The Green Bay Packers can breathe again.
For a minute, Packers players and coaches alike might have developed a lump in their throat at the sight of all-pro linebacker Clay Matthews flying head over heels through the air after a block from St. Louis running back Todd Gurley in the first quarter of Sunday’s 24-10 win over the Rams.
It’s not exactly what you want to see with how important Matthews has become in the heart of an improving defense.
Coming on a delayed inside blitz, Matthews said he went vertical because he thought Gurley was going to cut him underneath. Gurley stayed upright and propelled the leaping Matthews upward, causing him to somersault the line of scrimmage.
Matthews hit defensive lineman Mike Daniels on his initial descent and landed on his left shoulder, but was fine. He finished with three tackles, 1½ sacks and four quarterback hits while playing all 71 defensive snaps.
“I wish they’d do away with cutting,” said Matthews when asked about the play after the game. “I don’t know if they’re going to take my knees out or stay up high. I wish everyone would stay up high, but it’s kind of one of those things. I don’t anticipate launching up 10 feet in the air next time. It’s not fun coming down. Fortunately, he didn’t dump me or anything along the lines. I was fortunate on that one.”
On another note, Matthews’ first hit in Sunday’s game could end up getting him fined. During the game, FOX rules analyst Mike Pereira suggested that Matthews may find himself lighter in the wallet this week after appearing to lead with his helmet during a first-quarter hit on Rams quarterback Nick Foles.
The collision occurred on St. Louis’ second offensive series with Matthews and defensive lineman Letroy Guion converging on Foles. It forced an incompletion and the play wasn’t flagged, but the play still could be subject to a fine.
“Here’s the issue — Nick Foles is a defenseless player because he’s a passer, he’s in the act of passing,” Pereira said. "He just released the pass, so therefore what you cannot do as a defender is lead with the crown of your helmet. You can’t dip your head and make contact with the crown of your helmet on any part of the quarterback’s body.”
St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said during his Monday news conference that he felt the hit should have drawn an unnecessary roughness penalty.
“Clay hit him with the crown of his helmet, right in the chest,” Fisher said. “So, I clearly think it was roughing because of the crown of the helmet to the chest. But from (the referee’s) perspective, he couldn’t see the contact. So, it was kind of one of those things that happens. Sometimes you get those calls. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong.”