Packers notes: NFL to showcase Clay Matthews hit as what not to do

Jim Owczarski
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) reacts after being flagged in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on Sunday, September 16, 2018 in Green Bay, Wis.

GREEN BAY – A little after 1 p.m. Monday, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the hit Clay Matthews put on Kirk Cousins on Sunday was what the linebacker has been taught to do under the umbrella of the new roughing rules set by the NFL in 2018.

A little under three hours later, the NFL decided that it was going to send out Matthews’ hit as an example of what not to do.

“The goal is for player safety. I think that’s number one,” McCarthy said early Monday afternoon. “Number two, it’s to protect the quarterback. But also I think you have to go further. I think anytime you have a desired result, there’s a formula to get that result. You’ve got to make sure you’re looking at all the variables. I’m not sure that all the variables are clear right now.” 

To help clear those variables up, the NFL Network reported that the league will send Matthews’ hit on Cousins — which referee Tony Corrente ruled consisted of Matthews lifting and driving the quarterback into the ground — to each team in the league in a training video.

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Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 of the NFL rule book states that the “technique of grabbing the passer from behind the leg(s), scooping and pulling in an upward motion is considered a foul.”

Corrente determined that Matthews did that, resulting in a roughing penalty that negated an interception and gave the ball back to the Vikings. Cousins eventually directed a scoring drive that sent the game to overtime.

Matthews was asked to comment about the play again on Monday, and he respectfully declined.

After the game, the linebacker said “I don’t even know where to start, to be completely honest with you. I have so many emotions running through as far as what a terrible call it was. At the same time, I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know. You let me know. You tell me. Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within his waist to chest, I got my head across, put my hands down. To call it at that point in the game is unbelievable. Last week, OK, shame on me. This week, that’s unbelievable. The worst part is, we’ll probably send it in and you know what they’re going to say? They’ll find fault on me because they’re going to agree with the refs. I don’t know. It’s a difficult call to call.”

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The roughing penalty called on Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks for hitting Aaron Rodgers will also be included in the film distributed to teams.

“You look at both of the penalties that were called in the game, the quarterbacks, they’re trying to throw the ball,” McCarthy said. “That’s got to be — if you’re trying to throw the ball and you’re totally exposed, I think that maybe you have to potentially factor into the action. I think that’s where a little bit of the gray area is in the judgment of the defender hitting the quarterbacks, they’re trying to throw the ball. That’s got to be, if you’re trying to throw the ball and you’re totally exposed I think that may have to potentially factor in the action.

“So I think that’s where a little bit of the gray area is in the judgment of defender hitting the quarterback because I get what the goal is, and we’re all for the goal being achieved. But in the same breath we’ve got to make sure it’s not a competitive disadvantage to the pass rusher trying to hit the quarterback. Things like that, those are the quality conversations I think you can have with the officials because really we had the one on the 2-minute drill there at half, it’s pretty much the same situation that was called on Aaron — very similar. So, that’s that. It’s as far as I’m going to go.”

Green Bay Packers defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) runs the ball back after an interception in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on Sunday, September 16, 2018 in Green Bay, Wis.

Going the distance

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said he was in the right place at the right time Sunday to intercept a Cousins pass off the hands of Minnesota receiver Laquon Treadwell with 2 minutes, 13 seconds to go — but he said he learned a lesson after watching it on film.

Clinton-Dix grabbed the ball at the Minnesota 37 and returned it 13 yards before being brought down. Four of the Vikings’ offensive linemen were closing in on him, as well as running back Dalvin Cook. The Packers’ safety said in the moment, protecting the ball was the only thought going through his head.

“I think we had a chance to win and I wasn’t thinking end zone,” Clinton-Dix said Monday. “But after watching the play I was definitely thinking, ‘damn I should’ve scored’ and we probably could’ve won the game. That wasn’t my mindset at the time. It sounds good after the game, but in the heat of the battle, you’re just thinking ‘you just made a big play, don’t turn it back over.’”

Upon further review, Clinton-Dix said he’ll look at such a play differently the next time.

He referenced how Morgan Burnett decided to give himself up rather than return the ball as far as he could after an interception in the 2014 NFC Championship game.

“We see how that unfolded,” Clinton-Dix said. “My mindset is now different. Anytime I get my hand on the ball, it’s always going to be to score. That’s next for me.”

Slow red-zone start

The Packers went 1-for-5 in the red zone against Minnesota after going 1-for-2 against Chicago in Week 1. Their 28.57 percent conversion rate is 29th in the NFL, with only Chicago (25 percent), the New York Giants (25 percent) and the New York Jets (16.67 percent) scoring touchdowns at a lower rate. The Bears' figure doesn't include their Monday night game against Seattle.

Green Bay did have one red zone touchdown nullified due to a holding penalty on Sunday.

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