CINCINNATI—Clay Matthews says his hamstring injury will be fine after the bye week, but the Packers defensive playmaker obviously didn’t like sitting out the second half of Sunday’s 34-30 defeat to the Bengals.
“It’s very frustrating, especially the manner in which we lost,” said Matthews, who has had hamstring problems since his rookie season in 2009.
Matthews was in the midst of a whale of a game when he departed. In the second quarter, he forced fumbles on back-to-back Cincinnati possessions that led to 10 Green Bay points.
On the first fumble, he dove at running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis from the back side on third-and-short and popped the ball out. Safety M.D. Jennings ran it back for a touchdown.
On the Bengals’ next drive, Matthews sacked quarterback Andy Dalton after cornerback Davon House whiffed on his sack try, and the ball came out again. Linebacker Brad Jones recovered and the Packers kicked a field goal to pull within 14-13.
It was on the second fumble, though – the Bengals’ fourth consecutive turnover – that Matthews tweaked the hamstring, and he wasn’t able to return to the game. It’s probably not a coincidence that after Matthews left, the Bengals stopped turning the ball over.
“I’ll be good,” Matthews said regarding his injury. “I think today was more of a preventive measure than anything. I felt like I could go out there, but we have to be smart with this, especially going into the bye week. I don’t see myself missing any time.
“Our record is not going to change with the bye week. We just have to get this thing moving in the right direction, and we will.”
Swat team: On the Packers’ last offensive drive, three of Aaron Rodgers’ passes were deflected at the line of scrimmage and fell incomplete.
The first two were by defensive end Carlos Dunlap on short throws to the right intended for receiver Randall Cobb. The second of those came on third-and-5 from the Bengals’ 20-yard line, setting up a do-or-die fourth down.
Rodgers then tried a short throw to the left, but the Bengals’ other defensive end, Michael Johnson, tipped it at the line, and the ball fell short of receiver James Jones, incomplete.
On the final play, rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari went low to try to cut-block Johnson, to get him on the ground and take him out of the passing lane, but Johnson managed to stay on his feet and throw his hands up just in time.
It appeared Johnson was ready for the cut-block attempt.
“I cut him down really well when we started calling some of those plays, and he started kind of reading it,” Bakhtiari said. “Then that last play, I wasn’t able to get his hands down.”
Rodgers was sacked four times and threw two interceptions – with Jones taking the blame for the first one after stopping his route over the middle. But the Packers nearly overcame all the miscues, needing just 20 more yards for the win, when the batted passes suddenly became a plague. The Bengals didn’t deflect a single pass at the line until the final drive.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Bakhtiari said. “We’re the Green Bay Packers and we’re 1-2 right now. I’m just a rookie and I just got here, and I can tell it’s something they’re not used to, that they’re not comfortable with and they don’t like.”
Tough matchup: Lost somewhat in the frustrating finish to the game was the job cornerback Sam Shields did on the Bengals’ Pro Bowl wide receiver, A.J. Green.
Shadowing him much of the day, with safety help behind him on occasion, Shields held Green without a catch until less than 10 minutes remained in the third quarter, and he intercepted one intended for Green in the first half. Green caught just four of eight passes thrown his way for 46 yards, though he did get the best of Shields on a 20-yard TD pass when he appeared to knock Shields off-balance at the line of scrimmage.
“I thought Sam did an excellent job,” fellow corner Tramon Williams said. “We knew that we had guys that can definitely go out there and compete against him. Obviously we know he’s going to make some catches at some point in the game, but we didn’t want to let him go out of control.
“I thought we did an excellent job on him today. I thought we did a great job on defense, period. It won’t show up now with the loss.”
Losing the game before the bye is not ideal, obviously, and at 1-2 the Packers are in the same spot they were last year after Week 3. It took until Week 6, when a prime-time road win at Houston evened the record at 3-3, for the team to really hit its stride.
The hope is that the early bye will allow players to get healthy – particularly defensive backs Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward, who haven’t played yet this season – and for that stride to be found sooner.
“We’ll be ready to make a run,” Williams said. “We’re definitely not going to lie down. I see a lot of good things out of this team, and when we get back we’ll be ready.”
Injury update: In addition to Matthews, the Packers also reported injuries to tight end Jermichael Finley (concussion), linebacker Jamari Lattimore (cramps) and running back James Starks (knee). Additional coverage - Sept. 22