In one corner of the Miami Dolphins' visiting locker room, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and president Mark Murphy shared some laughs.
Everyone was in good spirits following the Packers' remarkable comeback win in Miami. It was time to celebrate, to exhale, to show some relief. A few men wearing suits entered the locker room and shook Matthews' hand. The Pro Bowler smiled some more. This was a game Green Bay really needed, he said.
The scoreboard was nice. For Matthews, the film may be tougher to watch. The Packers' top pass rusher wasn't his usual, havoc-wreaking self against the Dolphins. He hasn't been for much of this season.
In six games, Matthews has just one sack. He's tied for 17th league-wide among 3-4 schemed outside linebackers with three quarterback hits. Perhaps most troubling, Matthews has only 14 tackles this season – an average of 2.3 per game.
It's the fewest tackles he's had through the first six games of a season in his career, one fewer than his rookie season.
Despite it all, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy isn't losing faith with his defensive star.
"Yeah, I'm very comfortable with the way Clay's playing," McCarthy said Monday. "I mean, his grades are consistent. Production doesn't always reflect the performance, as far as the way we grade them.
"Clay's a big-time player. Production will come. And I think history will show you it usually comes in chunks."
If Sunday is an indicator, Matthews' slump isn't improving.
Matthews had no tackles against the Dolphins, only the fourth game in his career that has happened. The last time came in the Packers' playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers in January.
McCarthy isn't the only one who's not worried about Matthews. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said the Pro Bowl outside linebacker is playing good football, still making an impact.
"He'll still have those two or three plays a game that he really affects the game," Capers said. "I don't get too caught up in that, because I think sometimes they come, and they come all at once. I think we've been getting pretty balanced production out of our outside guys. You've seen Julius (Peppers) show up and make plays each week, Clay makes two or three plays each week."
Indeed, Peppers has given the Packers everything they hoped when the 34-year-old free agent was signed this offseason. He was the NFC defensive player of the week after the Packers' win against the Vikings. Through six games, he's also been Green Bay's best player on the defensive side of the ball.
Peppers' 155 pass rushing snaps are one fewer than Matthews, but he has one more sack (2), two more QB hits (5) and one more pressure (18).
As Capers said, Matthews is contributing two or three important plays per game. He had a batted pass against the Dolphins. He also had one quarterback hurry.
The problem is, Green Bay has come to expect more than two or three impact plays per game from its four-time Pro Bowler.
"I think when it's all said and done," Capers said, "Clay will be close to what he has been statistically."
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