GREEN BAY – It was with a fierce pass rush the Chiefs upset the then-undefeated Packers in 2011.
“I remember him as being a good player. He gets after it and he gave Aaron a couple of good shots. We’re aware of him,” Packers Associate Head Coach and play-caller Tom Clements said of Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali, who led a four-sack charge against Aaron Rodgers in that Week 15 game. The Packers left Kansas City 13-1.
Hali is a high-motor defender who never takes a play off.
The same can be said of his companion pass rusher, left outside linebacker Justin Houston.
“They’re both high-motor guys,” Clements said.
Houston has three sacks through two games. Hali has yet to record his first, but he had a couple of quarterback hurries of Peyton Manning in the Chiefs’ heartbreaking defeat to the Broncos in a Week-2 Thursday night game.
“He’ll get his share (of sacks),” Clements said of Hali. “Hopefully, after we play them.”
Protecting Rodgers will be Job 1 for the Packers offense. Blocking Hali will be left tackle David Bakhtiari’s job; blocking Houston will be right tackle Don Barclay’s assignment. Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson also has a sack, and right defensive end Allen Bailey has two.
“The strength of their defense is their up-front people,” Clements said. “They’re a pressure team. That’s what they like to do.”
On offense, the Chiefs are led by their rushing attack, which features Jamaal Charles’ 182 yards rushing and 4.9 yards-per-carry average.
“They’re different styles,” Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said in comparing Charles to Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. “Lynch is a north-south guy, whereas Charles will take that ball anywhere there’s daylight. Out on the edge is where you see his speed, so they’re very different players.”
The Packers held Lynch to 41 yards rushing in a 27-17 win over the Seahawks last Sunday.
Quarterback Alex Smith has used Charles, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin as the Chiefs’ primary pass receivers through two games. Kelce has a couple of touchdown catches and made himself famous in Week 1 for his unique punch-the-ball touchdown celebration. Maclin will be attempting to end a curious no-touchdown streak for Chiefs wide receivers.
It’s stopping the run, however, that would seem to be the Packers’ greatest concern, and that’s where Clay Matthews enters the picture. Will Capers use Matthews almost exclusively to stop Charles, as Matthews was used against Lynch, or will Matthews be used more often to rush the passer?
“The way we use Clay will be determined by our opponent,” Capers said. “Clay had to take on a more significant role (against Lynch). He’s going to do whatever it takes for the team to win. You lean on a guy like Clay because he can handle those situations, because of his instincts.”
Packers Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook’s coverage units will be confronted by two threatening return men: punt returner De’Anthony Thomas and kickoff returner Knile Davis.
“The punt returner is similar to the guy last week, maybe even quicker,” Zook said. “We get one down. You’re one play away from being in the hamper. You don’t ever relax on special teams.”
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