Clay Matthews’ return from a groin injury brought the Green Bay pass rush back to life, sacking quarterback Jameis Winston 2.5 times as the Packers took down Winston seven times and hit him 13 times in the Packers 26-20 overtime win at Lambeau Field. The victory kept the Packers alive in the playoff race, and makes a return from injury for Aaron Rodgers still possible. Matthews joined The Jim Rome Show Monday and talked about yesterday’s “must-win” scenario, a position the Packers have been in before.
“This was very much the story that we had last year. We had to win out those final six games last year. This year it’s no different,” Matthews told CBS Sports Radio. “It’s all the more difficult when you’re missing your most important player, but it just requires guys to step up. Fortunately, we were able to get the win. And it took all four quarters plus some.”
The Packers never gave Tampa a chance to respond in overtime when Green Bay marched 72 yards on eight plays, capping the win with a 20-yard run by Aaron Jones. With that victory out of the way, the Packers now head to Week 14 against a winless Cleveland, knowing they have a chance to get Rodgers back on the field after that for the final three-game stretch.
“We’ve got Cleveland this next week, so hopefully we can get another win. And if Aaron is healthy enough to come back, then anything is possible with those final three games against some good teams,” Matthews said. “I think we’ve got a very real chance of getting in the playoffs again.”
Since Rodgers’ injury, Matthews knows the defense has had to pick up the slack. And the six-time Pro Bowler said his defense is making more of a coordinated effort to make more plays on their side of the ball, trying to take some of the pressure off of back-up quarterback Brett Hundley and the offense.
“The message from our defense coordinator and coaches and the veterans present to the defense throughout the week is that we need to find a way to create turnovers, to score some points on defense,” Matthews said. “Yesterday, Dean Lowry had a fumble recovery, or however you look at it, for 60-some yards to put 7 points on the board. And we needed every point we could, so it was huge and it was definitely the message that we were kind of presenting. The defense has to find ways to create turnovers and put up points.”
While the offense was inconsistent, putting up just 276 total yards, all of that will likely change when and if Rodgers can return to the field after getting injured in mid-October after a questionable hit by the Vikings’ Anthony Barr.
“He looks great, he looks like he’s ready to go,” Matthew said. “Obviously we got some time for him to get some practice reps for these next two weeks before he’s able to come back. And I don’t want to speak on behalf of his injury, but if he’s healed up and we are able to get this win this weekend and our playoff hopes are still alive, we hope that he’s back out there.”
Those final three games feature road games at Carolina and Detroit, sandwiched around division-leader Minnesota coming to Green Bay. Three games that it would help to have the former league MVP and Super Bowl champion.
“Those last three games are going to be difficult. But he looks good, though,” Matthews said. “I can’t speak to what he’s going through, but from a fans perspective, watching him throw the ball, he looks like the Aaron Rodgers of old.”