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Packers' Clay Matthews: 'I can be better'; believes big plays will come

10/16/2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Clay Matthews' sacks are down, but so are just about everyone else's.

Maybe that's why Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week that he's comfortable with his star outside linebacker's performance so far this season.

Matthews, who had 50 sacks in his first five NFL seasons, has only one sack so far in Year 6.

Sacks are down across the league. According to ESPN Stats & Information, there have been 384 sacks so far. Through six weeks last season, there were 490. Sack percentage (which is sacks per passing play) also is down, from 7.1 percent for all of last season to 6.0 percent so far this season.

The Packers' sack leader at this point, defensive end Mike Daniels, has 2.5. Through Week 6 last year, two players -- Robert Mathis of the Colts and Justin Houston of the Chiefs -- led the league with 9.5 sacks. Three others had 6.5 or more. This year, the league leader -- Willie Young of the Bears -- has 7.5, and only one other player has more than 6.0.

Still, it was stunning to see that after Sunday's 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins, Matthews' stat line had zeros in nearly every category: tackles (both solo and assists), sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, interceptions. The only thing he registered on the sheet was his fourth-quarter batted pass. He played on 84 percent of the defensive snaps.

"I can be better," Matthews said Wednesday.

Only two other times in Matthews' career (75 regular-season games) has he failed to record a tackle, and in one of those (2012 against the Cardinals), he left after 35 plays because of a hamstring injury.

"I think statistically, obviously, you'd love to have more stats in that regard, but I know the sacks will come and the numbers will always be there," Matthews said. "But at the same time, I think you have to look at the evolution of offenses that we continue to play, especially with the zone-read and them knowing the guys who we possess on this side of the ball about stopping that first line of defense, being us rushers. You saw that last week with having us kind of read and react in playing that offense."

Matthews is right on one account: The Dolphins used the read-option to slow him down. They ran it on 18 of their 55 official snaps in Sunday's game, and the Packers could see an even larger dose of that this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton.

As Matthews stood in front of a large crowd at his locker Wednesday and tried to explain his unusual season, a few feet away was fellow outside linebacker Julius Peppers, who had his own opinion on his teammate's play so far.

"He adds a threat to this defense that doesn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, so we need him to continue playing how he plays because, like we know, the sacks and the numbers are going to come -- for all of us," Peppers said. "I try to stress to him not to get down on himself because he's not making all these big plays so far, but that's going to come. He just needs to continue to play his game and play within himself, and everything else is going to work out."

In other words, "Just keep being me," Matthews said, "and those plays will come to me."