UnPACK the Play: Clay Matthews’ Game Changer

Kevin and ClayThe Packers found themselves on their heels for much of Sunday’s game against the Bears. They seemed to be playing a “bend but don’t break” kind of game. But with just under four minutes to go in the forth quarter the defense was once again giving up ground…too much ground. The Packers were up 24-16 but the Bears were driving. Great players make great plays at the right times and Clay Matthews showed it with a difference making interception. Let’s unPACK the play:


Jay Cutler feels Clay Matthews come up on his left. Expecting pressure from this side and having the strong side of his formation opposite that (on his right), Cutler anticipates a green light for a throw to his tight end Bennett in the zone that Matthews will vacate. In fact, Cutler wants to get the ball to Bennett on the way into the vacated zone to avoid a hit and so that Bennett can enter the zone with a full head of steam for a big play. Cutler knows Micah Hyde will have to peel off to cover the running back out of the backfield and that his slot and split receivers each will occupy a defender on the left so for good reason he is anticipating an opportunity…if he can get the ball out before the pressure arrives. The defender that will end up with the uneviable task of taking down Bennett is Damarious Randall, who is playing wide and deep. The underneath throw should be there.Clay Presnap











The setup:

As the ball is snapped, Clay Matthews takes a chop-step toward the line of scrimmage, further reinforcing the idea in Cutler’s mind that the pressure is on and he needs to get the ball out. But then Matthews drops out of it and, watching Jay’s eyes all the way to paydirt, rolls into underneath coverage with help from Randall over the top, he has no reason to go for anything but the ball. Jay, for his part, is locked into what his pre-snap read told him and is telegraphing the upcoming pass.clay 1










Clay 2











The INT:

Clay knows he’s got Randall over the top so he doesn’t need to wrap with one hand while trying to knock the ball away with the other. The result is a perfect pick for Clay that could have resulted in a return for TD just like Julius Peppers had (2) last year if the defense had done better downfield blocking. But be that as it may…it was a big play at the right time.Clay 3











What Jay missed:

Fortunately for the Packers defense in general (and Nate Palmer in particular), Jay didn’t see that Nate Palmer had followed Eddie Royal’s out route rather than take Marquess Wilson underneath. This mistake caused Shields, Hayward, and Palmer to be out in coverage against Wilson and Jeffery. So the underneath ended up open just as Cutler had anticipated, but for all the wrong reasons and Palmer almost made Matthews’ gambit a losing one as Wilson ended up wide open. Open











Conclusion: Great players make great plays

Clay Matthews once again showed that he is a great player. Not only coming from a position that is not his natural or favored position, but playing the position like a veteran and a champion. It doesn’t seem like we see too many INT’s by an inside linebacker but with Mathews playing like that, we may see more in the future. Maybe Kevin Greene was whispering “It’s time! It’s TIME!” in his ear again. However it happened, this play was a real turning point and made the 24 yard touchdown that Bennett did get later on seem a lot less significant. Especially now that we know how to field an onside kick.

Go Pack!


UnPACK the Play: Clay Matthews’ Game Changer
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One thought on “UnPACK the Play: Clay Matthews’ Game Changer

  • September 15, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    I’ve got to hand it to da Bears’ offense. They were in 3rd and short time after time in the 1st half, which is hard to stop for any D. But when the game is put on Cutler’s arm, he makes mistakes. Not to take anything away from a great play by Matthews, but Cutler telegraphed his throw which most teams would have exploited. Go Pack go!


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