Packers' Clay Matthews ‘really beating myself up’ over fourth-down roughing penalty
GREEN BAY - Any other season, Clay Matthews would like to think his roughing-the-passer penalty that almost cost the Green Bay Packers their remarkable, comeback win would be forgiven.
But, Matthews knows, this is not any other season. The NFL sent a message to defenders through the preseason, and it carried into Week 1: Quarterbacks are off limits.
So as soon as Matthews leveled Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky late Sunday night after a fourth-and-9 incompletion, Matthews looked for the yellow flag.
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“I think last year,” Matthews said, “that definitely would’ve been, you know, you get the benefit of the doubt. They give you a warning. This year, almost as soon as I hit the quarterback, I figured there was going to be a flag. That’s why I kind of kicked myself a little bit. But as you’ve seen through the first week and preseason, I mean, they are protecting those quarterbacks.
“So it’s going to be tough to get hits on them, but it’s not a new challenge. They’re always incorporating new rules to help protect the quarterbacks. So, you know, shame on me.”
On Monday, coach Mike McCarthy said the penalty was inexcusable.
“We’ve got to be smarter there,” McCarthy said.
The penalty extended the drive with the Bears trailing by one point and 1:46 left in the game. Fellow outside linebacker Nick Perry ended the Bears’ last-ditch effort with a fourth-down strip-sack 40 seconds later. Defensive tackle Kenny Clark recovered Trubisky’s fumble.
Perry did a good job of falling to the side of Trubisky – rather than directly on him – in order to avoid violating the rule against defenders landing with their body weight on the quarterback.
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“It’s something that’s an emphasis this year,” McCarthy said, “and you have to be cognizant of that and the players are doing a tremendous job of trying to do it right. And remember, these guys are doing it at full speed, and it’s a challenge. I think Nick’s is definitely what you’re looking for in that situation.”
Matthews’ penalty highlighted a tough reality for defenders. Matthews’ hit was a touch late, but the difficulty in pulling up is understandable. It was potentially the game’s deciding play, and Matthews was hustling at max effort to force Trubisky into an errant throw.
Regardless, Matthews said, it’s clear officials are hypersensitive with contact to quarterbacks.
“I’m really kind of beating myself up over that,” Matthews said. “Because that’s not a mistake that I generally make, especially on fourth down. I think last year they might’ve given me a nice warning, but it’s changing this year.
“I had my iPad charged and ready to turn in tomorrow to Gutey (GM Brian Gutekunst). I’m glad Nick bailed me out.”