Packers look to sustain pressure minus Matthews

Nov. 16, 2012

Historically speaking, the Green Bay Packers haven’t exactly thrived without Clay Matthews setting the defensive pass rush.

However, that’s the job the Packers’ pressure package will be tasked with this Sunday against Detroit without the three-time Pro Bowler, who’s been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Minus Matthews, the Packers will look to veteran outside linebacker Erik Walden, rookie Dezman Moses and recently returned Frank Zombo to keep pressure on Lions quarterback Matthews Stafford, whose completing only 43.6 percent of his passes under pressure this season with a quarterback rating of 59.6.

The situation isn’t quite as dire as when the Packers lost Matthews for the better portion of two games in 2010. Walden is having the best of his 2 1/2 seasons in Green Bay, Moses showed potential in relief of Matthews two weeks ago against Arizona and Zombo is healthy again.

However, Matthews’ nine sacks this season won’t be easy to replace. In the rare instances the Packers have had to go without their playmaker, the results have varied.

In 2010, they lost back-to-back games to Washington and Miami after losing Matthews to a hamstring, including a 23-20 home loss to the Dolphins in which the Packers’ defense failed to register a sack. Last year, Matthews sat during an otherwise meaningless regular-season finale against the Lions — a game the Packers won 45-41 but surrendered 575 total yards.

“I would say our pass rush will be the same as it’s been all year,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “The way we approach it. Now I’m going to sit here and tell you that you replace Clay Matthews. That’s not the idea. If you look at our pressure, when it’s occurred, it has been a big improvement from the past. The ability to generate pass rush on first down alone has been something we’ve done a very good job of.”

Moses, a 6-foot-2, 249-pound undrafted rookie out of Tulane, is expected to get his first career start Sunday in place of Matthews. Converted from a 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 linebacker, Moses has shown promise as the fourth linebacker in the team’s bat 1-4-6 formation.

He was serviceable in relief of Matthews in the 31-17 win over the Cardinals two weeks ago, playing a career-high 43 snaps and accounting for two tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass deflection.

While Moses will get the start, Zombo likely will see his first action of 2012 after spending the first eight weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. The Packers could also insert second-year linebacker, Vic So’oto, who was re-signed this past week after being released in September.

“My plan is to get (Zombo) and Moses in a nice little rotation and give them both some snaps and put him in there,” Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said. “I told Frank today, ‘strap it up and get ready to go.’ I'm excited to see the old Frank Zombo step in there and do some good things.”

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