Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews declined to take the opportunity to campaign for the NFL defensive player of the year award after a 45-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. He didn’t have to vocally lobby after physically dominating yet another team.
“He’s the defensive MVP of the league right now,” Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop said. “If it’s not sacks, it’s bone-crushing tackles … interception to the house. That just shows his flexibility to do a lot of things other than just getting sacks.
“He’s a beast. He’s a monster.”
The second-year playmaker entered the game with a league-high 9½ sacks and added one more to that total on the Cowboys’ third offensive series of the game. He became the first Packer in team history to record double-digit sacks in his first two seasons since the stat began being kept in 1982.
Mathews later single-handedly shut down a third-and-one situation with 7:22 left in the second quarter. He blitzed off the edge and blew up running back Marion Barber a split-second after the handoff.
With 11 minutes, 7 seconds on the clock in the fourth quarter, Matthews blitzed and a Jon Kitna pass was tipped by A.J. Hawk. The ball fell right into the hands of Matthews, who turned and sprinted 62-yards for a touchdown. It was his first interception since his junior year of high school.
“Just ran like a little kid,” Matthews said. “Those receivers was kind of fast, but I got the touchdown. Obviously I need to work on my Lambeau leap skills. It’s not as easy as it looks.”
Matthews was able to put on a show in front of his father Clay Jr, who played 19 NFL seasons and was in Green Bay for the game. His final line read: three tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, one interception, two passes deflected.
“He’s nonstop,” safety Nick Collins said. “His motor keeps going and going.
“He’s like the Energizer bunny and I’m glad he’s on my team.”
The Packers' defense has given up a total of 14 points over the last 10 quarters, including the lone shutout of the NFL season in a 9-0 win against the New York Jets last week. The Cowboys walked off the turf with a paltry 205 yards of offense, including 39 rushing yards.
The Packers were able to force three-and-outs on three of the Cowboys four first possessions. The other drive ended after five plays with a Sam Shields interception.
The second half was no better for the visitors as their five possessions ended with three punts, an interception and the end of the ballgame.
“When you do that good, I’d have to say yes (we’re playing better than even we expected),” Bishop said. “At the same time, with our team and our scheme and everything, it’s possible.
“It’s not something that’s undoable.”
The Packers have held opponents to a combined seven points or less just one other time since 2002 (three combined points in 2009 against the Lions and Browns). They allowed a combined 47 points the previous two weeks against the Vikings and Dolphins. The defense finished with four sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles on Sunday.
“We’re playing in sync now,” Matthews said. “I don’t know if much has changed. I just think we’re putting it all together now. Defensively, we’re playing lights out. We kind of understand where we’re at. We need to shut down the run. We need to force quarterbacks to make passes and we’re comfortable with out guys getting pressure. And our guys on the deep end making plays.
We’ve always felt like that, but it’s just about putting it together. That’s where we’re at.”
Undrafted rookie cornerback Sam Shields snatched his first career interception, a one-handed grab with Cowboys receiver Miles Austin draped on his back. Shields was locked in one-on-one coverage and had Austin pinned to the sideline.
“I just got my head around and the ball was there,” Shields said. “It felt good … against the Cowboys in a prime-time game.
“It was my opportunity to make a play and I made a play.”
Shields also fielded the first kickoff of his career with receiver Jordy Nelson taken off the unit because of an increased load on offense.
The Packers thought Shields would be a threat in the return game when they first signed him because of his speed, but he struggled catching the ball in the offseason.
The first chance came at the beginning of the third quarter and Shields caught the ball 5 yards deep in the end zone, ran out and took the ball back 49 yards.
“That was something we’ve been working on all week and it came up,” Shields said. “I tried to do what I could do, but it was just that kicker, I just couldn’t outrun him.
“I tried to give him a little something, but the kicker, he was still there.”
Safety Atari Bigby was put on the 53-man roster from the physically unable to perform list on Saturday and was on the 45-man active roster on Sunday.
He was on the kickoff coverage team and played his first defensive series of the year in the second quarter. Bigby recorded his first tackle of the year when he returned for his second series in the fourth quarter.
Helmet to helmet
Safety Nick Collins was flagged for a personal foul unnecessary roughness call with 8:32 left in the third quarter. Kitna overthrew Roy Williams down the right sideline and Collins made helmet-to-helmet contact from the backside.
The NFL began to emphasize the need to cut down on those type hits in Week 6. Collins is likely to be fined, with a suspension possible.
“I was the guy that did the crime,” Collins said. “If I get fined, I’ll deal with the situation.
“I thought it was clean. It was a judgment call. The refs are different and you’ve got to live with it.”