Before the NFL season began, I thought the Green Bay Packers would make the Super Bowl. I was hardly alone and I’m not trying to gloat, because I was probably one of the many who jumped off that wagon at one point or another as the injuries piled up and making the playoffs wasn’t even a certainty.
Turns out, some of the Green Bay players felt the same way. In the following interview, Clay Matthews says some players on the team questioned where the team was headed as injuries and losses mounted.
Now the Packers have righted that ship and are one victory away from making that Super Bowl appearance that so many predicted before this crazy season went down. And the key to getting there, Matthews says, is stopping the run and forcing Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to try and beat them.
Clay Matthews joined ESPN Radio with Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo to discuss how the Bears have changed throughout this year, Tramon Williams’ awesome postseason play, what he saw in the Bears when they beat Seattle, stopping Matt Forte, the field conditions in Chicago, how Aaron Rodgers is playing and the Packers questioning if they could make it to this point during the injury-plagued season.
The differences in the Bears over the course of the season:
“They’re very different. Obviously, the first time we saw them it was a good game, I think we both shot it out. This Week 17 win which we had, it was a grind-it-out offensive struggle. … We expect it to be very similar. We have two very good defenses going against offenses that are playing well at this point.”
On the play of defensive back Tramon Williams:
“It’s meant a great deal. Obviously, he won that game for us up in Philly and without those two interceptions in this Atlanta game, who knows where the game would’ve swung. … He’s been playing at that level all year. He really hasn’t got the recognition he deserves. His time will come and it is.”
What he saw from the Bears offense against Seattle:
“They just came out and executed. They played a fantastic game. … Their offense, they made a bunch of big plays. That’s the thing with the Bears, you’ve got to be able to stop the big plays. … I think we’ve done a good job of that and that’s what we need to continue to do.”
How to stop running back Matt Forte:
“We’ve got to stop him before he gets going. … If we can’t stop the run, we’re going to be in for a long day, but hopefully we can have the same amount of success that we’ve had against him and stop it and really get back there and really let Cutler get back there and try to beat him with his arm.”
If the condition of the playing field is of concern:
“It’s obviously not ideal, but both teams are dealing with the same playing field, so it’s nothing that we’re not used to, especially playing outside at Lambeau. We’ll just get some cleats that work and see where it takes us.”
On riding the hot hand at quarterback with Aaron Rodgers:
“I was listening to some statistics yesterday after when he came back from his concussion and how he’s been playing and he’s been light’s out. The performance that he put on against the Falcons was unbelievable. It was fun to watch him as a defensive player on the sideline and what he was able to do. Also, it kept us on the sideline.”
What Rodgers is like privately with teammates compared to what he’s like in public:
“He has to be a professional when he’s dealing with the media, but he’s really a jokester. He loves to have fun. … He’s not too big-time for anyone, he’s just another guy on the team who likes to have fun.”
If the team ever wondered if the Super Bowl was still attainable given the injury situations:
“I think there definitely was a point in the season where guys were questioning where we were going in the season. … I don’t know how many guys we have on IR, but it’s up there. But we stuck with it, we got some good wins toward the end of the season which made us playoff-eligible and we were riding that wave of momentum. Now you see guys buying into the players in which we have and a system which we have and it’s working.”
Listen to Clay Matthews on ESPN Radio here (Interview begins at 28:30)