The defending Super Bowl Champions started their defense last Thursday night and looked like they picked up right where they left off offensively. The Pack knocked off the Saints in a shootout and it came down to a goal-line stand where once again their defense stepped up and made the play to seal the game. While it wasn’t pretty on the defensive side of the ball for the Packers and they can’t afford to give up that many points on a weekly basis, when they needed to make a play the defense, led by Clay Matthews, answered the call and they walked away with an opening night win.
Since coming into the NFL in 2009, Matthews has emerged as one of the most prolific pass-rushers in the game. In fact you can argue that he is the best pass-rusher in the NFL. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has never had a season with single digit sacks, he has been a force since the minute he stepped foot on an NFL football field, and has a knack for making big plays. Just ask Rashard Mendenhall. When it comes to the Packers, Aaron Rodgers and the offense get the headlines and rightfully so, but if Green Bay wants to repeat as Super Bowl Champs, Matthews and the defense will have to play better than they did opening night against New Orleans and they are well aware of that.
Clay Matthews joined ESPN Radio Los Angeles with Mason and Ireland to talk about whether or not he was happy with the win against New Orleans given how bad the defense played, what it takes to be such a prolific pass-rusher in the NFL, who the best athlete is for the Packers, and what he expects to see from the Carolina Panthers and rookie quarterback Cam Newton.
Whether or not he was happy with the win of New Orleans despite how bad the defense played:
“I think there’s always room for improvement. I know I walked off the field personally feeling as if it was a loss so to speak. Obviously you play this game to win, whether it’s by one or one hundred, but at the same time got way too many points, big plays, yards, and completions. Just kinda had their way with us. We were fortunate that our offense was high powered enough to put more points on the board than them. We have a way in which we play our defense and that wasn’t up to our standards.”
What it takes to be such a prolific pass rusher in the NFL:
“I think it’s a little bit of everything. A little skill, a little scheme, and a little bit of luck really to fall into some sacks but for the most part I truly believe it’s your effort. I’m not the biggest, strongest, or fastest guy, but I like to think I will outwork you for four quarters and I will eventually steal one from you. It doesn’t matter if it’s sacks or putting hits on the quarterback, I just pride myself making an impact with the pressure I can generate on the opposing offense. Usually you will fall into a few sacks and before you know it you’ll be at ten plus and be having a great year.”
On the best athlete on the Packers:
“That’s tough. There’s a number of athletes. Like you said we weren’t too splashy this offseason in regards to offseason moves but the fact that we are getting umpteen guys off IR and getting them healthy and back on the field is enough moves in its own right. The receivers, Greg Jennings is very talented, Jermichael Finley is a freak out there. Even the D-Line and the linebackers, everybody is special in their own right. We have a number of playmakers on the board and we are very fortunate for that. A bunch of young guys who are out to prove themselves. I think that’s why we’ve had so much success to date and why hopefully we will continue to have that.”
What he thinks of Cam Newton in his preparation for this weekend:
“Anytime you can throw for 400 plus yards in your opening game as a rookie I think that speaks volumes. You can’t just assume he’s a rookie quarterback and we’re gonna take advantage of him. They invested a lot of money in a bunch of key playmakers and brought in some new additions. They have a powerful team and they were close to winning that last game against Arizona. You look at their tight ends, receivers, obviously what Cam was able to do, their running backs, and their defense. They’re a good squad and they are on the ups. It’s not a team we can take lightly. I know the Packers are being anointed for the win that we just had but each game is different especially with the parody in the league. We will be ready to roll but at the same time they are a good young team.”
Who Cam Newton reminds him of:
“I’m gonna have to watch some more film on him and see who he resembles. (Ben) Roethlisberger does a great job of keeping plays alive and that was one of our biggest focuses in the Super Bowl last year was the fact he’ll escape the pocket, his receivers will come open, and he’ll make those plays. Last year there was a big emphasis on keeping him in the pocket and I think it’s no different this week. Obviously Cam’s been doing this since college in terms of making plays with his feet. He can continue to do that with how physical he is. It will be interesting to see where he progresses but at the same time we’re hoping we can keep him out of the 400 yards passing because that’s no fun when they’re throwing for that many yards on you.”