GREEN BAY – It was a big deal three years ago when the Matthews family renewed its rivalry, nearly overshadowing the Green Bay Packers' game against the Atlanta Falcons on "Monday Night Football."
For the first time, Falcons tackle Jake Matthews blocked Packers linebacker and cousin Clay Matthews III in December of the 2014 season. They were the next generation. Their fathers, tackle Bruce Matthews and linebacker Clay Matthews Jr., spent more than a decade battling each other in the NFL.
Now, the Matthews cousins enter their third matchup Sunday night. Clay Matthews III missed last October’s regular-season game at Atlanta with a hamstring injury. The cousins split their previous meetings 1-1, but the tiebreaker certainly goes to the Falcons’ with last season's win in the NFC Championship game.
“We seem to be playing Atlanta quite a bit now,” Clay Matthews III said, “and it’s grown a little bit bigger than us going against each other. It’s more so the teams and what’s on the line, but I’ll get to see him at the games, obviously. He doesn’t share a lot of information from me, and likewise. So we’ll keep it close to the vest.
“It’s always fun to play against family, and I’ve enjoyed watching his success. He continues to get better, and be one of their top linemen. So whoever is lining up against him, best of luck to us.”
Clay Matthews will line up against his cousin plenty of times Sunday. While the Packers have something bigger to play for after being blown out at Atlanta in January, their personal family feud will be worth watching.
In their first meeting, Clay Matthews had a coverage-aided sack against his cousin. He was held without a sack in January, although he thought Jake Matthews got away with at least one holding penalty.
“I was trying to cross his face,” Clay Matthews said, “and he held me, and the ref didn’t see it. He didn’t call it. So I was right, he was wrong. We’ve had good battles. I’ve beaten him on occasion, he’s put me on my butt before. But I think it’s a good battle out there, and I’m looking forward to going against him again.”
As for the holding penalty that wasn’t called, would Jake Matthews agree with his cousin’s assessment?
“Linemen never hold, right?” Clay Matthews smirked. “Nobody wants to see that.”