GREEN BAY – Clay Matthews doesn’t sound frustrated, but he’s definitely not satisfied with how he’s playing of late.
Over the last two games, Matthews has been credited with one assisted tackle by the coaching staff through its film review. That’s it. The press box statisticians didn’t even give him that, though they did give him a QB hit on Arizona’s Carson Palmer.
In any event, Mike McCarthy said on Thursday the statistics don’t tell the full story behind Matthews’ game, and that he’s “clearly our most disruptive player.”
That may be true, but that’s not enough for Matthews, who was named to his sixth Pro Bowl in seven seasons last week. He confessed he’s not living up to his own standard.
“I need to find a way to be more impactful,” he told reporters gathered at his locker after practice on Thursday. “It’s not for a lack of being where I’m supposed to, or not doing my job.
“Playmakers have to continue to show up. You can’t continue to have games where you have one or zero tackles despite being disruptive.”
To be fair, Matthews has been playing on a bum foot since midseason, when it got caught awkwardly on a play at Denver in Week 8. A full participant in practice both days this week, he said the injury is finally starting to “turn the corner,” and at a good time.
Just three weeks after the injury, though, Matthews played one of his best games of the season. In helping limit Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson to 45 yards on 13 carries, Matthews corralled Peterson twice behind the line of scrimmage and was in the Vikings’ backfield most of the day.
A repeat of that performance, by Matthews and the defense as a whole, would go a long way toward helping the Packers win the NFC North on Sunday night, and Matthews knows it.
“I felt we were really aggressive,” Matthews said of the defense vs. Peterson. “Hopefully, if we take anything away from the first game, it’s that you can’t let him get started. You look at all his runs, he’ll take it anywhere on the field. He doesn’t go to the designed hole most of the time, and that’s what makes him so dangerous.”
Matthews doesn’t have the luxury of free-lancing like a running back can, and for a linebacker with double-digit sacks in four of his previous six years, having only one sack in the last 10 games has to eat at him.
Part of it is the position switch to inside linebacker, but then again, Matthews had 8½ sacks in the second half of last season after the change. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers has lined him up more on the edge lately to rush from his old spot, but the results aren’t there statistically.
Matthews knows he needs to change that for the Packers’ defense truly to play its best from here on out.
“Dom always talks about there’s those few plays that change the course of a game, and I pride myself on being that guy who does it once or twice in a game,” he said. “Whether it’s the TFLs from the last Minnesota game or whatever it may be, I have to find a way to show up, and I will. I will this Sunday.”
Some of Matthews’ defensive teammates appear to be getting healthier, too. Cornerback Sam Shields and defensive lineman B.J. Raji have both returned to practice on a limited basis from their concussions.
On offense, running back Eddie Lacy continues to deal with a rib injury from the Oakland game, but he’s not going to let it hold him back.
“It’s a pain tolerance thing, and I think I have a pretty good pain tolerance,” Lacy said. “We’re going to get it padded up and get out there and play. I’m still going to run the same way I run.”
Up front, right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) again practiced on a limited basis, but left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) continued to sit out.
Bakhtiari missed the first start of his three-year career last week and hated to do so. Even though the Packers are in the playoffs regardless of Sunday’s result vs. the Vikings, Bakhtiari said there will be no consideration given to resting for the postseason if he’s good to go.
“If I can play, I’m going to play,” he said. “There’s no gray area. Black and white.”
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