Beleaguered Defense Gets Boost From Pass Rush

If there's one promising development on defense, it's an improved pass rush. A healthy Clay Matthews had another monster game — yes, another, because you shouldn't be fooled by the sack numbers. More importantly, the Packers got rush from more than just Matthews.

In the wake of a mostly brutal defensive performance by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday against the New York Giants, there may be one silver lining.

For the second consecutive week, the Packers recorded 12 quarterback hits, as counted by the defensive coaches. That's just one off the season highs of 13 posted against Chicago in Week 3 and San Diego in Week 9, and the most in a two-game span this season.

"I thought Clay had one of his best days yesterday," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of Clay Matthews on Monday. "Even though it didn't turn up with a lot of sacks, he had five or six really good pressures on the quarterback. I thought he rushed really well. I thought B.J. Raji had his best day rushing the passer and being able to win one-on-one situations inside. That was encouraging to me. We've cut B.J.'s reps down. He probably played a little bit more in this game than he has in games prior but I saw a little bit more quickness and I saw him use his power and convert to quickness inside."

For the second consecutive week, Matthews was credited with five quarterback hits. He hadn't had more than four since a season-high six against Chicago.

Probably not coincidentally, Matthews seems to be past the assortment of leg injuries that prevented him from practicing with regularity early in the season. In fact, Matthews wasn't even listed on the injury report last week, the first time since before the Week 2 game at Carolina.

"He's had good weeks of practice," Capers said. "We'd like to see Clay practice all the time because I just think it helps him in terms of really honing in the finer skills of the position. Hopefully, he's healthy. He's playing very well and we have to keep him going that way. Sure, I think being able to practice helps, a lot."

By this point last season, Matthews had 11.5 sacks. He's got six this season, but lest you think he's not having a major impact on games, there's this: In 20 games last season, including playoffs, Matthews registered 46 quarterback hits. Through 12 games of this season, Matthews has 50 quarterback hits.

As counted by, Matthews is one of three players in the NFL with at least 60 sacks, hits and pressures. Matthews ranks second with 62 (six sacks, 20 hits, 36 pressures). Only St. Louis' Chris Long has more with 65 (12 sacks, nine hits and 44 pressures), with Miami's Cameron Wake third with 61 (seven sacks, 14 hits, 40 pressures).

Even though Matthews isn't among the league leaders in sacks, he leads PFF's rankings with 20 hits, with Denver rookie Von Miller the only one close with 18.

Walden had another strong game, as well. He had three quarterback hits, by the Packers' count, giving him at least three in four of the last six games. He's got 30 for the season, according to the team. To put that into perspective, Cullen Jenkins ranked second on the team with 24 for the enitre season last year (including playoffs), and every outside linebacker not named Matthews combined for 26.

While Matthews has been superb all season and Walden is finding his stride, Capers was particularly pleased with the play of Raji and what it meant to the pass rush as a whole. By the team's count, he had six quarterback hits in the first 11 games. He had three against the Giants — equaling his combined total from the previous eight games. The increased productivity coincides with the return of Mike Neal, which has allowed Raji to get more than the occasional breather over the last three games.

"I hope what we saw (Sunday) is what we'll down the stretch the final four games and into the playoffs," Capers said.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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