Hey Pro Football Focus, Did Clay Matthews Really Struggle?

Hey Pro Football Focus, Did Clay Matthews Really Struggle?

Clay Matthews was the Packers' worst defensive player on Sunday.

That's what Pro Football Focus thinks, anyway.

They graded Matthews either a 38.1 or a 36.5, depending on whether you check their report from the game itself or their player grading tool. Either number puts Matthews in the lower echelon of Packers defenders.

"He had an off day," reads the report, "as he recorded only two pressures on 33 pass-rushing snaps, and neither came by beating a blocker. In addition, he missed the most tackles on the Packers' defense with two."

So did he struggle? Not on the film I watched.

This morning I quickly reviewed the first quarter, and I saw mostly the opposite of what PFF said. Admittedly, I am a fan of the Packers, but here's what I saw.

Matthews had at least two pressures, one rushing from LOLB as Blake Bortles rolled right. Bortles threw a quick pass out of bounds to escape the rush.

Whether this is an "unblocked" pressure is debatable, I think. Matthews clearly disengages from the right tackle and pursues. A decent block there keeps Matthews from chasing.

On the next drive, Matthews rushed from the right side and snagged Bortles for a sack.

Matthews gets some help on this one from a blitz by Joe Thomas, but it's certainly Matthews that brings down the quarterback. This is again a debatable use of the term "unblocked;" a better effort by the left tackle and Bortles may have room to his left to escape.

Finally, on the final Jacksonville possession of the first quarter, Matthews made his best play of my short review, knifing through a crack back block and angling around a pulling guard to take down T.J. Yeldon for a loss.

Matthews did miss two tackles during this period, but both of those come with caveats as well. Though he didn't bring the ball carrier down, in both instances the next player to make contact did, and it was a result of Matthews slowing the player down.

Did he play overwhelmingly well? No. Did he struggle? That's tough to justify, even if his play declined significantly through the rest of the game. Was he the Packers' worst defensive player? Almost certainly not, especially when you consider the Packers' rough outing in the secondary.

I grade PFF's claim that Matthews struggled a 35 out of 100.

Plus, I showed my work and I didn't charge you for it.

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